Being the organization lover that I am, packing for trips pretty much represents organization dreams. I try to challenge myself to pack as little as possible (I’ve done a month long trip with a carry-on suitcase, and a two week trip with a duffle, not to brag..but really.), and love to find new ways to pack more efficiently.
This philosophy continues when I’m packing my makeup, too. I’m pretty minimal when it comes to shoes and clothes, and even skincare, but I just can’t really help myself when it comes to makeup. I “need” my options – 10 lipsticks for a 5 day trip? I’m totally game. So when I need to travel light, I pack along all my travel sizes and decant foundations and other liquids into little jars.
Actually, this doesn’t just apply to traveling. I’m at the gym 3-4 times a week before work, so I shower and get ready at the gym, meaning that I’m on the go with my makeup approximately half the week. I’ll keep those details for another day, but since I’m back home with my parents for the long weekend (Chinese New Year, family birthdays, long weekend = perfect trifecta), I wanted to show a little glimpse of how I would pack for short trips.
Most of my travel bags still include my staples, but I like to use the travel opportunity to try out different products that I wouldn’t normally reach for and to challenge myself to be more creative. I’ll often just take one eyeshadow palette for a trip so I really use different shades, instead of just using one or two shades, like I normally would if I had all my options.
For base products, I have my usual suspects:
EOS Lip Balm. A must have, and permanently in my makeup bag.MAC Face and Body Foundation (in shade C4), decanted into a little 3ml jar. This is one of my go-to foundations, because it’s so sheer and easy to apply with my fingers.
Sephora Gel Serum Corrector in Peach. In my Everyday Staples post, I said that the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye Corrector was my favorite, which stands true, but a tube corrector is a little more travel friendly. I also have my trusty Garnier Dark Circle Under Eye Roller, which is a long-time favorite.
My favorite bronzer at the moment is the Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer. The deluxe sample has lasted me for probably around a year of regular use, and I’m just now starting to see its last days. It’s a favorite for many people, and I can see why. It’s matte and a great bronzing shade that isn’t too warm or too cool.
Wet N Wild Photo Focus Eyeshadow Primer. I struggle to find great eyeshadow primers because I have oily lids. The Nars Smudgeproof Eyeshadow base worked well, but it’s pretty pricey. Someone suggested the Wet N Wild primer, and it became a holy grail product pretty much on first use. It keeps my eyeshadow on for the entire day without creasing, whether I wear makeup for 5 hours or 15 hours, and it’s so affordable for such a large tube. A total winner and must-have for me!
And then some newer or seasonal additions:
First Aid Beauty Coconut Smoothing Primer: I was a little hesitant to try this since I have combination-oily skin, so I definitely wanted a sample size. I’ve been using this for the past week or so and really like it, especially for the winter. I haven’t found a winter primer that I’ve really loved until I tried this one, so this is a winner. It feels light, almost like a gel cream moisturizer, but it keeps my makeup on really well, doesn’t make me more oily, and also feels moisturizing.
Wet N Wild Mega Glo Makeup Stick in Call Me Maple. I bought this on impulse, and am really pleasantly surprised by it. The Palladio Contour and Highlight Stick is a favorite, but I wanted to try this out for a few weeks. It swatches quite warm on my skin, almost like a bronzer, but blends out easily to look like a pretty realistic contour. It also lasts really well for a creamy product, and there’s a lot more product in this than the Palladio stick.
P2 Snowkissed Winter Beauty Compact Powder. I bought this ages ago when I was in Germany for a study abroad. I believe it was limited edition from 2013 or 2014, but I see this as a more subtle version of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders. It’s an ever-so-slightly luminous finishing powder that has just a little bit of coverage.
Stila Convertible Color in Peony. I have plenty of mini cream blush products, and keep buying more because I always like to layer cream and powder products for more longevity. I usually just use one at a time for each season until I finish it, and then rotate a new one in. For the past couple of months, the Stila Convertible Color has been in my bag, and it’s a really nice subtle light pink shade that acts as neutral base for whatever blush I’m wearing. The only downside is that it’s on the stickier and dewier side of cream blush formulas, and I tend to prefer a more cream-to-powder formula.
