In case you’ve ever wondered: No, you can’t do laundry in space. For most of us, that’s something we’ll never have to worry about. Not the case for former NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham. “It would have been wonderful to put my clothes in a little Tide and make ‘em smell good,” she says with a laugh. “When I went to space in 2006 [on the STS-116 Discovery with a seven-member crew to continue construction of the ISS outpost], we were there for 12 days and given three pairs of pants, which you wear over and over. I would have loved to wash those clothes.”
Although the electrical engineer, 57, has retired from NASA, she currently works at an aerospace company in North Carolina that supplies equipment for the International Space Station. And in a nod to her NASA roots, she’s teamed up with Tide to advocate for the next generation of astronauts. The goal: to work with NASA to create a hygienically clean laundry solution for astronauts, and identify solutions that can conserve our planet’s resources.
As Higginbotham explains, “When you do your laundry, that water has to go somewhere. Water is a really precious resource on Earth but is even more precious in space. So they’re working on a way to repurpose water used for your laundry to be drinking water so nothing gets wasted.” She says that if the same can be done on Earth, then “it’s a big win for sustainability everywhere, especially the countries that don’t have a lot of water and resources.”
That mindset is something Higginbotham has applied to her daily home life as well. A so-called “product junkie” when she was younger, she says that now that she’s in her 50s, she’s gotten wiser about the need to try everything. “I don’t use a lot of products, but what I do, I like a lot.”
So what kinds of skincare and makeup products did Higginbotham bring to space? And what does she swear by now? For Glamour‘s latest edition of Drop the Routine, she fills us in on the tried and true staples that do the trick, both in space and on Earth.
What I took to space
My essentials were cleanser and moisturizer. I also took foundation, blush, mascara, and lipstick for any media appearances. Oh, and I velcro-ed everything. You don’t want to go chasing stuff. It looks really cool, but when you need it, you’re like, “Where did it go?” And there are a lot of fans that are running, so there’s an air flow. I lost one or two things; I’d go check up by the fan, because the airflow would eventually go to the fan, and I’d find them stuck in the vent.
I use L’Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum at night when my skin is ‘resting,’ because I feel like it doesn’t have to work as hard. And in the morning, my skin looks refreshed and rejuvenated. Plus, it’s a great price point. I’m a drugstore girl! Why mess with what works?
I use Olay’s Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream, usually in the morning. My face is naturally oily which is a blessing and a curse, but I still need to moisturize my face. This cream provides the right amount of moisture to keep my skin hydrated, but not super shiny. When we went to space, we actually controlled the humidity on the shuttle. Roughly about 70%—which to my skin was very drying—so I was applying moisturizer a lot more in those 12 days than I normally do here.
I use the Black Girl sunscreen because it doesn’t give you that white or grayish ghostly look. Especially for my face. I should have used it more in space, because you see 16 sunrises every day. We travel at 17,500 mph, so that means we go around the world one time every 90 minutes, so that’s roughly 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets. And when the sun comes through the shuttle window, it is bright and beaming. The heat coming in was pretty serious. I never thought to take sunscreen to space with me. Because I was thinking, I’m inside. It did not occur to me at the time to take sunscreen with me! Now I know.
My eye cream
I’ve been buying Sweet Chef’s Turmeric + Vitamin C Booster Eye Cream. I like that a lot.
My lip balm
Good old multipurpose Vaseline for your lips and your feet so they’re not cracked. I used it in space, and I use it now.
Before COVID, I used to go do microdermabrasion, followed with a little acid peel or something. That has really helped my skin tremendously.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram at @jessicaradloff14.