Top 3 grooming activities to avoid on a flight

We all want to look our best, and it’s not always easy to finish your entire beauty regimen before making that 5am flight. (For years I waited until I reached my destination before putting on my makeup. Until I traveled with a coworker who said, as we greeted each other at 4am at the airport, “You look really tired!” Now I do it at home. Sigh.) It can be brushtempting to take care of a few things on your flight. After all, no one really pays attention to what others are doing right? Right??

While there are certainly a few things that can be done on a plane, there are several that should not. Here are three grooming activities that should be avoided during a flight.

  1. Wearing fragrance. This has been discussed several times, but it’s so important I want to mention it again. Perfume and other scents can cause allergic reactions from migraines to nausea to (in dramatic cases) hives. You may think that light spritz of fragrance won’t reach your neighbors, but someone with a serious allergy can be affected several feet away. And please, please don’t ever spray perfume or any other scented item while on a plane. Wait until you’re in the ladies room, or better yet outside.
  2. Brushing your hair. The other day I was on a plane, and the lady in front of me started brushing her hair. Several long, loose strands got caught in the air vent, and flew onto me. This is one thing that can definitely wait until you’re on the ground.
  3. Clipping your nails. Do I really have to explain how gross this is? When you clip your nails, pieces go flying. Sometimes onto neighbors. Don’t do it! Some people also have issues with filing, as the dust can also land on people near you.

Here are a few things that are fine on planes: doing makeup, using a cleansing wipe on your face, moisturizing.

The most important thing to remember is that you are in a shared, confined, small space. Actions that seem relatively innocuous when you have more personal space quickly become invasive when so close together.

Readers, what grooming activities do you avoid while on flights? Have you seen anything really crazy?


  1. #2 and #3 are on the top of my list too. The broken strands of hair floating through the cabin turns my stomach — although not as much as fingernail pieces flying around. Also on my list — flossing at your seat. Twice this year alone I’ve been seated near someone flossing at their seat. I’m all about good oral hygiene, but go to the lav, for God sakes!

  2. I have very thin nails that invariably break or chip in the dry air in planes. Filing the broken edge at least prevents me driving myself and other PAX insane by biting them. While a full manicure might be out of place on a plane, I don’t think there’s anything wrong filing off the broken edge of a nail.

  3. Again: There is NO SUCH THING as an allergy to perfume. A migraine is not an allergic reaction. A lot of people call a bad headache a migraine, which is an entirely separate condition and closer to a mild seizure disorder. Using the term “allergy” is pseudoscience in order to dignify a sensitivity, create a stick to beat others with, and get your own way. I don’t expect everyone around me to indulge all my quirks and the entire anti-perfume lobby needs to understand it’s a big complicated world out there, and everyone’s preferences have to be adjusted to, not just theirs.

  4. RE: “Here are a few things that are fine on planes: doing makeup, using a cleansing wipe on your face, moisturizing”.

    Who then hell appointed you an authority? The FAA? I occasionally blow my nose when flying. Maybe that is a no-no as well.

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