How to Pack Makeup for Travel: 13 Tips for Traveling with Makeup

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Packing makeup for travel is a bit of a science. Ever had that moment where you’ve packed your suitcase and everything just about fits, but then you realize your bulky makeup bag takes up far too much room? Or perhaps you’ve got to your destination only to find that your foundation has exploded inside your bag, covering your clothes?

When traveling with makeup the key is to avoid overpacking and preventing things from leaking while still following all the airport regulations. 

In this guide I’ll show you how to pack makeup for travel so that you can travel lighter but still look amazing on your trip.

Know the Rules, Keep Liquids Under 100ml

When you fly anywhere in the world, the rule is typically that liquids in your carry-on must be under 100ml. 

If you’re wondering whether you can travel with a 200ml container that only has a small amount of liquid left, the answer is usually no. Don’t risk it. 

Always check your moisturizer, sunscreen and foundation bottles to see how much the container holds. If it’s over 100ml you’ll either need to pack it in your checked bag or decant some of it into a 100ml (3.4 ounce) container. 

Pack at Least the Basics in Your Carry On

I usually only fly carry-on to avoid checked bag fees and I also travel with a minimal amount of makeup. Therefore all my makeup is usually in my carry-on bag. 

However, if you travel with lots of makeup and you have a checked bag, put some of the essentials in your carry-on and then the rest in your checked luggage. Tinted lip balm, tinted moisturizer, blusher and mascara should be enough to freshen up with when you land. 

If the airline loses your bag for some reason, at least you’ll have the most important things with you. Anything that’s bulky or over 100ml you can put in your checked bag. 

Pack Just Essential Makeup

Wherever you’re traveling to, it’s important to consider the length of your trip and the destination you’re visiting. For example, if you’re flying to Las Vegas then you might want to bring your false eyelashes and contouring kit, but if you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park with a few friends then you probably won’t need a lot of makeup and its best to leave the fancy stuff at home.

When it comes to packing makeup for travel, consider what activities you’ll be doing and what you really need to take with you. If you’ll be going on lots of nights out then you may want to bring more of a color selection, but if you’re mainly chilling and doing daytime activities then less is usually more. 

I usually opt for natural pink colors and travel with the following items:

  • Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturizer, SPF15
  • Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Color in Amethyst
  • MAC Powder Blush
  • MAC Lipstick in 
  • MAC Eyeshadow in Taupe
  • Mascara

While I love to wear foundation now and again when I’m at home, or experiment with eyeshadow, I realize that I don’t really need those things when I’m traveling. 

When I’m overseas I’m usually so busy with activities that I have very little time to get ready, plus I’m usually having so much fun that makeup doesn’t really seem of that much importance. 

So, if you’re struggling to keep your packing down, opt for simple makeup that will work for both day and night.  

Put Creams into Cadence Capsules

Cadence Capsules

I first saw Cadence Capsules through an ad on Instagram and now it seems everyone’s using them. These cleverly designed capsules are hexagonal in shape and they’re magnetic so they snap together like a honeycomb. 

The capsules take up far less space than regular reusable bottles and are leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about your makeup getting over your belongings. Plus, they’re fully customizable with name tiles so you know exactly what’s inside each one. 

The wide opening of each one means you can easily scoop out your product without it getting stuck in the bottle. They’re perfect for storing things like cleanser, face moisturizer, serum, makeup remover, sunscreen or lip balm. 

If you don’t want to shell out on the capsules, you can also purchase reusable silicone travel bottles, like these ones from Amazon. 

Avoid Powder Eyeshadows and Blushers

While I do still travel with powder blushes and eyeshadows, they do often shatter and break, which means I end up spending money having to replace them. 

The best way to avoid this is really by traveling with cream blushers and eyeshadow sticks instead of powders. 

If you must travel with a powder eye palette or powder blush, wrap the outside in bubble wrap to provide as much protection as possible. 

You could also put a powder puff, cotton round or cotton ball between the powder and the lid of the compact to give it some extra cushioning. 

Don’t Bother With Travel-Size Makeup

When you’re figuring out how to pack makeup for travel you might be tempted to buy travel-size versions of products from your favorite beauty brands. Don’t succumb to the marketing because these usually aren’t very good value for money. It’s better to use your normal makeup and decant some of it into a smaller container if necessary. 

