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Maintaining a travel beauty routine requires a bit of planning, but for many of us it’s important. You want to look your best in your photos, so a bit of travel makeup might be necessary, but you also don’t want to carry a massive bag that’ll weigh you down.
I have been to 12 different countries within the last 12 months, and I assure you I looked fabulous in every single one of them. The trick was learning to minimize my makeup routine for travel, and making sure I was using the most travel-friendly makeup products. In this guide I want to help you find the routine that will work for you based on my own experience, but also taking into account that each one of us has different preferences!
We’ll start off with the best makeup products for travel! These are products that are small, sturdy, easy to pack, and fulfil multiple purposes. I even go through what I have in my travel beauty bag, so you can get an idea for the thought process behind packing your travel makeup.
Then I’ll give some preparation tips, so you can get in the right mindset before you travel. I also included repackaging advice that will allow you to make your regular products that much more travel-friendly!
Your Ultimate Travel Makeup Routine: Contents
- 17 Best Makeup and Beauty Products for Travel
- How I Do My Travel Makeup
- Travel Makeup Tips and Tricks
- How to Repackage Skincare and Makeup for Travel
You are sure to look like a million bucks getting these travel makeup products that are simple and multi-purpose.
1. Sephora Z Palette
The Z palette is the secret weapon for thousands of makeup artists, but it’s also super useful for anyone traveling. This empty palette is magnetized and it comes with little magnetic stickers as well, so you can create your own customized palette out of single eyeshadows and blushes.
You can choose a large one to carry literally all of your pan products, or you can opt for a smaller one just to carry a small selection of shadows and blushes. Later on in this article I give some suggestions on how you can remove makeup tins from bulky containers so you can put them in your Z palette.
There are endless ways of arranging products in a Z palette, so it’s great for just about anyone! Get a palette that’s the right size for you at Sephora!
2. Too Faced The Chocolate Bar Eyeshadow
This chocolate-scented eyeshadow palette will put a smile on your face every time you go to do your eye makeup. It’s a great travel makeup palette because it is small yet sturdy, has a built-in mirror, and is filled with totally wearable matte and metallic colors. With this palette you’re not restricted to one look during your whole vacation – you have a few makeup options!
I chose this palette because it also includes lighter glowy shades that can work beautifully as highlighters both for the eyes and the cheeks, as well as a few shades of brown and taupe that can work as eyebrow powder for many people. Any one of a number of darker shadows can also be applied as eyeliner! You can pick it up from Sephora.
3. Dose of Colors Baked Browns Eyeshadow Palette
If you’re willing to forego complex and varied eyeshadow looks, then a 5 or 6-shade palette will probably be a better choice. It’ll take up less space and still allow you to get a little glammed up when it’s necessary. Each one of us has a different go-go eyeshadow look, but rosy browns are super trendy right now, so I decided to suggest this palette.
You can do a quick, no-makeup look with it or get a little darker and sultrier. The shades are all matte, so you might want to carry a highlighter with you for brightening up the inner corners. Find it at Ulta!
4. MAC Cosmetics Mini MAC Lipstick
Lipsticks don’t really take up a ton of space, so you might be able to take a few colors with you without any problem. Personally, I only carry one full-sized lip color around, but then again, I’m a little boring.
MAC lipsticks are classics with a creamy texture and trendy matte finish. With the mini versions of all their most wearable shades you will have space for a bunch. This is a great choice if you really like to change your lip color up from day to day! Pick up 3 or 4 from Nordstrom!
5. Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation
If you have oily skin it can be great to have a pressed powder foundation on the road instead of a cream one. It won’t be any problem to carry in your carry-on, and it won’t require setting! This powder foundation from Cover FX is a quick one-step that’ll keep you looking matte and give your skin nice medium coverage. The formula is talc-free, super lightweight, and contains kaolin clay to absorb oils. Find your match from 38 shades at Ulta!
6. It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+
If you have normal or dry skin, on the other hand, then this CC cream might be the best travel makeup option! Its coverage is on the higher side, but you can sheer it out with your moisturizer if necessary, and it has one of the most beautiful natural finishes!
It’ll cover imperfections without highlighting dry spots, and it can work well without being set with powder. It’s got some serious sun protection power, and the formula is super moisturizing so you might even be able to use it without face cream. You are sure to find a color match, since it comes in 12 colors at Sephora.
7. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick SPF 21
If you prefer high coverage even while you travel, consider this stick foundation! It can double as your concealer if necessary, and the finish is matte enough that you probably won’t need to carry around a setting powder. You can skip the brushes or makeup sponges if you like, as this product is quite easy to blend with the fingers à la Pat McGrath. This formula will give you some sun protection, as well, for those sunny days when you’re out and about. Find your favorite of 25 shades at Nordstrom!
8. Simple Kind To Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes
If you’re really roughing it, makeup wipes are indispensable. You can use them to clean your face, your brushes, and even your hands in a pinch! They’re a little too wasteful for daily use, but on a trip using them can be justified. These ones, in particular, are super gentle on the skin. They remove all makeup thoroughly, but they keep the skin hydrated with a dose of glycerin and panthenol. Get them from Ulta!
9. Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara Mini
A dark black, volumizing mascara is awesome to have while you travel. It will often save you the need for eyeliner, and it will make you feel done up and awake in seconds. The Kush mascara from Milk Makeup will also keep the lashes moisturized and healthy, and in its miniature size it fits into even the tiniest makeup bag easily. You can buy it from Sephora.
10. E.L.F. Cosmetics Flawless Face 6 Piece Brush Collection
Give yourself a full-face look with just 6 makeup brushes! This set is perfect for travelers, as it includes all the brushes you’ll need to do a full-face makeup, and they don’t break the bank so if you lose one or two it’s no big deal. The set includes two complexion brushes and four eye brushes, and we can think of all kinds of creative uses for them to ensure that you’ll need nothing else. You can order them from Ulta.
11. NARS The Multiple Stick
This all-in-one product is perfect if you’re truly low-maintenance when you travel. The NARS Multiples are makeup sticks that can be applied to the cheeks, lips, or eyes – that’s right, a single product that can be a blush, lipstick and eyeshadow! You can take just one, or choose a few instead of all of your blushes, highlighters, and shadows. Orgasm is the perfect gold-flecked coral, Portofino is a gorgeous rose, and South Beach is the loveliest golden tone for highlighting. Choose your favorites from Nordstrom!
12. YSL Baby Doll Kiss & Blush Lips & Cheeks
If you like a more saturated color in a product that takes up even less space, then opt for a lip and cheek tint rather than a stick. It won’t work for the eyes, but it’ll give you super gorgeous lips so perhaps the exchange is well worth it.
These lip tints are perfectly blendable for an easy blush application, while they can be built up to opacity on the lips. They keep the lips soft and hydrated without being too matte or glossy. Choose Nude Insolent for a day to day shade, or Fuchsia Desinvoltefor something more dramatic. They are available at Net-a-Porter.
13. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
I normally wouldn’t bother with a liquid liner while traveling – I find it much easier to apply dampened eyeshadow with a small angled brush. However, for many women that sharp wing is a must, in which case this waterproof liquid eyeliner is awesome to have. It won’t budge on hot days nor will it require touch-ups, and the design is sleek and streamlined so it’ll fit in any travel makeup bag with ease. You can purchase it at Sephora.
14. Nudestix Nudies Matte Blush & Bronze
I’m not quite done with stick products yet! They’re just so convenient for travel beauty on the go. Many folks prefer doing all-cream looks when they travel, so these sticks are perfect for contouring and blush. They can go anywhere on the face, and they even come with a brush on one end for blending. Choose Bondi Bae as a contour shade for lighter skin or Deep Maple, Eh as a contour shade for darker skin. Both are available, along with three blush shades at Sephora.
15. Tarte Tarteist PRO Glow To Go Highlight & Contour Palette
If you prefer powders, this little set is perfection. It includes a bronzer, highlighter, and blush in a sturdy package, and a nicely large mirror. All three shades can also be applied as eyeshadows, so you can leave your eyeshadow palette at home. I love this kit because the highlighter and blush are both gorgeous glowy, but the contour shade is perfectly matte. You can buy it from Ulta.
16. Absolutely Lush Trifold Lighted Makeup Mirror
Whether you’re staying at a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, don’t expect an amazing mirror. It’s better to bring your own! I find most palettes have a decent enough mirror, but if you’re traveling without one, or if you want the best visibility possible, then consider this mirror, which is fitted with LED light strips.
It magnifies, but not overly so, so you can see your whole face but get a precise makeup application. The light is adjustable, so you can see your face clearly even in the dark but without getting blinded. It has a foldable design that will allow it to fit easily in your bag, and you can keep it charged with a USB cord or batteries! Buy it on Jet.com!
17. Travel Makeup Bag
This little bag is perfect. It’s just big enough to hold all of your travel makeup, but not so big that you’ll be tempted to take unnecessary stuff with you. It has a few compartments for brushes, and a mesh bag in case you want to bring your Beauty Blender-style makeup sponge with you. It’ll hold your goodies securely, so you know nothing will move around or get damaged. It is made from black nylon for easy cleaning. You can order it from Amazon.
I give so many suggestions here, but I want to tell you a bit about what I actually do! Seeing where I was willing to compromise and why, versus where I decided to take what I love even if it’s not ideal might help you figure out what is important to you!
For me what was most important was having low-weight items that fit in a single bag, since I travel with a backpack and only carry-on. I tend to stay in places for a long time, so when it comes to taking care of my skin I make sure to have my full skin care routine, with my cream, makeup-removing cleanser, hydrating night serum, sunscreen and anti-acne treatment in bottles that are 100 ml or less.
Everything I use is quite fluid, so bottles are best, and they also happen to be more hygienic than jars. I decided to leave my primers at home, since I don’t like layering too many things in the morning, and sunscreen is much more important to me than primer.
When it comes to travel makeup, I prefer working with powders rather than creams. I have combination skin that can get quite oily, especially if I’m out and about exploring a new city, so creams tend to move around a lot while powders stay put. Those with dry skin might prefer an all-cream travel makeup routine instead!
