Travelling might be good for the soul but sadly it isn’t always as good for your skin or hair. In fact, neglecting your usual beauty routine and spending time in different climates can very quickly undo all the hard work and time you spend looking after yourself at home.
That’s why, whether you’re travelling near or far, it’s well worth leaving out that extra pair of shoes to ensure there’s plenty of space in your bag for the real necessities.
Not sure where to start? Luckily, after numerous backpacking, budget and luxury trips, I’ve got you covered with my tried-and-tested selection of beauty essentials for travel.
Basically, if you don’t take anything else — take these.
Travel Skincare Essentials
When travelling, it can be easy to slip into a more, shall we say, relaxed skincare set-up. However, if you manage to resist temptation and stick to your usual routine, your skin will thank you by leaving you looking even more fresh-faced and glowy.
Without further ado, here are all the skincare essentials you’ll need.
First things first, what better place to start than with the holy grail of travel skincare essentials: cleanser.
Whether you’re new to the cleanser scene or just not sure which type is best to take away on holiday, I recommend opting for something gentle and hydrating. Let’s be honest, your skin will have enough to contend with between the different time zones, central heating systems and tiredness from long days of exploring.
For a great all-rounder that can also lift and remove makeup easily, you can’t go wrong with Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm*.
Next up, moisturiser. While a lightweight gel or cream may be enough for warm climates, I suggest choosing a heavier formula if you’re anticipating a chillier break.
For example, summer holidayers will love The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors* with 11 amino acids. But this CeraVe Moisturising Cream* with five-star reviews would be better suited to the keen winter staycationers.
3. Face Serum or Oil
If you don’t already use a face serum or oil as part of your daily skincare routine, you really are missing a trick. Designed to lock in hydration and keep your skin feeling lovely and soft, this beauty essential will leave you will a healthy-looking glow even before you get in the sun.
Stop your skin from becoming dehydrated by using a face serum with hyaluronic acid during the day and a nourishing facial oil to sleep in overnight.
4. Body Soap or Wash
It sounds basic, but a good body soap or wash is seriously one of the most underrated beauty essentials for travel.
Don’t believe me? Well, considering your hands come into contact with millions of germs every single day, it’s probably a good idea to just pack some anyway.
For a bar that doesn’t irritate skin, regardless of your skin type, I love Simple’s fragrance-free soap*.
5. Body Lotion
It isn’t just the skin on your face that can become dehydrated when you travel. That’s why it’s important to use a nourishing body lotion every time you step out of the bath or shower.
I’m a fan of anything from American personal care brand Bath and Body Works, which is now being sold in the UK through NEXT — rejoice!
You may presume that unless you’ve got a week in the Mediterranean booked, you don’t need to think about wearing suncream. Considering wearing sunscreen can half your chances of developing melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), suncream should have a permanent place on your packing list (come rain or shine).
The NHS recommends wearing — and frequently reapplying — a minimum of SPF 30 daily (even if it’s cloudy). This should offer sufficient skin protection, but if in doubt you should opt for a higher factor.
I like Bliss Block Star* for an invisible finish and smooth non-comedogenic formula. Trust me, your pores will thank you later.
7. Makeup Remover
The Elemis Pro-Cleansing Balm* that I mentioned earlier handily doubles up as a makeup remover. That said, I also love Garnier’s Micellar Water* for a thorough clean without stripping the skin of its natural oils.
Toiletry Essentials for Travel
Toiletries might be slightly less glamorous than fancy-smelling creams and lotions but they’re just as (if not more) important, so leave them out at your own peril.
This might not be the most glamorous of beauty essentials for travel. However, it goes without saying that no matter what kind of trip you’re planning, deodorant should be at the top of your packing list.
My top tip? Keep it simple with a Dove Stick for Sensitive Skin*.
Perfume is an optional extra but it’s always a nice touch to make an outfit feel finished off. When travelling, I recommend swapping out your favourite or most expensive bottle in favour of a smaller, easy-to-pack bottle.
Although an electric toothbrush is bulkier than your average manual version, I think it’s worth making space in your case for. After all, studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are more effective in the fight against plaque and gigivitis, removing up to 21% more than manual toothbrushes after three months of use.
