For me, going on vacation does not mean a vacation from my skin care routine. Of course, the mister and I prefer to travel light (a rucksack and a carryon roller suitcase was all we brought for 16 days in Spain and Morocco), so I usually can’t bring my full-sized products with me (sob). But what I will do is bring travel-sized substitutes with similar ingredients to ensure a continuity in my regimen.
Thankfully, I’m generally not overly reactive to skin care ingredients or products, so I don’t have to worry about testing a product for sensitivity before bringing them with me on vacation. I actually consider my holiday a chance to try new products that I normally may not have the time or willingness to try. I’m a use-it-to-the-bottom-of-the-jar type of girl, to fully allow any skin care product a full three months or so to do its thing, so sample-sized skin care generally get no play in my daily regimen. It’s only when I travel that I get to try out those minuscule tubes and tear-off pouches.
This latest sojourn was no different. I packed all sorts of tiny dropper bottles and tubs, doubling and tripling up to make sure I wouldn’t run out. (Because no vitamin C serum in a city built in the middle of the Sahara? I don’t think so.) And after 16 days of hardcore travel while trying to keep up my skin care regimen with brand new products, here’s what I learned.
1. Ingredients and consistency matter.
Dim bathrooms with minimal counter space and bad mirrors — that’s the price you pay for staying in a centuries-old, renovated dar in the medieval medina of ancient Fes. Heck, even the Hilton in Madrid had super dim lighting in the bathroom.
Needless to say, I had no idea what my skin was doing for 16 days. Frankly, it was the last thing on my mind. When you’re in survival mode (where to eat next, where’s the nearest bathroom, where’s the pharmacie for something, anything to put on my painful shin splints), enlarged pores aren’t exactly a pressing matter.
So imagine my surprise when I came back and got in front of my mega-magnifying vanity mirror, and those two particularly annoying little sunspots actually looked lighter. Was it an optical illusion? Was it lack of sleep? Was it the new vitamin C serum (Eminence), the new brightening cushion compact (Sulwhasoo), the new lactic acid treatment (Sunday Riley)?
You see, it’s hard for me to notice a change in my skin day-to-day. I’m examining it like it’s my job twice a day, if not more. So when 16 days passed before I got a good look at my skin again, the improvement was obvious to me. And no, I don’t attribute it to a miracle product (there are none). I attribute it to a consistency in the ingredients I apply on my skin every day, twice a day (vitamin C, niacinamide, antioxidants, peptides, AHAs and BHAs), and the fact that I was able to have a two-week gap between witnessing my “before” and “after.”
It’s enough to make me think maybe I should stop looking in the mirror so much. I know that on this jam-packed trip in particular, ignorance (of what my skin was doing) was often bliss.
2. A 10-step skin care routine is possible, even on The go.
Of course, there were times when I wished I had brought an oil cleanser, especially after a particularly grimy day in the medina (Chouara Tannery, I’m looking at you). And I definitely could have brought more sheet masks. (Note to self: Sheet masks are a brilliant time-saving hack for when you’re dead tired and dreading going through those 10 little vials of serum, especially as the mister lies snuggled in bed, snoring away without a skin care care in the world.)
But my Koh Gen Do micellar water cloths did the job perfectly well. (It was more mental — I’ve seen enough freshly skinned sheep flesh to last me a lifetime.) And no matter how tired, I always managed to get through those little vials, give or take.
3. Travel sizes last quite a long time.
I definitely underestimated the longevity of travel sizes. That vitamin C serum in the tiny, albeit adorable, dropper bottle? It lasted me a full two-and-a-half weeks. In fact, I still have more in the vial. I didn’t need all the backup vitamin C serums I packed. Same goes for my clarifying cleanser, hyaluronic acid serum, AHA treatment, and sleeping mask. Lesson learned. Pack even lighter next time.
4. AND Next time, more sheet masks.
Those evenings when I just wanted to collapse into the hotel bed (read: every night)? If only I had a sheet mask I could slap on for 20 minutes. For me, a sheet mask saturates my skin with enough essence to rival five layers or more of serum. So while, yes, it was probably better in the long run that I took the time to pat on a retinol serum, a firming serum, a peptide serum, and an antioxidant serum — man, if I had to do it all over again, I’d press on an oil, apply a sheet mask, press on more oil, a night cream, an eye cream, and just be done with it. After all, as I recently learned in my 1 day, 1 mask experiment, a sheet mask offers some serious skin care benefits that sometimes even a serum doesn’t.
5. finally, I love the ritual of my skin care routine.
Granted, I’m a creature of habit, and yet there’s something especially soothing, really comforting about my skin care routine, especially my morning ritual. Sitting on my pouf in my own little bathroom, examining my skin up close in a brightly lit vanity mirror, taking the time to pat each step in, giving myself a facial massage as I breathe in deeply — it’s all become as vital a part of my “waking up” as my morning coffee.
On our travels, my “waking up” was a lot more jarring. As we jumped from hotel to hotel (we traveled to a new city every two days or so — hey, there’s a lot to see in Spain and Morocco), packing and unpacking, I had to be quick and efficient in my morning routine. No lingering over coffee as I waited for my actives to absorb. Pat it in (double time), get through the little vials and jars, wrap it all up, pack it all in, rush to breakfast before the kitchen shuts down, then spend the next eight to 10 hours walking all over Granada, Marrakech, Fes. A leisurely trip this was not.
So while I loved being on the road, that first morning when we returned home and I was able to re-start my morning ritual — it was like, hey, coming back home isn’t so bad after all. And let me tell you — it does a lot to alleviate that post-vacation hangover.
Anything you learned about beauty while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!