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Building your travel makeup kit can save you so much time and space with packing for your next trip. And it doesn’t have to be complicated! Here’s what’s in my travel bag – and how you can better pack yours.
Table of Contents – A Comprehensive Guide To Building Your Travel Makeup Kit
Overpacking: A Common Travel Issue
Traveling can be equally as stressful as it is exciting. Yes, bustling airports and long car rides can really amp up the nerves, but half the frustrations start in the packing process.
We often tend to agonize over our bags packing, unpacking, and repacking until we think we have it all together. “Better safe than sorry,” we say, as we sit on our suitcases, praying the zipper closed. And the byproduct of all this deliberation? Overpacking. We end up so afraid of leaving something that we add in way too much unnecessary stuff. Or better yet, we end up leaving necessities by accident! I find that one of the most common areas for this is makeup. But it doesn’t have to be.
Building your travel makeup kit doesn’t have to be overwhelming
The best way to approach packing anything is with a strategy. Throwing products in your bag all willy-nilly is the surest way to overpack – and leave things you really need. I always start with these three questions:
- Where are you going? Are you going to the beach? Or to the mountains? Will the weather be freezing cold, or sweltering hot? These can help you determine what vibe you should shoot for and what formulas may be best.
- How are you traveling? Air travel, in particular, requires a different set of considerations than ground travel. When flying, you MUST comply with the Transporation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage.
- What are you going to be doing? Certain occasions call for different looks. You may pack differently for a business trip than a vacation. You might also add different items for casual vs. formal settings.
Thinking through these things ahead of time will vastly improve your editing later on.
If you need a visual to organize this, check out my 3-step travel plan here.
What makeup should you pack for a trip?
I have a couple of different configurations of my travel makeup kit that I use for different scenarios. Let’s talk through two of them.
Flight Max – My Full-Sized Travel Makeup Kit
I’ll nickname the first one “Flight Max.” This is the maximum makeup I would pack for air travel. Similarly, I use the same roster for car trips while taking advantage of the wiggle room for a few extras. Check out the details below:
- Foundation – Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation or Fashion Fair Flex Stick
- Concealer – NARS Creamy Radiant Concealer
- Powder – Westman Atelier Vital Skin Powder or Makeup Forever HD Powder
- Setting Spray – NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray
- Eyebrows – Uoma By Sharon C. One and Done Brow Styler
- Eyeshadow – Beauty Bakerie Bite Size Eyeshadow Palette
- Blush/Lips – Uoma By Sharon C. Lip Tint + Cheek Stain + Gloss + Oil
- Eyeliner – Absolute New York Waterproof Gel Eyeliner
- Mascara – Tarte Big Ego Mascara
- Highlight/Contour – Black Radiance True Complexion Contour Palette
Primer – I try to use products that allow me to skip the primer. If not, I opt for a small tube of Makeup Forever Primer. I love that this primer is available in travel size.
Foundation – I’m very much a liquid foundation lover, but sticks are the way to go for air travel. I am a fan of the Fashion Fair SkinFlex stick. Also, I recently adopted Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Foundation Stick into my collection.
Concealer – Thankfully, most concealers already come in small, compact packaging under 3.4 ounces. You are pretty safe packing your favorite cover-up. Bonus points if it’s available in travel size (like NARS Creamy Radiant Concealer), or if it comes in a solid form.
Powder – Typically, I prefer to carry whichever powder matches my foundation, if I have it on hand. However, not all packaging is made equal. Some come in somewhat large containers that take up too much space, and others are not secure enough. (Fenty’s Pro Filt’r Setting Powder comes to mind – my makeup bag will never forgive me.) Westman Atelier’s Vital Pressed Powder or the travel size of Makeup Forever HD Powder are my go-to’s.
Setting Spray – My absolute favorite setting spray to travel with is the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny iteration of the NYX Matte Finish Long Lasting Makeup Setting Spray. Coming in at an impressive 0.6 ounces, it’s a blip on the radar.
Eyebrows – Opt for a pencil formulation, or a dual-ended product, like the Uoma By Sharon C. One and Done Complete Brow Styler.
Eyeliner – Pencils are a travel makeup mainstay for me. They are slim, dry, and solid. For what it’s worth, my favorite all-purpose pencil is the Absolute New York Waterproof Gel Eyeliner. I can wing it, smudge it, and even use it as a substitute for black eyeshadow.
