Almost as much as I love planning outfits for a trip, I love figuring out what to bring for my skin care and makeup regimen. Now, packing for me is something I love doing. Call me crazy, I know. But I love organizing in general (Marie Kondo could have been me) — I find it therapeutic, cathartic, and strangely soothing. So distilling my massive skin care regimen into travel- and sample-sized bottles and jars and one roll-up cosmetic bag? That’s a challenge I relish.
Like packing for Turkey, Thailand, and Cambodia these past few years, the overarching goal on this trip is sun protection. I’ve spent my entire life tanning and not wearing sunscreen, and my skin shows it — rampant sunspots, premature lines, and sagging skin. While I’ve always been pretty good about my skin care since I’ve been a teen, I’ve been on an obsessive, multi-step skin care regimen since I turned 40. And just because I’m on vacation, by no means will my skin care routine be.
Of course, I’m not crazy crazy. I’m not bringing full-sized skin care with me. One, I can’t afford to lose them (my skin care is as precious to me as my wardrobe), and two, I simply don’t have room in my suitcase. I like to travel light so that I’m not weighed down by stuff as I’m exploring ancient cities and historic medinas.
Thankfully, I have plenty of sample-sized everything to tide me over for several half-month vacations. (Did I mention I might have a penchant for minor hoarding?) I always store away samples I get with my beauty purchases and from trade shows for use on my trips. I love being able to lighten my luggage as I go (or rather balance the weight with new souvenirs I’ll inevitably buy).
I also consider it a good time to try new products; that’s how I discovered Clinique Moisture Surge last year — I just couldn’t understand why my skin was feeling so good when normally when I travel, my skin kind of revolts. I’ve recently fallen in love with a couple of other productsamples after just two uses: Tatcha Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream and Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream. (Something about that blue my skin just loves …)
(An aside: How cool of a name is Sunday Riley? — and yes, that’s the founder’s real name. It’s almost as cool of a name as January Jones, which is straight up Marvel territory.)
Of course, barring these exceptions, I generally can’t tell how efficacious a product is just by a sample size beyond superficial aspects like texture and smell. I’m the type who has to go through an entire bottle of a product before I can decide whether it’s worked for me or if I liked it. I’ve had positive initial impressions of a certain cream, for example, only to realize later that all the botanical oils in it migrate into my eyes sometimes, causing no small amount of stinging that eye drops can’t penetrate through.
It’s not that a sample size is not going to do your skin any good — it’s just that I like consistency in my ingredients so that they have the full three months to do what they’re supposed to do (lighten spots, smooth lines, fight free radicals). So to try to keep my routine somewhat consistent, I include products with ingredients similar to my current routine (e.g., a hyaluronic acid serum, a vitamin C serum, a BHA toner, etc.)
So here are some of the products I’ll be bringing with me to Morocco.
I discovered this indie brand at the Indie Beauty Expo last spring. It was started by Olive Wong, a Hong Kong resident and founder of the “I Never Wear Foundation Breakfast Club” (which is what INUF stands for, and I can see why — she has amazing skin). INUF caught my eye because the booth had a clinical-meets-natural look, with displays of serums in black dropper bottles. (If you want to win me over, give me a skin care product in a dropper. I’m obsessed.)
And their samples were adorable, too — serums came in teeny-tiny dropper vials (swoooon), and the toner came in a tiny spray bottle (so perfect for travel). But it wasn’t just all looks. The B5 hyaluronic acid serum contains both high molecular weight and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, the former helping with inflammation and surface hydration, while the latter is small enough to penetrate deeper into the skin and better bind surface moisture. The gel texture melted into my skin and absorbed quickly — it did exactly what it was supposed to do, staving off midday tightness around the eyes that I’m prone to. Even better, INUF never uses baddies like silicone, mineral oil, alcohol, parabens, or artificial fragrance or coloring, and everything is produced in California.
I got lucky because I went to Wong’s booth right before the end of the last day of the Expo, so she threw handfuls of tiny vials into my tote bag, saying she didn’t want to lug these back home on the plane. Score!
Another exhibitor at the Indie Beauty Expo was one of my favorites lines, Cosmedicine. I’d just discovered their Medi-Matte moisturizer for my T-zone (seriously, no other moisturizer controls oil as well as this one does), which they gave me a tiny sample of (a mini version of the full size, in matte grey with gold lettering — so cute!). I also got a sample size of their Triple-P brightening serum and Night Duty resurfacing serum, again, mini versions of the original — love the thoughtfulness they put into the presentation of their brand — so I’ll be bringing these with me to Morocco.
