The Best Travel Makeup Ever, Always

Looking for the best travel makeup? Well, I've been to 36 countries so I kind of know what to pack in a travel makeup bag! Click through so you can pack your own!
Let me be honest with you, friends. When I travel, I usually give up wearing makeup about two days in.

Suddenly, getting an order of mango sticky rice from the street vendor and finding the nearest beach seems a lot more important than applying eyeliner.

But then I see my travel photos and I’m all Baroness Blondieeyelashes Von Palelips. So I end up spending time in photoshop, trying to render myself non-zombie-like when I could have just applied some Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers and some waterproof mascara and called it a day.
But toting a giant makeup bag through multiple countries is also not happening. I want things that are multi-purpose, won’t spill and can be applied in the back of a moving bus. That’s a bit of a tall order, no?

What Makeup to Bring on an Extended Trip

Solid perfume

Wearing perfume is one of the things in life that makes me feel like a laaaaady. When I travel, I spend a large portion of my time clamoring over architectural ruins, wading through busy markets and attempting to befriend llamas – none of which are very aromatic pursuits.

So in addition to one very large stick of deodorant, I like to bring some solid perfume with me. It won’t spill all over my bag and every time I smell it when I’m home, I’ll think of orange vendors and cobblestones.

Tinted moisturiser with spf

Dude, forget three separate bottles for foundation, moisturizer and sunscreen. Cut to the chase with one product that does all three things.

I think it’s also important to use a product that’s SPF 30 instead of your usual 15 (which you already wear daily, right?) because you’re going to be outside so much more than usual and certain travel destinations offer ozone holes in addition to other amenities (I’m looking at you, Australia and New Zealand).

Light-colored eye shadow

There are many opportunities for red-rimmed eyes while traveling – the goodbye at the airport, the early morning flight, the sandstorm, the lost sunglasses, the $1 glasses of wine. But these can be countered acted pretty successfully with some light-colored eye shadow. I particularly like a light gold for my warm skin tone, though I imagine cool toned ladies could rock a sparkly white.

Another bonus? You can apply it with you finger in the back of a bus and no one will be the wiser. The same cannot be said for liquid eyeliner, friends. This cheap set of six neutral shades is perfect!

Clear nail polish

There are a million uses for clear nail polish (keeps your buttons from falling off, stops fabric from fraying, um, cures ringworm?) but I mostly just use it on my nails. It makes me feel put together, and when it chips, no one’s the wiser.

Tinted chapstick, SPF 30

Leave the lipstick at home. To me, wearing lipstick while traveling is the equivalent of dragging one of those wheelie suitcases into a hostel: obvious and embarrassing. Tinted SPF chapstick is easy, protects your kisser and, again, can be applied in the back of a bus which is really the test of all travel make up, I think. This is nicely tinted, spf 20, and super cheap.

Pumice Stone

If you’re traveling for more than a few weeks and you’re wearing sandals for most of that time, you’re tootsies are going to take a beating. I get oddly self-conscious about showcasing dry, scaly feet, so I will totally exfoliate my feet before tucking them into my Chaco sandals and pulling on my technical gear.

Really, I think it’s a lovely way to feel a bit more decadent in the midst of a hostel dorm room and a backpack full of dirty laundry.

Shampoo bar

I have expounded on the wonders of solid shampoo before, but please allow me to sing its praises again. It weighs two ounces! And it will last forever! And it won’t spill in your bag! And it’ll give you sexy beach hair! Convinced? I thought so. Lush and Burt’s Bees both make nice shampoo bars.

Leave-in conditioner

If you’re going to use a shampoo bar, you’re going to need some conditioner, too. I really like leave-in conditioner for travel. It continues in the vein of beach hair and can double as lotion if you’re really in a pinch. It’ll last forever and you can even use it to deter that ridiculous static cling hair that happens every time you enter a plane.

Facewash bar

Bar face wash is awesome for the same reasons that shampoo bars are awesome – they won’t spill in your bag and they last forever. Lasting forever is particularly important if you’re traveling for months at a time.

Because it’s a total bummer to run out of face wash when you’re backpacking through Thailand and then discover that every cosmetic sold there includes bleaching agents. Because I’m trying to tan, people. Not go home lighter than when I started.

What essentials do you carry in your cosmetics bag when you travel?

P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

Is it possible to travel cheaply in Portland - what with all those world-class restaurants, great live music, and some of the best hiking in the country? It sure is! I brought in a Portland native to give us the low-down on the best food carts, $3 cocktails, and how...

read more


  1. kathrynoh

    An eyelash tint pre-holiday is always good 🙂

    I like the fat eyeshadow crayons. Powder eyeshadow always breaks up and ends coating everything in my cosmetic bag (plus they can double up as eyeliner). I do take a lot of cosmetics though – my last few hols have been to Japan and, even thought I know I don't need to compare, I still feel like a plain nelly next to the Japanese girls with their makeup!

    I'm not above doing a makeover with testers in shops either – my friend and I did a whole chanel makeover at the duty free at the airport once!

