The first time I backpacked solo, I left all my hair and beauty products behind. I’d be roughing it in Morocco, so why would I need to waste space on non-essential items like makeup?
Turns out, the answer to that is, “Confidence.” If you’re used to a little primping at home, entering the world in the same grubby outfit, with the same ponytail and no-makeup face, makes you feel like you’re not yourself. On the other extreme, packing every beauty product you’ve ever owned or think you may need isn’t a practical use of space either.
Years have passed from that first backpacking trip, and I’ve since settled on a middle ground between packing everything and nothing. But it was a process in which I first had to learn a few essential travel hair and beauty tricks that allowed me to happily leave the blowdryer at home. Read on for travel hair tips and travel beauty tips for light packers.
Packing Travel Makeup: 1-2 Pieces
When packing makeup, my rule is to only pack 1-2 pieces max. When choosing which makeup to pack, you have two options:
- If you want to wear makeup every day, pack the basics. Choose neutral colored makeup that will go with everything.
- If you only want to wear makeup for nights out, and are totally fine sans-makeup day-to-day, go for bold. Go for the bright red lipstick, or whatever it is that matches the one nice dress or top you’ve already packed.
A good middle ground is to have the one item that’s good every day (eyeliner) and the one item that’ll instantly spice up a look (red lip stain). Remember, few people will see you more than once — it’s OK to repeat looks.
Packing Hair Products: 1 Product and Small Accessories
When talking with a few girl friends, we all agreed that for hair products we always pack bobby pins and extra hair ties. In addition to conditioner, we also allow ourselves to pack the one hair product we use most often — in a small, travel sized container, of course.
Finally, ditch the brush for an easy to pack comb, preferably with a wide tooth on one end, and small tooth on the other. What you end up packing will depend a lot on personal preferences, but for some ideas, take a look in our bags.
Example Travel Hair and Makeup Bags:
I’m a little more minimalist than most, but my travel hair and makeup bag (shown to the right) includes:
- Sephora nano eyeliner
- Burts Bee’s tinted Chapstick
- A stretchy headband
- A dozen bobby pins
- 2 extra hair ties
- Anti-frizz hair serum
- Conair’s wide and small tooth comb
Similarly, Anna always travels with:
- Face cream
- Bobby pins
- A stretchy hairband
- Extra hair ties
- Dry shampoo
Our packing makeover subject, Morgan, went for:
- A comb
- Extra hair ties
Travel hair hack: Most tutorials on hair-teasing will tell you to use a brush. Truth is, an easier to pack, small toothed comb will work just fine in a pinch.
You’re allowed to bring 3oz of liquid on the plane, but you really don’t need that much hairspray, perfume, or face cream for trips of one month or less. So go extra mini — like 1 ounce or less mini — with your beauty products.
For this, you could buy smaller sized travel bottles, like the Nalgene 1 ounce leakproof container for creams and gels, or reuse mini perfume sample bottles or old lip gloss tins. No matter what though, aim for everything to roughly fit in the palm of your hand.
Note: Avoid aerosol products when you can. They’re harder to transfer into smaller containers and you’ll have to keep buying travel sized versions of these products.
Sometimes while traveling, you want to look nice. Be it for a night out or just feeling more put together on a plane, it happens.
If you want to have a cute hairstyle while traveling without having to pack a travel blow dryer (seriously, just don’t even pack a travel blow dryer), learn a few hairstyles that don’t require much more than a hair tie. For example:
- The fishtail braid — or any braid for that matter. Braids are in, so rock them. Also, fishtail braids are great travel hairstyles since they stay in place and don’t get in your way when you’re trying to sleep on a plane or bus. Check out the tutorial on Pretty Designs.
- The architectural ponytail — I fell in love with this hairstyle when I stumbled on Refinery29’s article on work hairstyles for long hair, but it works surprisingly well for travel as well — and especially work travel.
- Messy chignon — This hairstyle works great if you haven’t had time to wash your hair. Pull it into a side pony, tease it a bit (optional), and wrap it all up into a slightly messy bun. Full tutorial can be found on Coconut Robot.
- Headband tuck and cover — Put your stretchy hairband on and tuck your hair into it. And voila, an easy but impressive-looking hairstyle for a last minute night out. See home and heart’s tuck and cover tutorial for more details.
If you travel with a light scarf, these work great as impromptu hair wraps when your hair is looking just a little meh, or dirty (like when the water at your hostel goes out) or you have short hair and throwing it into a bun isn’t an option.
For the scarf trick, place the middle of the scarf on the back of your head, loop it together at the front, then tie in the back. Again, Refinery29 to the rescue with an excellent tutorial in their hairstyles for biker chicks slideshow.
Don’t Pack a Hair Dryer… Ever
Even travel sized hair dryers take up a lot of unnecessary space, and if you’re traveling internationally, you might need a special adaptor for it. Instead, learn to do without and take advantage of hotels that give you one. Lots of hostels will have one you can borrow as well. Just ask!
Fly, Travel, or Sleep With Your Hair in a Bun
Get nice looking waves without a curler or blow dryer by putting your hair in a top bun (like the one mentioned above) or braids before going to sleep. In the morning, let it down, shake it out, and head out the door to go exploring!
Try Solid Perfumes
I just recently discovered solid perfumes (specifically, the Pacifica solid perfume line found at Whole Foods) and love them for travel. They’re only 0.33 oz, about the size of a quarter, they don’t break any TSA rules, and last forever.
Also, they’re super easy to put on discreetly at the end of a long flight — rather than spraying perfume into the air and choking everyone around you.
Just because you’re packing light, doesn’t mean you can’t keep up a minimalist hair and beauty routine. Always pack 1-2 makeup products and allow yourself 1 travel sized hair product plus conditioner. Pack everything in extra-mini containers of 1 oz or less.
For makeup, stick to basics or pack one bold item you can use on nights out. For travel hair, rely on simple hairstyles, get creative with the items you’ve already packed, and don’t ever bring “travel sized” blow dryers, straighteners, or curlers.
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