Guys. I have a confession.
I’m a horrible packer. I wince whenever a packing related question lands in my inbox. I end up in tears whenever I end up in my childhood bedroom — also known as my free storage unit! — reloading for another journey. Despite more than two years of perpetual travel, I always seem to have the heaviest backpack on the luggage conveyor belt. Today, I’m going to lay it all out… literally.
Yeah, yeah, travel light — but what if you never stop traveling? What if you had to take your entire life on the go, every single day? Toiletries are a sore spot for me. Some things are easy to give up — I never was one for blowdrying my hair and eyelash curlers kind of remind me of torture devices. But my trips abroad tend to stretch between ten weeks and ten months — what you’ll see here isn’t really my “travel” makeup, it’s my only makeup.
I look for a good balance of products that are reasonably priced, and travel and Earth friendly. Currently I’m struggling with trying to switch to animal-testing free products — Cover Girl and Neutrogena are offenders that I need to find replacements for, while Schick, John Frieda, Jergens, Urban Decay, Almay, Sun Bum and Paul Mitchell are in the clear — those links will bring you to the companies’ official statements stating so. Suggestions for cruelty free products and brands are warmly welcomed!
My Travel Makeup Bag
I mostly use drugstore makeup with a few splurges. My makeup tends to last a long time, so I just pick up replacements whenever I’m stateside.
1. Skin: I’ve been using CoverGirl Compact Foundation for years. Recently my favorite loose-powder-in-a-brush thingy by Neutrogena was discontinued (like this but less than half the price) so I kind of made my own using a Sephora brand brush and Neutrogena loose powder. It’s travel friendly — you don’t have to worry about dumping powder everywhere while applying in an airport bathroom — but my DIY version is bulky. Can’t have it all. I also carry Neutrogena Natural Radiance Bronzer, which is kind of pricey for drugstore makeup but lasts forever.
2. Lips: I doubt if I’ll replace these old lipglosses at all when they run out — I just prefer the feel of chapstick these days. Also pictured are two old perfume samples I have in my makeup bag for big nights — nice to have but I won’t replace them when they’re empty.
3. Eyes: My day makeup is a CoverGirl Brow Pencil and Urban Decay Cannonball Ultra Waterproof Mascara — I used a Sephora gift card to splurge on this mascara and I don’t know if I can ever go back now! For night I add Almay Liquid Eyeliner (once this one runs out I must switch to waterproof), and for big blowout nights I add in a glitter eye pencil (which is so rare that my current one has lasted for years.) A pencil sharpener, a pair of tweezers and an eyelash comb round things out.
4. Etc: My makeup bag is an old LeSportsac one. I love that brand — a little pricey, but they last for years and can be thrown into the laundry to clean. I also keep Jergens Facial Glow Moisturizer with SPF 20 and Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes (a new find that is sadly not pictured as I’m obsessed with the compact size!) in there.
My Travel Shower Stuff
I don’t believe in travel sizes. My hair is two feet long. Three ounces of conditioner can get me through, like, one shower, and it isn’t cost effective. But I don’t travel with body wash — for simplicity and space’s sake I just use a bit of shampoo or conditioner. I need to find something convenient to stash this stuff in. Currently I use a plastic shopping bag, which does get points for glamor.
1. Loofah Glove: Cheap ones from Target. Good for travel as they dry quickly. Obviously they come as I pair but I just take one with me.
2. Razor: I just can’t quit my Schick Intuition Razor! It’s huge and bulky and the refills are stupidly expensive and also huge and bulky, but I just love this thing. It makes shaving so quick and painless. I should probably finally give in and carry a smaller version. Sigh.
3. Face Wash: I’m not loyal to any brand — can’t be picky when traveling in remote areas. Whatever is cheap, on sale or available.
4. Shampoo and Conditioner: Again I’m not loyal to any brand and tend to buy whatever is cheapest or available — and again, there is often little choice in the places I travel to. However when I’m home I occasionally splurge on a nice purple shampoo like Rusk Sensories Brightening Shampoo to try to keep brassy tones out of my hair.
My Travel Toiletries
Someday, I swear I’m getting Lasik and veneers.
1. Nails: Yeah, okay. This is a little frivolous. I always have a little nail kit with me. Nail clippers, cuticle nippers, a nail file, toe separators, store brand nail polish remover pads (actually, excellent for travel) and two bottles of Sally Hansen nail polish. Okay, okay — from now on I’ll make it one.
2. Teeth: A toothbrush, biodegradable floss picks (not pictures as I just ran out) and a tongue cleaner are essential (seriously, try the tongue thing — you’ll never go back!) I try to stock up on free toothpastes whenever I hit the dentist, and I use a dollar store plastic tube squeezer to get out every last bit. And my retainer that I don’t wear enough comes along to guilt me.
3. Eyes: I travel with an arsenal of spare contacts (Southeast Asia travelers take note, Bangkok is one of the cheapest places to stock up!), preservative free drops (recommended after past cornea issues), a contact case, and a travel size bottle of contact solution. I rarely wear my glasses but bring them along for when I’m having eye problems.
4. Tools: I always travel with a pair of scissors, and believe it or not I use them all the time. My mini sewing kit also gets a ton of play, and I have a micro eyeglass repair thing in there too.
5. Etc: I always travel with as many Q-tips and hair ties as possible. Also, o.b. Applicator-Free Tampons. These are one of my favorite products, ever, and I’m shocked how many Americans don’t use them (I’ve found they are much more common among my British friends.) They are teeny tiny and have zero plastic waste. Why travel with anything else?
More Travel Toiletries
1. Skin Stuff: Believe it or not, deodorant can be hard to buy in Southeast Asia if you don’t want a liquid version or bleached armpits (everything in Southeast Asia has whitening cream in it.) Bug spray is essential, and baby powder can be nice to have in the humidity, though I think I’ll ditch it for the next trip as I haven’t used it much recently. One thing I am a nut about is lotion. I usually travel with a full-sized one to keep at “home” and a small one to carry on me at all times. Dry skin is my kryponite.
2. Hair: Um, so I kind of have gone off the deep end with hair products. In addition to a small hairbrush, I carry John Frieda Sheer Blonde Lightening Spray, Paul Mitchell Forever Blonde Dramatic Repair, and Oscar Blandi Volumizing Dry Shampoo. In my defense, the lightening spray has allowed me to go over a year without touching up my roots and leave-in conditioner is essential for anyone who spends as much time in the ocean as I do. I should probably forgo the dry shampoo next time though; it’s pretty frivolous to travel with.
3. Sunscreen: I’m a complete Sun Bum loyalist — these are amazing products and totally cruelty free. I will forever travel with Sun Bum Continuous Spray Sunscreens (for longer trips I take two different SPFs!) a Sun Bum Face Stick, and Sun Bum SPF Lip Balm. Sunscreen is bulky to pack but it is expensive and difficult to buy abroad — and I don’t want to look like leather!
So that’s it. Every last little toiletry-related item I carry. Laying it all out helped me evaluate what I can do without in the future — I’d love your input as well! — and also helped me create a visual packing list to make the routine less painful in the future. Actually, I feel lighter already.
Are you a light or heavy packer? Do you have a travel toiletry you can’t live without? Is there anything you think I need to ditch? Let me know in the comments!
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