How to Pack Makeup for Travel: Dos and Don’ts
I am a wanderlust at heart and have got my packing down to a science.
I can expertly pack a week's worth of clothing into my modest carry-on, because who has the time for checked baggage? My jeans are folded tightly, my shirts rolled perfectly, and my socks are stuffed into my shoes—a trick I learned long ago that keeps my shoes from getting flattened and provides extract space for more items.
There is one thing, however, that I still struggle with, every single time: packing up my bathroom counter.
I’ll admit that my skincare routine is quite extensive. While I simplify it for travel purposes, I still have an armful of products that I am always trying to organize and safely secure so that they don't take up half my suitcase and I don’t find lotion smeared all over my bag upon arrival. I still find myself pulling up the TSA regulations, trying to determine if my eye cream is, in fact, a liquid.
As I started traveling quite a bit again this past fall, I was determined to get this one last sore spot under control—and I did. Now, I’d like to share with you everything I’ve learned about packing makeup so you can travel like a bona fide expert.
Ground travel with makeup
Luckily, there are no limits to how you pack makeup for travel when going by car, bus, or snowmobile. But there are still a few things to keep in mind to ensure your products arrive safely.
If you are trying to avoid just throwing everything in a bag and running, I suggest first determining which products you could easily put into a smaller container. Much depends on how many days you are going for, but for most items, you probably won’t need to bring a full-size bottle for your trip. For things like shampoos, lotions, face wash, and toners, I portion out my large (not travel-friendly) bottles into these travel-sized bottles. They are a great size for a long weekend getaway, and I have yet to have one accidentally open up to ooze cream all over my bag.
As far as my makeup and other skincare routine items, I usually just bring them along. When space isn’t as much of an issue I opt for my hard case traveler, like this one from Ulta, to keep my products even safer during the bumpy car ride.
Flying with makeup
As we all know, flying with makeup is a whole other ball game. Unlike ground travel, there are very clear and specific rules when it comes to packing and taking makeup on a plane. So study up!
Makeup and TSA regulations
We’ve probably all been subject to those dreaded security lines and overzealous baggage checks. We are required to take out all our electronics and remove our shoes, belts, and sweaters for easy scanning.
We must also place all liquids into a plastic baggie. But what exactly counts as a liquid to the TSA? According to its website, a liquid is a pure liquid, lotion, gel, paste, or cream. Unfortunately, that very broad definition covers a whole lot of our makeup bags. Lotions, eye creams, toners, and most of our self-care items like toothpaste and shampoos are considered liquids.
But fear not! We don’t have to leave our trusty products at home. If you are packing your makeup in your carry-on, just make sure that any liquids are in a container that is 3.4 ounces or less. You can also take as many 3.4 ounce containers as you want, as long as they all fit into one quart-sized, clear bag. Additionally, solid deodorant is allowed in carry-on bags.
Looking to check your bag? You are in luck: there is no size or amount limitation on liquid packed in your checked bag. So dump everything and the bathroom sink into your bag if you’d fancy.
One thing to note is that some items, such as safety razor blades and straight razors, are not allowed in carry-on whatsoever. The TSA will confiscate these items (trust me, I speak from experience). It’s best to pack travel razors instead.
Can you take makeup palettes on planes?
What about pressed powders, eye shadow, and compact blush? Good news: all of these essentials are allowed in your carry-on or in your checked bag. And, bonus: you do not need to remove these products whilst going through security.
One way to make your travel easier is to get as many products as possible in solid, compact form. If you usually have liquid concealer, look for a pressed form instead. If you used liquid eyeliner, opt for a pencil to simplify things.
The one biggest downsides to pressed powders is that they can sometimes break. To keep them safer during travel I have found it best to secure them together with a rubber band and then place them in a padded makeup bag for extra safety.
How to pack makeup in carry-on luggage
When space is a bit of an issue, as it usually is for most everyone who relies on a carry-on, the first thing you should do is start with determining which products are a must. Reflect on where you are going and what you’ll be doing to factor in which makeup and skincare products you need to bring.
For me, my tinted sunscreen, mascara, night cream, and eye cream go with me absolutely everywhere. I can barely function without them. Building off of these essentials, I will then factor in any business meetings, fancy dinners, or weather conditions to the additional products I want to pack.
I then look and see which of these items fall under that 3.4-ounce rule that can travel as-is. Many makeup items are packaged in small containers to begin with, but lotions, face washes, and toners usually are not. Those I put in the trusty travel bottles I mentioned above.
If you have products that don’t easily squeeze into tubes, such as scrubs and creams, these sample-sized jars are perfect for travel. From there I put all my products into clear bags. I personally like thicker bags made for cosmetics. Again, any clear bag, one-quart or smaller, is good for TSA.