I recommend this Phillips Sonic 3100 Series* for affordability. (Just don’t forget your charger!)
No prizes for guessing that a travel tube of toothpaste is next on the list.
This is one of those pesky toiletries that can be easy to overlook when packing, but potentially catastrophic if you forget it. Therefore, always make Colgate Triple Action the first thing in your bag.
11. Disposable Razors
To keep up your grooming routine while on holiday, be sure to pack a razor or two.
I always choose disposable razors. Not only are they lighter to carry and less bulky, but every time you dispose of one, you free up more space in your toiletry bag. (And this leaves more room for some cheeky souvenirs).
Wilkinson Sword are great for sensitive skin and you can get a multipack of 10 for just £3.99 at Boots. Win-win.
Even if you have your eyebrows done before you head away, it’s likely that you’re still going to want to maintain them while you’re on your trip.
That’s where a handy pair of tweezers like these award-winning Tweezerman Slant Tweezers* come in handy. Say goodbye to those annoying strays!
Travel Hair Essentials
Now you’ve got the basics sorted, it’s time to turn your attention to your hair.
From the obvious (a good hairbrush) to the often overlooked (hair treatment oil), here are my top beauty essentials for travel to keep your hair game strong.
Unless your hair is naturally sleek and knot-free (please teach me your ways), you’re going to need to make space in your bag for a hairbrush. With the ability to detangle even the thickest and frizziest hair, I’ll choose The Wet Brush* every time.
If you’re staying in a hotel or Airbnb, the chances are you’ll probably be provided with some basic toiletries, shampoo included. As awesome as freebies are, take your own moisturising shampoo to remedy the straw-like texture you’re bound to experience if you’re spending prolonged periods of time in the sun or in cold weather.
If you have blonde colouring in your hair, a bottle of Olaplex* is an absolute no-brainer. For everyone else, something like Garnier’s Ultimate Blends Banana Shampoo* will leave your hair feeling pleasingly fresh and fragrant.
Your conditioner should work hand-in-hand to keep your hair nourished and frizz-free whatever the weather.
For those with blonde colouring in their hair, it’s best to stick to Olaplex for both your shampoo and conditioner*. Otherwise, I love Garnier’s Ultimate Blends Banana Conditioner* or 3-in-1 Hair Mask*.
16. Hair Treatment Oil
Shampooing and conditioning your hair is a good start. Having said that, if you really want to boost hydration and shine after each wash, invest in some hair treatment oil.
This Moroccanoil Hair Treatment* will protect your tresses from both heat and the elements. Frizzy hair be gone!
17. Hair Ties
Whether you’re working up a sweat in 30-degree Celsius heat or you just haven’t got around to washing your locks yet, one of the most simple pleasures in life is getting your hair off your face and neck.
18. Hair Clips
Even the best hair ties in the world can’t stop those stubborn flyaways. Luckily, the best hair clips or grips can. Enter: the trusty Bobby Pin (or 150)*.
While most hotels and Airbnbs come with hairdryers, you can guarantee that the one time you don’t pack your own you’ll arrive to find an empty cupboard. It makes sense to take your own just in case, like this BaByliss one*.
You may also be tempted to take your usual straighteners or curlers. If so, remember that the less heat you apply to your hair, the better condition it will be in.
The average person loses about 50 to 100 hairs a day. If your hair is damaged, you’ll likely see even more hair loss and fly-aways caused by breakages. And of course, heat damage is permanent, with the only real remedy to cut your tresses shorter.
Long story short, keep your devices cooler and try to embrace your natural locks!
Travel Makeup Essentials
Finally, let’s discuss the travel makeup essentials.
How much or how little makeup you take will depend on what you use in your usual routine, as well as what you actually have space for in your bag. Here’s my full list of recommendations so you can simply pick and mix your favourites or just fill in any gaps.
20. Vaseline or Lip Balm
Let’s start with the basics.
The first rule of looking glam is feeling glam, so you need to ensure your whole face is healthy and hydrated before applying any makeup. Take a small pot of Vaseline along for the ride to remedy dry lips and stop them from becoming chapped or sore.