Benefit High Beam. This is another sample sized that I received with a beauty box subscription that I’m finally trying out. It’s a beautiful pearly highlighter that isn’t obviously glittery, with mostly just some sheen. I think it was one of the first liquid highlighter on the market (that I’m aware of, anyway), and I think many people have forgotten about Benefit highlighters, but I still really love them. For years, I used the Benefit Sun Beam liquid highlighter, and actually finished a large full-sized bottle of it. For the winter, High Beam is great lighter alternative.
Again, with eye products, I have some staples that stay in my bag for the gym and whenever I travel, and some that I added in just for this trip. These products stay in my bag wherever I go:
Brows: Winky Lux Uni-Brow Universal Eyebrow Pencil and Ulta Tinted Brow Gel. I usually just use one or the other, but keep both in my bag for different purposes, and because…options. I received this in a Boxycharm box when I was still subscribed to them, and was very pleasantly surprised by it. I can’t attest to how universal it is, but it matches my brows perfectly as a cool toned taupe-brown shade. It’s a dense pigment so if I just use it lightly, it barely looks like I have used any product. I also carry a brow gel with me if I’m really in a rush and don’t even have time to draw a line. The brow gel just gives me a bit of fullness and definition, and I’m good to go for the entire day.
Like I mentioned, I always put on a cream eyeshadow before powder eyeshadow, and for this trip I took the Kiko Eyeshadow Stick in #05 Rosy Brown. These are really great and affordable cream eyeshadow that come in so many shades. I’ve read that these are dupes for the By Terry Ombre Blackstars, but I haven’t tried those out for myself. If anyone has tried both and can confirm, comment down below!
I also often love the Laura Mercier Caviar Eye Sticks. They are more expensive than the Kiko ones, but they are more pigmented on first swatch and have such a beautiful multi-dimensional finish that I gladly buy these, as well. I use Cocoa to blend into my outer corner, and sometimes as an eyeliner if I’m in a rush, and Moonstone as an inner corner highlight.
For this trip, I wanted to really wanted to try out different looks with the NYX Cosmetics Elements Earth palette. I bought these also somewhat on impulse, but have really liked it so far the few times I’ve used it. It’s a good neutral palette with some shades I don’t normally use like greens and more red-toned burgundies, enough to get me just a little bit out of my comfort zone. As I used this over the weekend, I was really pleased with the pigmentation and blendability of these shadows! They’re not quite as buttery pigmented as Anastasia Beverley Hills or Urban Decay eyeshadows, but that makes them easier to create a more subtle look and build up, which has its advantages for me.
I did some quick swatches to give you an idea of how the shadows swatched. There are definitely some good neutrals to do a basic eye look, with enough variations to do a more dramatic or colorful (well, colorful for me, at least) look.
Eyeliners: One of my daily makeup steps is to put a copper or bronze shade in my lower lashline instead of black. My favorite liner for this is the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil in Lucky, which is not unfortunately discontinued. For my upper lashline, I like to lay down a rough line with a gel eyeliner, and the Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Black Eyeliner is the most current one in my rotation. My liquid liner is always the Physician’s Formula Eye Booster, one of everyday staples and HG products.
I have a few mascaras on rotation right now, and my mascara routine is a little tricky. I can only wear waterproof mascaras because they are the only ones that can hold a curl for my stick-straight eyelashes. I used to just wear (bold and dramatic) waterproof mascaras, but in the past couple of years, I have acquired so many mascara samples from gift with purchases and beauty subscriptions, that I’ve been layering them over waterproof mascaras.
Now when I layer, I like to use a more subtle and natural waterproof mascara like a primer, and then wear a heavier layer of whatever mascara I’m rotating through. Right now, I’m using the Maybelline Lash Stiletto Waterproof mascara as my base because it’s so natural and lengthening, and then applying a couple layers of the Urban Decay Perversion mascara on top. It’s so dramatic and volumizing, and I’ve been enjoying the combination. To be honest though, I’ve found so few mascara samples that I’ve actually liked, with the exception of the Lancome Monsieur Big Mascara.
