Travel skincare essentials: Six tips for keeping your glow while on-the-go

US-based skincare blogger Jude Chao shares her shortcuts for travelling beautifully

I’m a skincare fanatic, which can make travel a challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling, but I don’t love the complex calculus of figuring out how much time I’ll have each day for skincare, which products would make the best use of that time, and how many products I can pack in the first place. Giving up and going back to basics isn’t an option, either. I look my best when my skin is at its best, and I definitely want to look my best when I’m out in the world. I imagine many of you feel the same.

So over the years, I’ve come up with a few shortcuts for travelling beautifully. Try some of my tricks the next time you travel. Your skin will thank you, and maybe if we run into each other in some hotel lobby somewhere, you’ll thank me.

(I’m totally kidding. No thanks needed).

  1. Careful preparation is everything

I hope you’re reading this at least a couple of weeks before your scheduled departure, because if you need to buy new skincare for the road, you’ll want to start getting and testing what you need now. Don’t start a new product when you’re already on the move. The day of your conference, reunion, or destination wedding is not a day you’ll want to find out that that new skincare product breaks you out or gives you a rash. The same goes for any peels, facials, or other cosmetic procedures. Get things done well in advance so you don’t run the risk of things going awry when it’s too late to fix.

Got enough time to assemble your travel beauty routine? Then let’s get down to it!

  1. Cleansing balms are your friend

Travelling is not the time to let your pores get clogged and your skin get dull from sleeping in your make-up, but who wants to use up valuable space in your quart-size bag on boring make-up remover that also might leak all over everything? Grab a cleansing balm instead. These cleansing oils in solid form melt onto skin, easily breaking up even stubborn waterproof make-up, then emulsifying and rinsing away with a touch of water. The best thing about them? They don’t count as liquids.

Don’t have a cleansing balm? Try these recommended picks: Banila Co Clean It Zero (available in full size and a travel-friendly mini size); Botanic Farm Grain Ferment Cleansing Sherbet and Su:m37 Skin Saver Melting Cleansing Balm.


  1. Non-liquid facial cleansers are your friend, too

Now that you’ve saved some room in your liquids bag by picking up a cleansing balm, why not save even more room by grabbing a non-liquid cleanser, too? I’m not talking about bar soap, either. These days, there’s no need to tear up your precious moisture barrier with an alkaline bar soap just to save some liquids space. Instead, pick up one of these travel-friendly, skin-safe options. They get skin sparkling clean without disrupting its natural moisture balance.

Recommended picks: Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash and Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick.

  1. Sheet masks might be your best travel buddy yet

In case you haven’t noticed, I am strongly opposed to making my skincare fit into my liquids bag. Another way I dodge that is by packing a handful of sheet masks whenever I travel. These single-use facial treatments drench your face in hydrating essence, deeply hydrating skin for a firmer, smoother appearance with a lit-from-within radiance. In a pinch, they can stand in for an entire toner-essence-serum routine. And the flat packets fit into any suitcase or purse pocket.

Recommended picks: My Beauty Diary Black Pearl Brightening Mask; Tosowoong Pure Propolis Mask; Too Cool For School Egg Cream Mask.


  1. Prioritise radiance

Sheet masks are essential travel skincare not just because of their ease of packing, but also because of how they deliver plump and glowy skin with just one use. If you know you won’t have the time or space for your full skincare routine, leave your more clinical treatments at home. You’ll have all the time in the world for those once you come home. Instead, focus on the products that produce rapid (even if temporary) results so you can put your best face forward every time you step out of your hotel.

Recommended picks:

For smoother, brighter, gently exfoliated but never overscrubbed skin: Amorepacific Treatment Enzyme Peel. For instantly plumper, firmer-looking skin through the power of hydration: Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Super Moist Lotion. For skin as soft and supple as a baby’s: COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream; For a velvety finish with a subtle luminosity and blur effect: Shiseido White Lucent Luminizing Surge; For all-around plumper, firmer, brighter, and more radiant skin overnight: Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX.

    1. Protect yourself from the sun

One item you should never leave at home is sunscreen, unless you’re travelling to a far northern latitude during a sunless part of the year, and even if that is where you’re going, you should bring some sunscreen for your return home.

Your travel agenda probably doesn’t have room for hour-long aloe baths or the crippling embarrassment of reptilian full-body moulting. Also, your skin doesn’t care whether you pick up sun damage on vacation or at home. It’ll age your skin prematurely either way. The sunscreen in make-up or moisturiser won’t be enough to protect your skin unless you trowel it on, so bring a dedicated sunscreen and use it every day.

Recommended picks: For normal to oily skin: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPA 50+ PA++++; for normal to dry skin: Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water UV Essence, aka Aging Care UV Sunscreen.

It can be easy to take our ability to travel for granted, but if you think about it, there’s something really magical about modern humans’ ability to set foot in a plane in one place and step out of it again just hours later thousands of miles away. Travel often comes with a million and one hassles that can take that magic away. Now skimping on your beauty (and the self-confidence that comes with that) doesn’t have to be one of them. Go forth and conquer your world – radiantly!


Tiny bottles for big routines

We talked a bit here about cutting things down, prioritising certain products over others, and leaving some products behind. But what if you just can’t stand the thought of leaving any of your skincare behind? Your friends and family may advise you to seek help, but I advise you to go get some miniature travel bottles and jars, like these from Daiso. Carefully decant your products into them and label each clearly. Then rest easy, knowing you’ve managed to bring all your preciouses aboard your flight in a single quart-size plastic bag.

Alternatively, seek out sample and travel sizes of your skincare products. Cosmetics salespeople at department and specialty stores are generally willing to make samples for you for products that aren’t already packaged to try.

Daiso miniature travel bottles and jars

Jude Chao, aka Fiddy Snails, blogs about skincare and mostly Asian cosmetics at Fifty Shades of SnailHer work has also appeared on Fashionista. She can be found sharing epic skincare routines and sheet mask picks on Instagram as @fiddysnails and will be joining W2Beauty as Contributing Editor in April 2017.


Jude Chao
written by: Jude Chao
  • Alice

    Thanks Fiddy! One word of caution for those outside US: cleansing balms and pretty much anything in a jar will count as liquid in European airports, regardless of the texture or consistency.