How to pack skin care and makeup for traveling

As you may know, I used to travel extensively for work. I’ve had a few trips when I was home for only 2 days before going on another business trip!  There are a few things I learned during this time which has helped me a lot when it comes to packing skin care and makeup.

How can you pack without forgetting things? How can you know how much skin care products you should bring? How can you bring just enough makeup – not too much and not too little?
Read on to learn my tips and tricks!

1. I have a packing list
This is a list of everything I pack when I go away. This list has everything from my passport, to my cellphone charger (which I tend to forget), to clothes.  EVERYTHING.

I’m pretty good about clothes. As long as I have “clothes”, “underwear”, “socks”, “bras” on the list, I won’t forget anything. I usually make a separate packing list for the actual clothes I’m going to bring, to ensure that I don’t bring too much or too little.

This list is tailored to my own needs, so it has a lot of things that you probably won’t need. For example, steel-toed shoes are on the list since I need them for work.  This list is something I’ve written down in a small notepad I bring everywhere with me. As my needs change, I have changed things on this list.

2. I have a list of things not yet in my suitcase
I always pack on the weekend prior to my departure date.  This gives me enough time to buy something if I need it before the trip.

However, if I pack that much in advance, there are a lot of things that I can’t yet put into my suitcase.  For example, I’ll use my toothbrush until the morning that I leave.  I need a way to remember what I haven’t packed yet.

See the yellow post-it on the picture above?  That is everything which I have not yet put into my suitcase. I write down everything that I haven’t packed yet so that I remember to pack them on the morning of the flight, such as my laptop and glasses.  I cross things off as I put them into by bag.

I’m usually in a rush in the morning before my flight. This post-it note has helped me so many times!

3. I know how much shampoo/shower gel/makeup remover I need to bring

This is an excerpt from the notebook I mentioned above. It shows how much cleanser, toner, shampoo, etc that I need to bring with me.
For example, if I’m going on a 5-day trip, I know I need to bring 4ml * 5days = 20ml of shampoo with me. On the other hand, if I’m going on a month long trip, I need to bring 150ml of shampoo.
This helps me not overpack and still not run out of things that I need.

You might think I’m OCD to make a list like this.  I’ve been on month-long business trips to developing nations.  Things like having nice shampoo or cleanser to use really made a difference in relieving the stress I got, both from working in a new place and not being able to do things for fun.

If you are going somewhere where you know you can buy things that you need, you wouldn’t need a list like this. However, there are many times where you don’t know which brands you should buy, or even where you should buy it!

You might want to know how I figured out how much of each thing I need. I filled several travel-sized bottles with these things, and kept track of how many days it took to use them up.  I was careful to use the “normal” amount, and not skimp on anything. You can see from the notes above – I used a 125 ml bottle of contact lens solution in 35 days = 3.3 ml/day.

All of my skin care stuff goes into this bag from Muji.  The hook on top is very convenient to hang from towel hangers and the like.

4. I know I have just enough makeup
This bag, also from Muji, has all the makeup I need.  If you’ve seen my “rotating makeup” post, you’ll know that I am very good at selecting enough products that I can make different looks and not be bored for 2-3 weeks.

Before I go on my trip, I will pack this bag, and try using ONLY the products from this bag for 2-3 days. This helps me in 2 ways.

First, I’ll notice if there is anything that I need which I have forgotten.  I’ve forgotten to pack things like foundation, and also things like tweezers and scissors which I only use every few days, but that I need to bring on a longer trip.

Second, I’ll notice if there are products which I haven’t touched.  When I do my makeup, I typically dump everything out of this bag onto a table, and put things back into the bag as I use them.  Anything that is remaining on the table when I finish my makeup hasn’t been used.  I notice when the same things remain on the table.  This way, I’ll know if 5 lipsticks is too many for me (yes, it is), or if 8 eyeshadows is too many for me (no, it’s not).  For example, I noticed before my last trip that my highlighter was always left on the table. I realized that the blush I was bringing was so shimmery that I didn’t need a highlighter, and I decided not to bring it on my trip.

That’s about it for makeup and skin care.  Some typical travel tips just don’t work for me, such as bringing things that are dual purpose (I would rather bring two small things).

Remember what you learned from each trip, and try to find what works best for you!

xoxo, K

29 Thoughts on “How to pack skin care and makeup for traveling

  1.  Wow this is really a great post. I enjoyed reading about how you pack for your business trips. Using makeup several days before a trip is genius. I’m too much of a packrat and tend to ignore certain items of cosmetics so will try that next time. Just out of curiosity, how do you measure out 1.2g of your moisturizer?

