8 Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing Makeup While Traveling

We all know it’s important to take care of our skin while traveling, and most of us have favorite skin care products to use on a plane. But complexion appearance isn’t our only beauty concern while traveling. We also worry about how we can wear at least a little bit of makeup without sabotaging the condition of our skin — which is already under enough pressure thanks to the dry air in an airplane cabin or the stresses of traveling to an unfamiliar city.

The good news is you can pretty easily wear makeup while traveling, without hurting your skin or weighing down your carry-on. Makeup may not be necessary for you to look your best, but it can definitely help you feel your best when you’re taking photos and meeting new people. Follow these easy do’s and don’ts, and you’ll be traveling like an expert in no time.

1. Do put skin care before makeup

wet woman face with water drop

Starting with healthy skin is the first step. | iStock.com/vitcom

No matter how you’re traveling — plane, train, car, bus, cruise ship — it’s important to look out for the health of your skin. Prior to a long flight, for instance, it’s a great idea to exfoliate your skin, and then to add some hydrating and skin-replenishing ingredients. That’s all easier to do if you aren’t wearing a full face of makeup. You can wear a tinted moisturizer to the airport, but consider taking it off in-flight so that you can moisturize, mask, and treat your skin. The same logic applies even if you aren’t flying. While you’re en route to your destination, consider going light on the makeup (or foregoing it altogether) so you can focus on keeping your skin balanced and comfortable. 

2. Don’t think that you have to go bare-faced

woman face powders

Learn the perfect balance between a fresh face and heavy makeup. | iStock.com/deniskomarov

Many people advocate leaving your makeup behind if you’re leaving the country for a while or planning to enjoy the great outdoors. But you don’t have to go bare-faced if you’d prefer not to. Don’t let naysayers talk you out of packing a tinted moisturizer, or even a tube of mascara and eyeliner for evening outings. Wearing (and reapplying) a good sunscreen is more important than having a flawless complexion if you’ll be in the sun all day, so never skip that step. But with the right products, you can care for your skin and give it a little boost at the same time.

3. Do think through your makeup looks

girl checking her face for pimple in mirror

Which looks will you most likely go for on your trip? | iStock.com

Unless you’re a true minimalist, you’re probably not going to pack a huge amount of makeup. So, when you set about packing your makeup bag, think carefully about what kinds of makeup looks you’ll want to wear on your trip. You can consider where you’re going, what kinds of activities you’ll be participating in, and what outfits you’ve packed if you get stuck. Only pack the items that you need to achieve those looks. And try to keep things streamlined: Pack one eye shadow palette instead of three, choose your favorite mascara instead of packing multiples, and think about which lip colors are your favorites instead of throwing them all in your bag. 

4. Don’t pack all of your brushes

Makeup products and accessories

You don’t need to pack all of your makeup brushes. | iStock.com/pogrebkov

Some makeup products need to be applied with a brush, but if you’re looking to minimize the clutter in your bag, try to minimize the number of brushes you pack. Cramming good brushes into an overstuffed makeup bag can damage them, especially if they aren’t properly wrapped. And they take up lots of space that could otherwise be dedicated to skincare staples. Choose makeup products that you can apply with your fingers or with a sponge, or even with a small brush that tucks away into a compact. 

5. Do choose multitasking products

Woman doing makeup in front of a mirror

Choose a product that can pull double duty. | iStock.com

It’s always a good idea to choose multitasking products when you’re traveling. You’ll save space in your carry-on, and you’ll also streamline your routine. If you choose wisely, you can even get skin care benefits with your makeup. How can you accomplish that? Choose a primer that packs in antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients. Pick a tinted moisturizer that’s equipped with significant sun protection. Go with a tinted lip balm that adds a little bit of color, but also packs much-needed hydration and sun protection. 

6. Don’t skimp on your skin care routine

young woman with clear complexion in the bathroom

Going without washing your face is not an option. | iStock.com

It’s a great idea to streamline your makeup routine when traveling. The same can be said of your skin care routine — within reason. Don’t leave out important steps in your regimen just to save space in your carry-on. You’ll probably still need a good cleanser, a gentle but effective chemical exfoliant, a good moisturizer, and perhaps a treatment that addresses your major skin care concerns. If you decant your full-size products into smaller containers, your skincare regimen won’t take up a ton of space in your bag. And your skin will still get all of the benefits of your carefully-chosen routine.

7. Do treat your skin gently

young woman applying face cream

Be kind to your face. | iStock.com/LuminaStock

Your skin can react in all kinds of unpleasant ways when exposed to a new environment. You may find yourself dealing with an unexpected breakout, or unusual dry and flaky patches, or dull and tired skin. Whatever the issue, you’ll need to treat your skin gently. Don’t spackle it with tons of makeup to mask what’s going on. Don’t scrub at dry patches or prod at breakouts. Just trust that the skin care products (and well-formulated makeup) you’ve brought along will work together and have things back to normal — no irritating intervention needed. 

8. Don’t rely on makeup wipes

Asian woman washing her face on the sink

Wash your face every single day. | iStock.com/ferlistockphoto

Makeup wipes are a good option for when you don’t have any alternatives available to you (like if you want to take your makeup off without leaving your seat on the plane). But they’re generally not a good solution for your entire trip. Dermatologists warn that makeup wipes don’t really remove everything. Because you aren’t rinsing your face after using one, the active ingredients can remain on your skin and irritate it. Using a wipe is better than doing nothing, but if you’re going to wear makeup while traveling, it’s a good idea to take a well-formulated cleanser with you.

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