How to pack makeup in checked luggage
Packing your makeup for checked baggage is pretty similar to packing for a road trip. The size of the bottle doesn’t matter, but packing with care is important especially due to the pressure differences that can occur in airplanes.
If the hard box noted above fits into your suitcase, it’s a great option for air travel as the products will be protected from getting banged around. Plus, if one of your products does happen to explode (it happens to the best of us), the mess will be contained within the box.
If a hard box is a little on the large size for your liking, a soft, padded bag is the next best thing. If you travel with a few dozen products and need something larger that offers great organization, this one is amazing.
How to travel light with makeup
We already touched on this one a bit, but if you are like me and try to travel as light as possible, paring down what you bring with you on your trip is absolutely essential.
If you are relying on a carry-on or a backpack, space-saving measures are critical. This goes back to really thinking about essentials versus wants—and that goes for light packing in general! I take it as a challenge. What can I live without?
This step will look slightly different for everyone, but take a good hard look at your daily routine and determine the steps you cannot (or should not) live without. Items like sunscreen, moisturizer, and face wash are pretty crucial for any day, including travel.
As far as makeup goes, you’ll again have to take into account what types of events you will be attending. If it’s a beach vacation, maybe you can get away with simply some foundation and mascara. If you are traveling for a business trip, you might also need pressed powder and some eyeliner.
Should I wear makeup while traveling?
Am I the only one who thinks about this every single time I great ready for the airport?
I have always had acne-prone skin, although it’s much better these days (thankfully!). Any time I know I will be subjected to different temperatures, greasy food, and long hours I always worry about the havoc it will cause to my skin. But is wearing makeup while traveling actually making matters worse?
The short answer is no. If you have a healthy skincare routine and high-quality makeup products, wearing travel makeup is no different than wearing makeup all day at the office. However, there are some considerations to factor in.
The first thing I always think about is: how long will I be traveling and where will I be going when I arrive? If I have a shorter trip and plan on heading straight to the hotel after the airport, I will maybe just brush on my powder to keep away the shine. If I happen to have an early morning flight and business meetings once I get there, I will likely put on a full face and freshen up in the Uber upon arrival.
How to pack makeup brushes for travel
We’ve covered how to expertly pack your favorite makeup and skincare products, but brushes are a different story.
There are no travel restrictions to what you can bring along in terms of brushes. However, packing them for safekeeping is absolutely key. It is all too easy for brush bristles to get bent or become dirty if they’re not securely packed.
Whether you are packing one single or one dozen, a brush bag is a good option. These bags are built to not only keep your brushes organized but keep them clean and free from damage.
Travel size makeup
Many of your favorite brands make TSA-friendly versions of their prized products. Here are some of our favorites.
Also, consider signing up for a Kinder Beauty Box to receive full-sized and sample size products each month that you can take traveling. You will find a ton of vegan makeup products and vegan skincare in our marketplace as well.
Mini makeup kit
This makeup kit collection from Tarte is absolute perfection for travel. It contains travel-sized mascara, lip gloss, and a palette packed with every color you’ll need to elevate your eyes and cheeks!
I am obsessed with this mini 40 SPF sunscreen from Supergoop. Sunscreen is crucial no matter your destination, so packing a high-quality screen is essential.
If you are like me, my skincare routine is even more essential than makeup most days. My face freaks out if I change things up. So to keep things consistent, I love this full skincare kit from Tata Harper which will equip you with a cleanser, mask, essence, serum, moisturizer, and face oil.
Best travel makeup bags
Depending on your needs for makeup travel, there are quite a few different options when it comes to travel makeup bags, a few of which I mentioned previously. Here are some key offerings I recommend having on hand so that you are prepared for every occasion.
Small essentials bag
This is personally what I use. I have a small makeup bag that I can fit a handful of key products in for my travel. I love this one from CALPAK as it is also clear and therefore airport security-friendly.
For the organizer
If you are bringing along a checked bag and like to bring everything from your bathroom, just in case, this larger bag from Fancii is perfect. It was built to keep everything safe and in its place while you jet set.
As I have mentioned, I love a hard case if I can make it fit because I know nothing is getting squished or broken. This Spotted Train Case is adorable and keeps all your favorite products safe.
Packing makeup for travel can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. With the right information and a good makeup case, you can keep your 12-step skincare routine intact and bring all your makeup products everywhere you go. Hopefully, this guide will help you travel like a pro from now on.
Jackie Lutze has been writing about cruelty-free beauty for years and loves finding the best vegan products to help readers build their ultimate beauty routine.