  2. Yinnie_C on October 19, 2011 at 22:43 said:

    Military Precision! This is awesome, especially the amount needed for each trip, I always find i bring too much or too little of product.

  3. Jamillacamel on October 19, 2011 at 23:27 said:

    You are so disciplined. I tell ya, if you travel around China, especially in the sticks, you NEED to plan carefully!

  4. This is an amazing post! You are so organized it’s crazy. But then again, you should see my filing system at work. =p

    I hardly travel at all but when I do I’ll definitely reference this post!

  5. I find it amusing how I was reading this and thought “oh wow, this sounds a lot like me” and then I saw the exact same Muji bag I use for travelling haha!

  6. Luluchinadoll on October 20, 2011 at 04:51 said:

    you are so organized and you have some great tips! i also have a travel list that i keep using, it’s helped me so many times to remind myself to not forget anything! ur method of calculating precise amount to bring on a trip is amazing! that’s great though because I always overpack fearing that I might run out of something but never did in the end.

  7. Jess L. on October 20, 2011 at 06:32 said:

    Wow, I really admire you for showing such great discipline at organizing everything. Thanks for sharing your great travel packing tips!

  8. Kai Yukashi on October 20, 2011 at 06:44 said:

    Thanks for the tips!  I’m actually about to leave for a 8 day trip to Paris, so i might use some of your tips for packing skincare/cosmetics!  i’m usually really good with not forgetting to bring important things (like phone charger) but I totally understand how it is when you’re rushed for time.  I’m not very used to traveling for prolonged periods actually, so one thing i’m not experienced in is figuring out how much skincare to bring (shampoo/conditioner/skincare stuff) whereas makeup i’m not quite as bad with. 

    again thanks for all this tip!  :D

  9. Jennifer huang on October 20, 2011 at 22:40 said:

    Thanks for the info! i think I need to start following a similar regime.. as I’m like you and i tend to forget the silliest of things >.<;; thanks so much! I’ll keep this blog post & everything you’ve said in mind or the next trip i take :3

  10. I love this post; I’m forever overpacking and forgetting things. I’ll try making a proper list and using a post-it for the to-be-added.
    I have that exact Muji bag!  But I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.  maybe on my upcoming trip.

  11. thanks for this very informative and useful post K! hope you are well! <3

  12. This is a great post! Everything is so concise–even down to the measurements of the liquid items you use. I wish that you had posted this before I left for my trip! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  13. MischiefMack on October 23, 2011 at 23:07 said:

    I can  honestly say that was absolutely fascinating! That is a lot of planning, but if you don’t want to run out/want to look good for the whole trip…

    I think the idea of using the packed stuff for a couple of days is BRILLIANT!!!!!!! Best idea ever!

  14. thanks for these tips ;) I should write down mine for my next travel :)

  15. I multiply it by the number of days I’ll need to use it. For example, if I’m going for 7 days, 1.2*7=8.4g. I need to find a container or pot that will contain about 10g of product.

    Hope this makes sense!

  16. Yeah, when I traveled to China on business, I needed to be precise, or else it would be a total pain!!!

  17. Yep, completely agree with you!

    My mother, on the other hand, brings samples. For example, if she’s gone for a week, she’ll bring 7 samples of each product!

  18. Skinscrubs on November 13, 2011 at 16:32 said:

    Well after going to the US, then Aruba, then back to the US and back to the UK, I know I suck at packing. I always bring way to much beauty stuff with me, which is stupid when going to places like this because I can always buy stuff. I’m going to keep this post in mind when I go away next time. Thanks a million and btw it’s not OCD, just organised! 

  19. Haha, I’m not organized! Traveling was a major part of work for a long time, so I developed a system!

  20. Woot! Great minds think alike!

  21. I always overpack jewelry when I go abroad for personal trips. At least it’s something that isn’t heavy!

  22. If you traveled to China like I did for business, you would get disciplined too!

  23. Hope this worked for you, and hope you enjoyed your Paris trip!

  24. Thanks!!  I’ve forgotten cell phone chargers plenty of times. Thank goodness that with the popularity of the iphone, that will be easier to recover from!

  25. Hope it works for you!

  26. Hope this works for you!!

  27. I try to be concise so that I can shop for stuff when I get to my destination! My bag from Hawaii was insanely heavy, thank goodness I’ve got priority on JAL or they wouldn’t have let me bring it!

  28. Hope it works for you!

  29. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

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