Right now, I’m also trying out the Blinc Tubing mascara, because I’ve been so curious about how a tubing mascara would work for me. Their main appeal for me is that they are sweat proof and smudge proof, and will not come off unless you apply warm water. Waterproof bi-phase makeup remover won’t work, only warm water. This makes them ideal as a quick mascara if I’m just running out the door to run some errands. Unfortunately, this doesn’t hold my curl, but I still like wearing it just for the convenience.
I included some swatches of some of the items I mentioned above:
I also try to keep an abbreviated stash of travel-sized brushes. I’ve found that if I bring finger-friendly products, I can really reduce the need for more brushes in my bag. I also use more affordable and budget friendly options since I’m honestly just really lazy and throw them into my bag without a separate pouch with the rest of my makeup. That said, my essentials are:
- Retractable kabuki brush for powder application. I’ve been using the EcoTools one for years, and it’s still going strong.
- Bronzer brush from ELF. I mentioned in my everyday staples post that bronzer is essential for me, so this is non-negotiable.
- Mini blush brush. I’m currently using the MAC 129 short handle, which I recently bought to replace my EcoTools mini blush brush. I had that one for probably 6 years and it was starting to look really old and ratty, so I upgraded, but the EcoTools one is fantastic and was still going strong. Honestly, I think the EcoTools one is softer and denser, and is easier to blend blush with,but I was curious to try the MAC one, but the MAC brush isn’t worth all the extra money.
- Double-ended eye brushes are perfect for my makeup bag, because they’re so difficult to store on my vanity. I’m currently using a double-ended crease/flat shader brush from It Cosmetics for Ulta, which does all my blending and lid work. I also have a double ended fluffy shader/pencil brush from Crown brushes that I received in an Ipsy bag awhile bag that I use for brow bone highlight and smudge shadow into my lash line.
Those are really all the brushes that are essential for putting on a full face of makeup. I definitely use more when I have the option, but I can get by for quick trips and gym mornings with just those.
I haven’t even included lip options, because I have about ten lipsticks stashed in my purse/gym bag right now and at any given time that didn’t even make it into my makeup bag. They’re usually pretty low-maintenance lip products that I can apply without a mirror. But from what I can remember, here’s what I currently have in the purse I traveled with:
- Kosas Cosmetics Lipstick in Fringe
- Maybelline Color Whisper lipstick in A Plum Prospect
- MAC Tendertalk Lip Balm
- Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Colorstick in Rich Raisin
- Surratt lip gloss in Soigne
- Tarte Colorsplash Lipstick in Beach Bum
Whew, and that’s it! I know that’s a lot of products, but having as many products in little travel sizes makes it easier to travel fairly lightly with several options. Also, as much as I love applying makeup, I can be quite minimal with my skincare and haircare. I leave most of my skincare routine and only take the basics – makeup remover, cleanser, toner, moisturizer, sunscreen – and my haircare only involves three products: leave-in hair oil, leave-in air dry styler, and texturizing spray. Anyone that knows me knows I hate spending time on my hair, and 99.9% of the time I just wash and go.
With that said, here are my top tips for traveling light with makeup:
- Find travel sizes of your favorite products, or pull out those deluxe sized samples that you’ve been hoarding! Use it as an opportunity to try new products. If you don’t have any mini products on hand…
- Decant your favorite products into little jars. I buy little 3ml jars off Amazon, and use them for foundations, and later 5ml or 10ml jars for moisturizers, eye creams, etc. It’s the perfect size for just a couple of days, and a little 3ml jar of foundation easily lasts me a week or more since I apply foundations with such a light hand.
- If you’re just going on an overnight trip, make your travel bag even lighter by taking those seemingly useless packette samples that come free with Sephora orders or Ulta orders. They usually have enough for 2-3 applications, and I will sometimes take those instead of little jars or mini sizes.
As you can see, I like to use mini travel sizes as a way to try something I normally wouldn’t have bought a full-sized version of, but I definitely stick with some of the same products that I know will work for me. I’ll be back to show you what I keep in my gym bag – some are in here, but there are other products I use to create a minimal but work-friendly look. And of course, as I vary products for each trip, I will keep adding to this series!
What are your favorite travel makeup tips? Are you a heavy makeup packer as well? Let me know!
As always, thanks for reading.