It's a fun exercise in discovering how little you actually need.
With my newfound dedication to packing light while traveling, I've had to pare down drastically the number of products I take on trips. It has been an interesting exercise in assessing what I truly need -- and how many things I don't.
No doubt, some commenters will point out that cosmetics are pointless in general, but as a pale natural redhead, I feel more comfortable with some dark definition around my eyes; otherwise, as has happened on numerous occasions, I am told I look tired or like I've been crying. All that is to say, I feel more myself when wearing a wee bit of mascara and eye liner.
Looking one's best, however, is often much simpler than you may think. Here are some of the tips I've learned while packing my travel makeup bag.
Less is best. Wear the absolute minimum of skincare products and makeup that you need to feel right. Take the minimum number of products required to achieve that, i.e. one applicator brush, a single neutral eye shadow color.
Choose multi-purpose items. A bar of soap is good for body, face, and shaving. A small tin of lotion can moisturize face, hands, and lips. I love Mythologie's itty-bitty travel-sized face oils, which do triple duty as moisturizer, perfume, and something similar to a glowing bronzer. Coconut oil can moisturize, tame frizzy hair, and work as shaving cream.
Solid items are best for flying. With restrictions on liquid size, solid beauty items are the simplest way to go. Lush sells a number of fabulous lotion bars, shampoo/conditioner bars, and deodorants. I also have a cardboard tube of solid luminizer from Elate Cosmetics that's conveniently lightweight.
Decant! Never take something in its original container if you won't use it all. Transfer liquid concealer or foundation to an old contact lens case. Buy contact solution in a travel-sized bottle, then keep it and refill for every subsequent trip. I transfer tiny magnetic eye shadows (also from Elate Cosmetics) to a David's Tea sample tin, which is just the right size. (It's also a good size for carrying a few Advil.)
Go travel-sized for liquids. Some people recommend using hotel samples to avoid carrying any skin and hair products at all, but I don't like chemical-laden formulas and don't wash my hair often enough to use them up. Instead, I prefer to refill these adorable stainless steel containers by Plaine Products from a larger bottle of their heavenly-scented shampoo at home. (Seriously, try it if you haven't, and their returnable-refillable metal bottle program makes it even more amazing.) Better yet, train your hair not to need frequent washing.
Pack based on climate. Think about the weather where you're going. If it's hot and humid, you won't want to take any facial makeup, as it will just run off or cause breakouts. A sunny climate will require lots of sunscreen; a colder one will require more moisturizer. If you're covering up the whole time or the trip is short, can you afford to leave your razor or hair styling products at home?
Get your hair done there. If I have a big event to attend several days into my stay in a foreign place, sometimes I'll visit a local salon for a wash and blow dry. Not only does it spare me having to travel with shampoo, conditioner, styling product, and a straightener or curling iron, it can be a fun outing that connects me with locals and always results in great conversation.
Do something permanent. Rather than packing tools to do your brows each day, have you tried getting them tinted? (We redheads know a thing or two about this.) An eyebrow tint lasts me 6 weeks and eliminates the need to carry an additional pencil and brush. Note: Check the ingredient list on the product used to ensure it is safe and green.
What are your tricks for shrinking your makeup bag while travelling?