Staying Beautiful When Traveling: Don't Leave Home Without Our Advice!


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Air travel is often the most efficient way to get from point A to point B, but it also presents its own set of difficulties and frustrations. With timing your arrival at the airport, long lines at security checkpoints, making sure your luggage is tagged and checked through to your destination, there's a lot to keep track of! All of us on the Paula's Choice Research Team (especially Paula) have logged more frequent flier miles than we care to count! Over the years, we've learned a few things about what to pack (checked or carry-on), what to leave at home, and what items from the hotel that you can get away with using. Let our experiences will you enjoy a smoother, less stressful trip!
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Traveling with Beauty Essentials

Trying to keep your checked luggage under the typical 50-pound limit most airlines impose is no easy task. For lots of women, the items that can easily push their luggage beyond the weight limit are the beauty products and tools they don't want to leave at home. Traveling with cleansers, toners, body moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, blow dryers, flatirons, hairstyling products, and an overstuffed makeup bag can tip the scale against you (and we haven't even begun to discuss how many shoes you plan to pack!). Add in products for your kids during family trips, and you'll likely need help just hoisting your bag onto the scale to be weighed!

You don't want to shortchange your skin and hair just because you're traveling and need to lighten your luggage load. Following are our travel-tested tips that work, and, if you're willing to downsize a bit further, that can even save you money by packing smart, using just one piece of carry-on luggage—OK, well, that and the extra bag that is allowed if it fits under your seat!

Packing Tips to Get Through Security

If you're taking a long trip, and you must check some of your luggage, put what you can reasonably fit in your carry-on bag, but remember there are security restrictions. Decide what you should put in your checked luggage versus your carry-on. The cardinal carry-on rule to remember: All of the liquids you bring on the plane must fit in a 1-quart, zip-top bag, and none of the individual containers can be larger than 3.4 ounces. Yes, you might get away with a slightly larger size, but it's a risk—don't say we didn't warn you if your 4.5-ounce bottle of cleanser gets tossed before you make it through security!

Grooming items, such as small scissors and nail-care tools such as cuticle nippers, should get through the security check (big scissors never get through), so it's best to keep those in your checked luggage.

Razors almost always get through these days, as do tweezers, but it isn't 100% consistent around the world or even within the United States. Our advice is: When in doubt, put it in your checked luggage. It also never hurts to check the Transportation Security Administration's website,, before you fly. Be wary, though, because this site is woefully short on specifics, so for a lot things, you just must go with your best guess. Another factor is that more often than not, the mood of the security agent who's checking the contents of your bag plays a role. Some of them are incredibly understanding and gracious; others are sticklers for following every rule to the exact letter—no exceptions.

Downsize by transferring some of your products in large containers into smaller containers, or bring smaller travel-size packets. It's easy to transfer facial cleansers, shampoos, and conditioners into small travel-size containers. A 3-ounce container of those products should get you through two weeks of travel, and, if needed, you can pick up more shampoo and conditioner, no matter where you are in the world.

Paula's Choice is one of the few companies that offers travel-size packets of almost every skin-care product we sell. Be sure to take advantage of purchasing those when a carry-on is your sole piece of luggage. Bonus: These sample packets don't need to go into your 1-quart bag. Another option is to save the smaller (worthwhile) items you get in department store gift-with-purchase sets or when stores such as Sephora offer deluxe samples of items you like. These are the ideal size for short-term use and for stowing in carry-on bags!

Don't transfer products that shouldn't be exposed to air into small containers. Antioxidant serums and moisturizers are best left in their own packaging to keep those ingredients stable, plus the containers for these products usually fit nicely in your 1-quart bag.

Hairstyling products, such as gels, hairsprays, and styling creams, are perfect candidates for transferring to small, travel-size containers. Many propellant-based mousses and aerosol hairsprays come in travel sizes, while pomades and waxes typically come in small sizes, so taking them aboard is a non-issue.

The smaller the better. No one needs a huge tube of toothpaste or a big bottle of mouthwash for a week or two of vacation; instead, bring small travel-size versions, which are readily available at any drugstore. Tip: When the travel-sized bottle is empty, don't toss it: Bring it home and refill it from the large size so it's ready to go next time!

Ladies, lighten your makeup bag. Think about which makeup essentials you'll need and whether you're even likely to wear much makeup on your trip; after all, if it's a vacation, you may want to really pare it down. Pack only the colors and products you really need—you don't need every shade of lipstick, gloss, eyeshadow, and blush you own, and you most likely don't need to pack every makeup brush you own.

Special makeup packing decisions you need to think about. Generally, makeup items such as lipsticks, lip glosses, lip balms, liquid foundations, and concealers in your carry-on get through security without being in your 1-quart bag, but that is not a certainty, and there is no information on the TSA website that specifies one way or the other, so you just have to hope for the best. As a rule, we suggest leaving some room in your 1-quart bag just in case.

Use multi-tasking products. To minimize the number and amount of products you need to pack, use products that perform multiple tasks; for example, pack a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen instead of your usual facial sunscreen, liquid foundation, and so on. Pack bronzing powder instead of blush plus contour powder; pack one shade of matte eyeshadow that works to fill in eyebrows and can double (used wet) as eyeliner. Consider a mini set of essential brushes, too!

What About Sunscreen?

Do not downsize on your sunscreen. Because sunscreen must be applied liberally every day, you need large containers. If you're planning to only take carry-on luggage, then you will have to buy your sunscreen when you get to your destination. There are plenty of great body sunscreens at drugstores, and if you aren't familiar with the brands available at your destination, use your smartphone to visit our mobile site and access Beautypedia Reviews, so you'll know which sunscreens to purchase and which to avoid.

You can ship special items ahead of time if you're staying in one place. What do you do if you have a sunscreen or other must-have product that you or your family loves, that's not easy to find wherever you're going, and that's not sold in travel sizes? Order what you need online a few days before departing and have it shipped to your destination. Most hotels will accept shipments for registered guests, but call your hotel ahead of time and make sure. If you're staying with friends or family, just give them a head's up that a package is en route. Problem solved!

Should You Use the Hotel's Toiletries?

Nowadays most hotels around the world provide great shampoos and conditioners that you can use without shortchanging your hair. They also often have decent, though not great, body lotions.

On the other hand, we recommend that you never use the facial-care products some hotels provide. They may seem appealing due to their spa theme or their boasts of tranquil aromatherapy, but they are at best iffy, and more often than not are badly formulated and overly fragranced.

Many hotels also have decent blow dryers. We've stayed in places with high-wattage blow dryers in the 1875-watt range, which are perfect for styling thick, coarse, or curly hair. Other hotels have blow dryers in the 1600-watt range, which is fine for thin or short hair, but not great for more challenging styling needs. Hotels generally don't have flatirons, so you will have to bring yours along. If you forget, it's relatively easy to purchase one, whether you're traveling to a big city or even to a small town, although you may not find the exact model you want.

One of the stresses of traveling is packing for your trip and hoping you don't forget everything you need, even if you are good about scaling back. The recommendations we provide aim to reduce the amount of stress—and the amount of products—when you're trying to get you and your luggage to your destination.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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