Mascara – This is another category where minis abound. I generally buy mascara minis for everyday use to make sure I’m rotating them out before they expire. Currently, my favorite mini is Tarte Big Ego.
Lips – Most of the time, I opt for a multi-use product, like the Uoma by Sharon C. It’s Complicated Lip Tint. Otherwise, I opt for three main hues: one red, one, purple, and one nude. Rotating the hue of my lips is a quick way to switch up an otherwise neutral look.
Eyeshadow – Packing neutral eyeshadow that is interchangeable is quite helpful when traveling with makeup. The Beauty Bakerie Bite-Size Eyeshadow Palette in Get That Dough has a great mix of mattes and shimmers in a spectrum from flour to cinnamon to chocolate.
Blush – A blush palette can give you a variety of looks in compact form. My favorite blush palette to travel with is the NARS Basic Instinct Palette Quad II. (At the time of this post, this palette is sold out, but see #5 below for an even better alternative.)
Contour/Bronzer – I make this step optional, as I’m quick to jettison contour or bronzer products for space. If I do decide to pack a little extra “glow” I opt for the Black Radiance Contour palette. This palette takes care of all my contouring, sculpting, and highlighting needs in one compact.
Tip: If you can, build a kit of “dupes” and minis. These iterations of your favorites can stay packed and ready to go in a travel bag, like the one above. When it’s time to pack, just throw and go!
Flight Mini – The Super Skinny Travel Makeup Kit
For flights where I’m really pressed for space, here’s a scaled-down, bare-bones version of my travel makeup kit:
- Foundation – The Lip Bar 3-in-1 Tinted Skin Conditioner
- Concealer – The Lip Bar Liquid Caffeine Concealer
- Powder – The Lip Bar Powder
- Eyeshadow – The Lip Bar Four Play Everyday Eye Palette
FYI: The Lip Bar carries several bundles, like this one, that can make this combination super simple to put your hands on.
- Blush/Lips – Absolute NY Perfect Pair Lip Duo; Nudestix Intense Matte Lip & Cheek Pencil
- Eyeliner – Absolute New York Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil
- Mascara – Merit Clean Lash Mascara
- Highlight – Danessa Myricks Dew Wet Balm
Tip: Minimalist makeup is all the rage right now. Some cosmetics companies have built their entire collections around small, basic makeup kits. Merit Beauty is a great example; check out my review here.
5 Tips For Packing Smarter When Traveling With Makeup
1. Plan your makeup looks ahead of time. Your makeup is in essence an extension of your wardrobe, so why not plan the same way? Going back to our initial questions, use the details of your trip to decide what looks you’ll be putting together.
Perhaps your wardrobe has a color story or your trip has a theme. Those may be cues to guide what makeup you want to do, and subsequently what makeup you want to pack.
2. Edit, edit, edit. Once you know what makeup you’ll be doing, lay it all out. Do you have dupes across your palettes? Are there products you can use across multiple looks? Are you packing a big palette where small single products will suffice? After you review what you want, keep what you absolutely need, and leave what you can live without.
3. Think dry. Any liquid product that you can replace with a dry one is a win. Opt for sticks, pencils, and powders to stay within TSA’s rules and minimize spills.
4. Ditch liquid remover. While you’re at it, go ahead and swap out a washable Makeup Eraser towel or Uoma by Sharon C.’s water-activated wipes instead of your micellar water. It’s better for the environment, too.
5. Pack multi-use products.
Products that can be used in multiple ways in multiple areas are a game-changer for travel. For example, multi-use liquid pigments like Danessa Myricks Beauty Vision Flush are formulated to be used on eyes, lips, and cheeks. lip tint mentioned above is perfect for on-the-go monochrome looks that make you look instantly pulled together. If I don’t need full glam, one of these products can replace all of my color products.
BONUS: Don’t forget brushes!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to my destination, makeup in hand, and realized I didn’t have brushes the first. *facepalm*. This is another area where buying cheap dupes and storing them ready to go is a great time saver. If I’m driving, my valet bag has wonderful built-in brush storage. If I’m flying a small pouch or this brush tube works wonders.
It is indeed possible to get the looks you want while traveling. Remember to think strategically, plan well, and have fun!