Throughout my frequent travels, it’s safe to say I’ve left behind everything that could possibly be forgotten, from things as minuscule as cotton swabs to as important as my iPad. But as someone who also works in the beauty industry and identifies as something of a guru (read: product hoarder), I’m very careful and thoughtful about which items I pack in my makeup kit and toiletry bag. I’ve figured out the best travel beauty products that are actually worth bringing on vacay.
Don’t get me wrong: If I could have my way, I’d bring my entire vanity with me on every trip. Since that’s impossible, I have to settle for bringing what I absolutely need to have. There hacks to using other products that are super easy to find when I’m abroad — for example, using baby powder in place of dry shampoo — and while those substitutes might not be ideal, they’re definitely better than nothing.
This is a list of products that are typically very specific to a person (that require some trial and error to find), and are difficult to switch out when you’re traveling. If you’re headed on a trip soon, make sure you pack these beauty essentials in your bag.
Maybe it’s because I have really dry skin, but my stash of moisturizers is something I’ll never travel without. Moisturizer is one of those beauty products you may have to try a ton of in order to find the one that works best for your skin type. Needless to say, it’s much easier to bring your own than attempting to find it at your destination.
Pro tip: Scoop out your moisturizer into a small travel-sized jar (I reuse empty travel-sized containers or small beauty product jars) so that you can downsize your toiletry bag a bit.
2. Face Cleanser
Cleaning your face when you’re traveling (and when you’re at home as well of course) is important because you may be out exploring and sweating all day. Like moisturizer, I’ve found face cleanser to be a super personal thing. Not every cleanser works best for every skin type, so you should definitely bring your own.
If you’re a total skincare fanatic like me, you probably have a cocktail of serums you use on your face when you’re at home. No matter how much I’ve tried to reduce the number of serums I use when I’m traveling, I’ve found that nothing quite replaces the combination of serums I usually use to give my skin a healthy glow, and I actually notice a visible difference in my skin if I choose to leave the serums behind.
Needless to say, I 100% recommend that you bring your serums with you. Also, as someone with a ton of skin sensitivity and eczema that can flare up when I’m exposed to new climates and environments, I know my serums will help keep my skin feeling somewhat normal.
Pro tip: I’ve been trying out the High Fiver palette from Palette by pak, which I think is perfect for serums since you use so little of each product. You can even put them in the palette in order of application so you don’t get confused.
Like the other items on this list, foundation is a beauty product that varies by personal preference. Finding the right foundation for you — whether it’s as light as a tinted moisturizer or completely full-coverage — can be difficult. So once you’ve found your "one," you should bring it with you whenever you travel.
My one tip is to try to limit how many foundations you pack. I always bring a versatile one — like the Armani Beauty Luminous Silk or NARS Luminous Weightless — and I can always sheer them out with moisturizer to make them a bit lighter. Another alternative is to bring stick products like the Nudestix Nudies Tinted Blur Stick because it’s small and can easily slip into your makeup kit.
5. Hair Color Treatment
If you have color-treated hair, you know what a commitment it is to take care of it and ensure your color lasts as long as possible. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should let your haircare routine fall by the wayside.
When you’re traveling, you may be exposed to chlorine from pools, the sun, and even saltwater from the ocean — and nothing is worse than ruining a $400 balayage after a week-long vacay, am I right? I always recommend bringing whatever products you normally use to treat your hair at home when you’re on vacation in travel-size containers.
6. Face Masks
After visiting local beauty stores throughout the world, I’ve realized the term "face masks" means something different in a variety of places. Some places only have sheet masks, and some don’t have sheet masks available at all. If you’re someone who masks multiple times a week like me, you should definitely bring your favorite from home.
I’m partial to sheet masks because they make my skin feel hydrated in a short amount of time, and they make my skin glow even if I’m still recovering from jet lag. Plus, they’re flat and easy to travel with. Some of my faves include the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Sheet Mask, the La Mer Treatment Lotion Hydrating Mask, and the Dr. Jart+ Water Replenishment Cotton Mask.
If you’re fond of masks you spread on your face, I recommend bringing something that’s super compact and easy to apply. After all, you’re going to be on-the-go and probably won’t want to use something that needs to sit on your face for 30 minutes. I love the Summer Fridays R+R Mask, GLAMGLOW’s INSTAMUD Mask (It works in just one minute.), and the Glow Recipe Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask.
7. Any Products You’re Very Particular About
I know this may sound obvious, but if you take a long, hard look at your beauty kit, you’d probably be surprised by which products you feel like you can’t live without. For example, I have used the same mascara since high school (L’Oréal’s Voluminous Lash Paradise Waterproof), and I’ve never found one I like better. I always bring it with me and I buy a new tube before a trip if mine’s running low.
Before you pack, do a quick edit of the things you absolutely need to bring — like your favorite eye cream, your perfect nude lipstick, or your go-to highlight — and make sure those go in your bag first. That way, if you run out of space, you have the most important essentials with you.
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