I do carry with me a high-coverage foundation that doubles as my concealer, and a small stippling brush to apply it. While many people travel with a Beauty Blender in a mesh bag, I find myself worrying about packing it away when it’s still damp. I cannot travel without a setting powder, so I’ve decanted my favorite one into a smaller container, and I apply it with a kabuki brush that takes up almost no space.
I skip eyeshadows altogether. Instead, I have my contour powder, champagne highlighter, neutral blush all in one palette with a mirror, as well as a small brow powder duo perfect for doing ombre brows. The highlighter and blush are perfect inner corner and lid colors, while the bronzer and lighter brow powder are both awesome for the crease.
I use my darker brow powder for my brows, outer corner accent, and as eyeliner. For applying these I have a tiny blush brush, a fluffy angled brush for contouring, and a mini-sized set of eyeshadow brushes that includes a thin angled brush, a flat shadow brush, a rounded crease brush, and a blending brush.
I do have a black eyeliner pencil with me for when I want to get fancy, and a nice waterproof mascara. For the lips I have my go-to berry toned lip tint (which sometimes also goes on my cheeks), and an MLBB lip liner that I just couldn’t give up.
• Learn Minimalism
Scaling back is 75% mindset. When you don’t travel often, it’s easy to see everything you own as absolutely essential. Of course, you need that palette! What if you’ll want to rock a red lip one night? Well, you gotta let go of those “what ifs” and start thinking more about whether every item you’re looking at is truly essential. This process can be painful, but once you’re in the air or on the road it’ll save you a lot of hassle.
• Know the Airline Rules
Before you start packing make sure to review the airline requirements for toiletries, especially if you’re only flying with a carry-on. In most cases you’re not allowed to board an airplane with liquid cosmetic containers that hold over 100 ml of product, and you’re only allowed to carry items that fit in a single plastic bag.
• Opt for Two-in-Ones
When you’re traveling, a makeup product that only has one purpose becomes very hard to justify carrying. Try to ignore the marketing and intended purposes, and open your mind to the possibilities. Look at your makeup products with a creative eye, and think how many uses you can get out of one item. A lipstick can double as a blush, concealer mixed with moisturizer can double as foundation, a contour and highlight kit can double as eyeshadow, an eyebrow powder can double as eyeliner.
• Make Sure You Can Mix and Match
If you have a lipstick that only works with a specific outfit or a blush that only looks good when you wear a particular combination of eyeshadows, then leave it at home. You want to travel with things that all look good together; this applies to both makeup and clothes. Make sure each item you’ve brought will look good with every other item. It’s key to what we call a “capsule collection” and it will save you a ton of hassle.
• Don’t Give up Your Favorites
While multi-purpose products are the best, it’s okay if you have some absolute Holy Grail items that can only be used for one thing. At the end of the day, you want to be happy with the makeup you’ve brought with you. As long as you actually use everything you carry, then it is justified.
• Practice Your Minimalist Routine!
Before you actually decide what to take and what to leave behind, practice your minimalist face with the products you think you’ll take with you. It’d suck to assume that you’ll only need a few things, only to discover that you’re not happy with what you’ve brought once you’re actually away.
• Square and Flat Packs Better
Circular compacts are tough to work with – they don’t fit nicely in a travel makeup bag or up against each other. Square compacts and thin tubes fit beautifully in a travel bag, and they are also much easier to put into Tetris-like order up against each other. This is why everything I recommended earlier comes either in a square compact or in a stick form!
Repacking your regular makeup for travel will save you the hassle of having to buy new things, and you might also be surprised to discover that it helps you stay organized when you’re home!
• Pressed Powders
Sticking all of your pressed powders in a single palette can be an excellent way of saving space! This can be especially useful if you are dedicated to a few eyeshadow or blush singles.
First, you’ll have to get your pressed powders out of their original compacts. You can do so by placing the compact over a source of low heat (a straightening iron is excellent for this) to get the glue to melt. Once it’s loosened up, pop out the pan with the pressed powder inside it.
Then you can stick magnet tape on the pan, and stick it into a magnetized Z Palette, or you can go for the complete DIY route by gluing the pan down into an old CD case.
• Loose Powders
Loose powders are probably the least travel-friendly makeup products, but you can still make them work on the road. These little jars from Beauty Bay are perfect for keeping loose powders safe and easy to use, and they help make you travel makeup bag less bulky.
For a short excursion, decanting your creams is guaranteed to save you lots of space. It’ll also allow you to bring your skincare and cream makeup in your carry-on without having to worry about liquid limits.
Heavier creams, foundations and balms can be decanted into jars, while lighter products like serums and toners can be poured into bottles. Make sure to use a small, clean spatula when taking products out of jar containers so that you can keep things clean and avoid contaminating your creams with bacteria.
By the way, contact lens cases are also awesome containers for when you’re only going away for a couple of nights!
Finding ways to cushion more fragile items is very important if you have a lot of pressed powder products in your travel makeup bag. I find a small piece of tissue or silicone netting indispensable for cushioning the pressed powders in my various palettes and compacts.
Photos via @janicejoostemaa, @anajohnson, @camilacoelho, @marianna_hewitt