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How to Cure Post-Travel Woes

By Renée Batchelor

Modern-day life often requires travel. While travelling for leisure, at your own pace and agenda, is a great way to destress and relax, travelling for work purposes, especially if it’s frequent, can often have the opposite effect. Frequent flying can harbour its own unique set of problems that extend beyond jet lag and general tiredness. A study by the University of Surrey in England and Linnaeus University in Sweden found that frequent travel can impact a person on many levels: physiological, psychological, emotional as well as socially. 

Some of the more widely studied effects include increased exposure to radiation and germs, heart disease, and even poor relations with friends and family as result of those absences. While everyone has rituals and habits when it comes to travelling to ease the process — be it a patented packing method or lighting up your favourite candle in your hotel room — it is important to take care of your general wellbeing. Here are some helpful ways of battling jet lag, tired skin and even insomnia. 

Massage

There’s a reason the dark, cocooning warmth of a hotel spa is considered a safe haven for many guests who are frequent flyers. A good massage can help relax an individual in unfamiliar surroundings and also treat any flight-induced ailments including sore shoulders or water retention in the legs. At the Spa Pods at Six Senses Maxwell, I tried a combination of the Relaxed Feet (S$90 for 30 minutes) and the Tension Soother (S$150 for 60 minutes). This treatment combination was recommended by the spa for travellers. 

Before I was led to the comfortable and cosy spa pods, I was asked to indicate the areas where I’d like the therapist to focus the massage on. Starting with the Relaxed Feet massage, which uses a blend of different massage techniques that concentrate on the meridian lines of the legs and different zones of the feet, the therapist was able to help get rid of any residual water retention that might have still been in my legs (I had just landed from a flight earlier that morning). Tammy Dent the director of training (spas) at Six Senses says that a massage needs to target the lymphatic system. “Sitting in a plane for a long period can cause the body to become sluggish. One of the systems of the body most affected by air travel is the lymphatic system. Due to the lack of movement, a build-up of toxins and excess fluid results. Swollen ankles are often symptomatic of this water retention,” says Dent. Hence the Relaxed Feet treatment places emphasis on certain key areas of the legs and feet. “One of the most important acupressure points is found between the big [toe] and the second toe of each foot. When pressure is applied to this point it effectively helps to stimulate the lymphatic system. We also use draining techniques towards the joints, where all the lymph nodes are found. When working on the feet, we also pay attention to the points on the foot correlating with the spine, to help ease any tension or blockages after a long flight,” says Dent. 

Aromatherapy

The use of essential oils in aromatherapy is another way of offering respite. Alli Sim, the founder of artisanal aromatherapy label Mmerci Encore has her own suggestions for unwinding with essential oils. “My personal favourite is the brand’s Nightshade Sleep Mode (S$42) blend, which contains a lot of organic lavender [essential oil]. I blended it for myself years before I launched it, as there were times I’d need to travel to Milan for a dinner [appointment] and fly home right after or... [spend] two weeks in Paris then hop [over] to New York. Your body clock is all over the place, so I needed something that would really knock me out,” says Sim. This pre-mixed blend comes in a 10ml bottle as well as a handy roll-on version, which is great for in-flight use. 

Sim strongly believes that these essential oil blends work better than commercial fragrances because of their therapeutic benefits. “In essence, they do more than just smell good. Recovery Mode (S$42), a grounding, meditation blend, contains sandalwood essential oil, which is proven to help relieve anxiety and induce calm — especially helpful if you’re a nervous flier. Other oils [in] the blend contain science-backed, naturally occurring sedative properties to help you calm and release tension,” says Sim. 

To further help manage jet lag, cultivate and practise good sleeping habits — a must for frequent fliers. Sim recommends a digital detox an hour before bed and creating a sleep ritual — such as using specific shower product or a particular essential oil — to create an almost Pavlovian response (or classical conditioning), where your mind connects these scents to sleep. If you struggle with insomnia especially in unfamiliar spaces, Sim has good advice. “If I’m over-tired and have been tossing and turning for over 30 minutes, I’ll get up and move to another room... sit quietly, with a lamp on, till I actually feel tired. [Lying] in bed and getting frustrated at yourself for not falling asleep on cue is unhelpful, so just get up and have a shower to cool your body down or sit and space out elsewhere,” says Sim. 

Facials and Skincare 

Frequent flyers will know that the dry cabin air can wreak havoc on the skin. To reduce the assault on skin, an overnight leave-on mask is one way to protect it — apply a generous layer over cleansed skin, or apply a sheet mask mid-way through a long flight to help moisturise and soothe skin. A hand cream with a soothing scent can both help keep you calm during a flight and moisturise dry skin and cuticles. 

Indulging in a good facial, post-landing, can help restore balance and moisture to dry, patchy or exhausted skin. Kelly Roxanne, the assistant manager for brand communications at Singapore-based facial brand Porcelain said the brand created its Beespoke Honey Facial (S$425.86 for 90 minutes) specifically for travellers. “When Sofitel approached us to design a treatment for them, we did so with the traveller in mind — in particular, busy jet-setters. When we think of travellers, we think of tired, dull-looking skin. Thus, we designed this facial with three products specially designed just for it, including a honey almond scrub to soften skin and promote circulation, a milk and honey firming mask, and bee propolis extract to care for oil and problem skin,” says Roxanne. The facial will leave skin softer, brightened, as well as purified.