By using your own reusable containers you’ll be saving on packaging too, which is better for the environment. 

Travel with Samples

If you’re only going away for a couple of days, you can save space in your luggage by flying with samples that you’ve been given from beauty counters. 

If you have a few sample sachets of foundation lying around or a mini lip gloss you got as a freebie with your purchase, pack those into your bag instead of your regular makeup. 

They’ll take up less room in your bags and using them for travel is better than letting them sit in the drawer collecting dust. 

Put Your Carry-on Liquids in a Clear Resealable Bag

In the US the TSA doesn’t usually require you to take your liquids out of your carry on. But in Europe and many other parts of the world, you’re usually required to put your liquids in a clear resealable bag to go through security. 

DON’T do it at the airport as you’ll likely feel flustered having to dig through your carry-on to find all your makeup. It’s easy to drop things and break them when you’re in a rush, plus you might leave something in your bag and then the security staff will have to go through your bag. 

Instead, get a quart-size clear, resealable bag and put your liquid makeup in there before you go to the airport. You can buy clear bags online, or next time you’re at the airport, you can just pick up a bunch of them at security.

Invest in a Quality Makeup Bag

Away, the cosmetics bag

When you’re packing makeup for travel you’ll obviously need something to put it in. Invest in a quality makeup bag, preferably with some padding so that it protects your stuff.

Some things to look for when choosing a makeup bag for travel:

  • Padding to protect your makeup
  • Multiple pockets to secure your stuff and make things easier to find
  • Leak-proof design so things don’t spill everywhere 
  • Fabric that you can easily wipe down if things leak
  • Slim design that doesn’t take up too much space
  • Stylish design (because why not?)

Check out some of these best travel-friendly makeup bags:

Pack Makeup in the Center of Your Suitcase

If you’re flying with checked luggage, wrap your makeup bag in your towel and put it in the center of your luggage so it’s well protected. If you pack it on the top of your stuff it could easily get knocked around and end up broken. 

Wrap Lids with Cling Wrap

The worst thing about traveling with liquid foundations, nail polish removers, moisturizers and sunscreens is that they can sometimes explode in your bag due to the plane’s air pressure. One of my top travel tips is to wrap the lids tightly in cling wrap so that if the tops do open or come off, there won’t be too much damage done. 

Another trick is to tie a thick rubber band around the container so it prevents the lid from coming off. Or you could use sticky tape to tape it shut. 

When in doubt, put your liquids in a ziploc bag to prevent the liquid from getting everywhere if the container explodes. 

Switch to Solids

Instead of packing liquid foundation, you could buy a solid cream foundation. Instead of liquid highlighter you could use a highlighter stick.

Of course, this also extends beyond makeup too. You can now buy mouthwash tablets, toothpaste tablets, shampoo/conditioner bars and a whole host of other solid toiletries that you won’t have to worry about getting through security. Switching to solids is also better for the environment because it cuts down on packaging. 

Use Multi-Purpose Products

If you want to travel with less makeup, consider multi-purpose products. For example, you can buy a tinted lip balm that also doubles as a cheek blush, or a highlighting powder that can also be used as an eyeshadow. MERIT makes some great multi-purpose, including a perfecting complexion stick called The Minimalist, which is designed to replace both concealer and foundation. 

A Final Word…

So that completes my guide on how to pack makeup for travel! The trick is to keep things minimal and pack your makeup products correctly to avoid any damage or spillages. Do you have any useful tips for traveling with cosmetics? If so, leave a comment below!

Book Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance: Heymondo is the best travel insurance company and offers affordable policies. Safetywing is perfect for long-term travelers and digital nomads.

Book your flights: Find cheap flights using Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak. To get travel deals sent straight to your inbox, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights or Jack’s Flight Club. Use the Hopper app for their AI powered price change predictions.

Booking your accommodation: I use to book all my hotels. Their Genius loyalty program allows you to earn reward credits no bookings and 10%-20% off hotel prices. You can also try Google Hotels and TripAdvisor to search prices across a variety of sites. Agoda is the best site for booking hotels in Asia.

Travel on a budget: Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people and is best if you’re on a budget. You can find plenty of awesome hostels with Hostelworld.

Find Tours: For day tours and multi-day trips I always use GetYourGuide and Viator.

Rental Cars: Search the best rental car deals on or Discover Cars.


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