This is a common question asked online in forums and on beauty blogs, what do you pack for cosmetics when you travel. Well, I travel a lot and I like makeup. I forever find myself answering this question online other places and it just gets too long. So I’m going to do it once here, and be done with it. It’s taken me years to work out this system and I honestly hope it can help some of you who might still be carrying a lot. I used to be a super heavy packer and though I still am to a degree, I’m a lot better! Here’s a list of everything I carry for cosmetics and application.
-A Unii Palette stocked with my favorite powder cosmetic shades
-Two eyeshadow brushes from Sephora
-One Sonia Kashuk blush brush
-One retractable powder brush
-One foundation brush
-One eyelash curler
-Eye makeup remover
-Vera Bradley Medium Cosmetic Bag
And that’s it! It might seem like a lot but honestly, it really isn’t. Just take a look!
See, it’s really not that much. I really love my Unii pallets, I have near a dozen of them. I like to fill mine with eyeshadows that I already know will work well together, and enough shades that I could do a few different looks. For the most part I stick to neutrals though. I generally don’t have time to be messing with brights while I’m on the road! I try to be sure whatever blush I pack will work with any eye look I might come up with. And I think I should mention that when I get to my destination all of these things live in my cosmetic bag, but they generally don’t travel in it. If I’m going by air anything liquid will obviously have to be packed separately. Even though I have NEXUS I could always be pulled aside for extra screening because the TSA likes to make their own rules. So I keep my liquids separate and easily accessible for that reason.
When it comes to tools I try to keep it to a minimum. I have two eyeshadow brushes and I can generally do any look with just those two. I’ve found over the years, having a dozen brushes at your disposal is nice and makes things go faster in the morning. But it’s a lot to carry. And if you have to, most people can more than get by on just a few. So I have one general application brush that’s smaller. And a larger one for either blending or for doing an all over wash of color (using a somewhat shimmery light color allover the lid will make you look more awake when you’re jet lagged, it’s also quick and easy to do). I bought mine at Sephora (you can find them here and here) and I specifically picked these ones because of their shorter handles. They’re not travel sized so they’re nicer to use, but they fit in most every bag I’ve ever used. My foundation brush is by Pixi and I bought it at Target but you can also find it here. My blush brush and retractable powder brush are Sonia Kashuk from Target, I just manage to squeeze that blush brush into my bag but it’s worth it. It’s not the nicest brush I’ve ever used but I just can’t find one with the same shape and bristle density that I like better so I stick with it. I’m not willing to carry another bulky brush around so I used a retractable brush for my powder. The one I have is so lightweight it totally makes up for the size being a little larger than I’d like. You can find the blush brush here and the powder brush here.
When it comes to primer it seems like Too Faced and Urban Decay are forever throwing “deluxe trial sizes” at you. So I usually carry one of those. It saves just enough weight and space that I save those smaller ones just for travel. Mascara is another one that every brand on earth is just dying to give away. There was one year I didn’t even buy mascara. I had enough of those travel sized ones I’d gotten for free that I just used those. I keep them for travel now as well. There’s usually more than enough for a week or two. My eyelash curler goes because I can’t use mascara without it. I used to have a travel sized one and it was okay. But I just felt like a full sized one was easier to use and really wasn’t taking up that much extra room.
Now when it comes to packing all this up I like Vera Bradley’s cosmetic bags. I use a medium size and it’s perfect for holding everything I need, plus the inevitable extras I toss in there (usually fancy hair clips). These bags are machine washable and lined in plastic. Have you ever had something break or leak in your cosmetic bag and it just ruined the bag? Yeah, buy one of these and never toss a bag again. I love them.
This one is called “Make Me Blush” and I bought it when the pattern was brand new- in summer of 2010. I could really do with a replacement. Not because it’s wearing out, not at all. It actually still looks brand new, you’d never guess it was is as old as it is looking at it. I’m just getting a bit bored after all these years! Most of my Vera bags are really old and you’d never guess it. They say they’re made of cotton but I’ve yet to wear one out. This one gets a ton of use and it’s been more places than many humans but it still looks like it did the day I bought it. I don’t think I’ll ever purchase another brand for cosmetic bags so long as I live. And I know some of you may think “Granny” when you see that quilted paisley but that quilted fabric is a New England favorite I’ll have you know! Also, it’s slightly padded which means I’ve never had anything break in here. Leak, yes. But powder cosmetics? Nope, nothing’s ever smashed! This is why I also tend to put any expensive hair things I might be carrying in here. The bag keeps them safe.
Vera Bradley does make another bag now, it has a separate pocket for brushes and after staring at it for some time I took the plunge and bought it when my favorite print was discontinued and went on clearance.
It’s pretty cool. They do have a larger size which is great if you’re still struggling to pare things down. But I went with the medium size since it’s what I’m used to. It is still a smidge bigger, by an inch in both width and height if I’m not mistaken. I love that I’ll be able to stay even more organized now. I typically keep mesh covers over my brushes to protect the bristles and keep things a bit more clean but now I won’t be forced to. I’ll even be able to keep my bandaids in the little zip pocket. I hate how they always end up crushed at the bottom of my current bag. But now they’ll be safe. 🙂 I also hope my blush brush will fit. If it doesn’t it’ll be a really sad day. I won’t mind having two for everyday, but I will be forced to find a new travel brush. The pockets do seem generous though. They have a video on the site showing Real Techniques brushes in there and they have some crazy wide handles. So I could pick up one of those at least I know it’ll fit! And if you really feel like you have to have a lot of brushes, you might be able to fit two eye brushes per sleeve. And having that extra room in the main compartment because the brushes are no longer in there will be nice. Depending on how much room I gain I might now actually be able to do away with my jewelry pouch (I no longer carry a roll unless I’m going to be in formal wear). I like to use just tiny pouches like what you’d get if you bought a charm at Tiffany’s (you can also just ask for some when buying anything) and I put them into a velvet lined, leather pouch (Pandora used to go all out with their Gifts With Purchase!). But I may now be able to do away with that pouch which would make me very happy. Anything to lighten the load!
So there you have it. Exactly what I bring when I travel and how I carry it. This set up has worked well for me for years, hopefully it can help some of you out there that don’t travel very frequently or who do but need to find ways to pair down what they bring. I’m actually in Hawaii this month and this is exactly what I’m bringing. I’ll still be posting while I’m away and stay tuned for next week because I have some big news!