  2. Euforilla

    mmm… concealer: I have a tiny one with the three colours to conceal anything (spots, dark circles, redness) an eyepencil and lipbalm.
    Draw the attention to your eyes! The rest can be imperfect

  3. Kerry

    I recently discovered lipstain. I am addicted to Burt's Bees lip balm but I don't like the colors of their tinted version, so I just throw on some lipstain and I can apply the balm right over it without it coming off.
    I love those eyeliner crayons, too. Remember like 10 years ago, Almay made one that was supposed to be eyeliner, cheek color and lipcolor all in one? Not sure how hygienic that is, but it sure was convenient.

  4. Stace

    tinted moisturizer, lipblam + mascara!

  5. katie d.

    I have to have: concealer (I like the stick version), mascara (L'Oreal Voluminous), and I usually bring something like Nars the Multiple (eyes, cheeks, and lips) in a bronzy pink. Also: I LOVE Dr Pepper LipSmackers. Awesome.

    And yes, sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

  6. Doniree

    AWESOME tips! I especially love the solid perfume idea. Those little trial/sample sizes work pretty well too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. melina bee

    it is not spill proof but won't hurt anything if it spills: a little bottle of lavender and tea tree oil. It works on almost any skin prob and doubles as pick me up aromatherapy and insect repellant (good on the bites too)

  8. Freya

    Love these! Personally, I always carry mascara, a small eyeshadow pallette, tinted moisturizer, deodorant and bobby pins (yeah I know not "makeup," but still essential!)

    I love using solid perfume! I have some and never really know when to use it, but my friend you have solved that dilemma.

  9. Holly Knitlightly

    It's times like traveling that I'm glad I don't wear makeup. I never run into the problem of forgetting that, and I haven't straightened or blowdried my hair in so long that I don't have to worry about remembering to bring one or both! Sometimes I forget my chapstick, but it's easy enough to pick up a new one! 🙂

  10. Caitlin

    You MUST bring vaseline!! It's good for lips, dry skin (face, elbows, knees, feet, etc.), frizzies, cuts, crazy eyebrows, burns, torn cuticles, and if you have curly crazy hair, you can use it in place of mousse if you're in a super tight spot. The stuff is magical! I brought it when we backpacked through Italy and I was so grateful to have it.

  11. Jen

    I was just looking at that Burt's Bees tinted lip balm yesterday at Target! Definitely going to grab some next time.

    I think I read this list last year, but it's definitely worth reposting annually. I like all of the solids: shampoo, face bar, perfume. Not only do they not spill in your bag, but they easily pass through airport security in your carry-on avoiding that 3-1-1 nonsense. Perfect for my upcoming cruise vaca (not exactly backpacking in Thailand, I know) where I hope to get away with just a carry-on!

  12. LC

    DUDE! I JUST went to Lush and bought solid shampoo, conditioner, perfume, AND facewash. AND I'm going to Thailand.

    But when I travel I absolutely lurv spray toner. Okay, not the most practical on the spillage part, but on bus rides, or in hot sticky places, it makes you feel super cool and showered (despite not, in fact, showering for the better part of the week). AND it's totally back-of-the-bus friendly.

  13. PJ

    At the risk of outing myself as a total travel noob, I have to ask: why is it a bad idea to bring a rollie suitcase into a hostel? What would be more appropriate hostel-travel-gear? Great post, btw 🙂

  14. Monica at In Wanderment

    Waterproof mascara is a must in my summer travel bag. Particularly because I travel throughout the humid southern states. I also like to have in tow my roll-on Eau de Zum essential oil perfume in Frankincense and Myrrh. I apply it under my arms and on my wrists and it makes me smell sweet and sexy all day.

  15. Anonymous

    I would like to exchange links with your site
    Is this possible?

  16. Julie R. Andersen

    I disagree when it comes to lipstick. I bring red lipstick with me when I travel, because it is comes in a small package, instantly makes me feel more awake and glamorous and doesn't have to be removed like eye make-up. And I can easily apply it at the back of a bus if I have a mirror (which is useful to bring with you in general).

  17. Creole Wisdom

    These are all incredible tips! Love them. I will def. need to try solid perfume and the eye shadow trick.

    One thing I never leave home without when traveling is an extra pair of contacts, this is probably "duh" to you. I am also really partial to the mini dr. bronner's magic soap. It's so good that I used it to wash my face, body and hands. It smells SO good, too. It is liquid, but I've never had an issue with it spilling. I do pack with several plastic bags that I reuse.

  18. Jenny

    Extra bonus for solid shampoo, conditioner, lotion etc: you get all that extra space in your quart size liquids bag for pre-purchased mini-boozes.

  19. Halina

    I love some of these suggestions! I’d like to add: coconut oil. I use it as a makeup remover (good-bye waterproof mascara!), moisturizer, hair de-frizzer, lip balm, and in a pinch, it’ll work as a deodorant. And I believe it has some SPF!

  20. Natasha

    I love the Get Dirty With Me powder shampoos for travel – I’ve always wanted to like shampoo bars but never got along with the sliminess. These powders, though – love ’em.

Pin It on Pinterest