21. Tinted Moisturiser With SPF
In my opinion, wearing a tinted moisturiser containing SPF is one of the biggest life hacks going. Why wouldn’t you choose to have the added bonus of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays when it doesn’t at all compromise your daytime makeup?
My go-to is bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturiser* with SPF 30.
Concealer is another of my beauty essentials for travel.
To hide any blemishes, redness or under-eye circles (late-night cocktails anyone?), stock up on some Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Flawless Concealer*.
Not only is a volumising mascara like Tarte Cosmetics’ Big Ego the key to thick, dramatic party lashes, but it’s also ideal for opening your eyes and hiding the fact that you’ve had one too many late nights. After all, what is a holiday for if not a chance to let your hair down?
24. Eyebrow Pencil
Being on holiday is no excuse to let your brows go.
To fill in any gaps and keep your brows looking defined, try the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz* with a built-in shaping tool. Alternatively, for a more pigmented formula and extra drama, opt for Charlotte Tilbury’s famous Brow Lift*.
If you’re vacationing in the heat, not every day needs to be a foundation day.
But for those nights where you want to make a big effort — whether you’re going for cocktails or a fancy dinner — TooFaced Cosmetics’ Born This Way* is pretty much a non-negotiable.
Bronzer isn’t strictly necessary for every single day of your trip, but I still think it’s one of the undisputed beauty essentials for travel.
A good blush can both add a natural flush to your cheeks and help give tired skin instant lift and colour after a long day of travelling. In other words, it’s an absolute must for long-haul sun-seekers.
For a blush that handily doubles up as a highlighter, choose Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Light Wand*. It sells out super quickly though, so keep an eye out for restocking dates to avoid missing out.
28. Liquid Eyeliner
Spoiler alert: I can’t resist a good flick on the old eyes for smart-casual occasions, whether we’re in Scarborough or Santorini.
Any good eyeliner will do, but I can’t get enough of Rimmel’s Exaggerate Black Liquid Eyeliner*. In fact, I’ve been rocking it since my teenage years. (Anyone else?)
Highlighter can look super pretty as part of your evening vacation makeup. If you have the suitcase space to spare, be sure to buy a bottle of Benefit’s High Beam* in time for take-off.
Apply to your temples, top of your cheekbones, Cupid’s bow, your inner eyes and the end of your nose for a makeup look that truly pops.
Looking for the perfect primer to transform your skin into a silky-smooth, poreless canvas in preparation for heavier evening makeup looks? Well, get ready to meet your new best friend: the one and only Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base*.
Setting spray may not be needed if you’re wearing a good primer. Even so, if you feel that way inclined, we recommend Urban Decay’s All Nighter*.
31. Eyeshadow Palette
You don’t have to rock eyeshadow on vacation if you don’t feel like it. In fact, you may decide not to wear much makeup at all to give your skin a much-needed break.
A rich eyeshadow hue can elevate your appearance for a nice dinner, drinks or date night. Consider an eyeshadow palette so you can mix and match different shades to add depth and tone.
I love Revolution for their affordable yet pigmented eye palettes that are also compact for packing. Their Makeup Obsession Bare With* palette is perfect for daytime looks, while Reloaded in Spirited Love* is the one for when you’re going OUT out.
32. Lip Colour
What better time to mix up your makeup look and experiment with more adventurous lip and eye colours than on holiday?
A flat lip palette like Barry M’s Shade Game provides an easy-to-pack way of trying lots of different shades.
Alternatively, take your favourite collection of nude lipsticks that you already know will go with any makeup aesthetic or outfit colour palette. I love Mac’s Ultimate Nudes Lipstick Kit*.
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Packing Your Beauty Essentials for Travel
When it’s time to pack up all of your beauty essentials for travel, it’s best to use a large toiletry bag that lies flat for packing a suitcase. By purchasing a set of packing cubes*, you will also get a flat toiletry bag and makeup bag in addition to a range of handy cubes for all your clothes.
At the end of the day, packing less will obviously help to lighten your load. But at the same time, don’t feel guilty for wanting to take the odd luxury so that you can feel at home even though you’re away.