After my experience with the Tidal cream, I’m excited to try other samples from this social media favorite brand, especially Good Genes serum and Ceramic Slip cleanser. (I know Paula Begoun of Beautypedia, whom I really give a lot credence to, sort of slammed the latter, but hey, I’m on vacation. I don’t need a miracle product to tide me over for two weeks.)
Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion
Lest I sound like a broken record, I’ll keep this one short since I’ve already raved and raved and raved about this holy grail product many times before. Like on all my travels, this cushion compact will serve as my foundation, another layer of sun protection (in addition to the broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen I apply before makeup), and my sunscreen that I reapply throughout the day. While I’m sometimes remiss in reapplying sun protection when I’m at home, when I travel, I usually spend an inordinate amount of time outdoors, so reapplication is vital. (I learned my lesson after I found my face bright red after a day at the Grand Palace in Bangkok — though I was wearing a hat and sunscreen, apparently all the gold in the palace reflected UV rays and caused my skin to flush, if not burn. Never. Again.)
DHC Olive VIRGIN Oil Swabs
I love, love, love these cotton swabs infused with olive oil. I don’t just use them for travel — I use them when my oil cleanser doesn’t manage to get the little black smudges between my lashes off. (Which is usually the case and why I prefer micellar water wipes, like Koh Gen Do’s, to oil cleansing. But more on that in another post).
My skin tends to go into its own sort of culture shock whenever I travel, what with the time difference, jetlag (I need a good eight hours a night), new foods, and a bunch of new skin care products all at once. So I try to alleviate some of that shock by using more sheet masks than usual. It’s an easy hack to get in some skin care while I’m unpacking or searching for a restaurant, and after eight-plus hours on a plan, my skin definitely appreciates an extra infusion of hydration.
When I’m traveling, I’m juggling a camera, a guide book, and a map, all while trying to guard against a local gypsy or street kid from pickpocketing or scamming me. Needless to say, it’s hard to find time to touch up my makeup. To that end, I need products that will last all day without me having to worry whether I’ve got raccoon eyes or lipstick on my teeth. So my fool-proof makeup kit consists of:
I’m actually totally surprised by The Estée Edit liquid liner, actually, because I’m not a fan of most pen-style liners (as opposed to brush applicators, like Maybelline Ultra Liner, or my preferred calligraphy pen liners like Kat von D’s). But this one goes on pretty smoothly for a nice, opaque line (though like most pen liners, it gets a little “jumpy” once you get out to extend the liner in a puppy eye downturn or cat-eye flick, so I have to press rather than glide), and it’s not so “wet” that when you go over the line again, it starts to take off the original line. Best of all, by the end of a full day with my niece and nephew at Comic-con, the liner looks as fresh as it did when I applied it that morning.
I don’t have time to mess with a fussy lip look, so a tinted balm or lipgloss is all I’ll bring when I travel. Right now, Coola’s Tinted Mineral Liplux and Paula’s Choice Anti-Aging Lipgloss give me easy-to-apply SPF protection, but I love the super-moisturizing yet highly pigmented look of Nyx Butter Glosses. Though I have to admit, when I take the time to line and fill in my lips with Nyx Retractable Lip Liner (it’s waterproof!) in the morning, my lip color lasts for hours, so I may just have to bring that as well.
At home, I usually apply a layer of foundation on top of my cushion compact. I find layering helps my base color to last longer, and it’s also a better way to cover up the hyperpigmentation on my cheeks. This is difficult to do when I travel though — it’s sort of one step too many when I’m rushing to get out the door to beat the tourist crush, and my go-to foundations (Armani, Lancôme, Shiseido, Clinique, and Algenist) come in glass bottles that I’m just not going to lug with me. So as a compromise, I’ll bring a highlighter to dab over my dark spots. My favorites right now are Nars Tribulation, a pretty golden hue with just the tiniest hint of pink that’s not sparkly at all, and M.A.C Mineralize Skinfinish in Porcelain Pink (a holographic pink, but no longer available), but I’ll bring the Nars one since it’s smaller.
What are your must-haves when you travel?