Vacation Beauty: Minimum Products, Maximum Results!


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The summer travel season is in full swing, and as much we look forward to the vacation, we also worry about what to pack—and often tend to take more than we really need, especially for short getaways.

All of us on the Paula’s Choice Research Team are seasoned travelers. Over the years, we’ve come up with some failsafe tips and tricks to not only lighten your load, but also make getting through your skin- and body-care routine easier! Following are the top tips you need to ensure you look great on vacation, with minimal effort:

Facial Skin Care Streamlining

Take a look at your facial skin-care routine and pare down to these basics: gentle cleanser, AHA or BHA exfoliant, daytime moisturizer with sunscreen, and a treatment serum or moisturizer for nighttime use. Add to this if needed, but those essentials should easily get you through a week away from home.

Essential tips:

  • Rather than take full sizes of larger items, transfer smaller amounts to refillable, travel-sized (TSA-approved) plastic bottles. You can find these in most large drugstores. Buy enough for everyone in the family to have their own.
  • Packing liquids? Seal the caps with Scotch tape and then place these items in a zippered plastic bag. Be sure to stash the tape in your suitcase so you can reseal liquid products for the trip home! Bonus: If you opt to label your refillable bottles, a piece of clear tape over the label will keep it in place and legible if the bottle gets wet!
  • Going to a sunny climate? When it comes to SPF products, think layers! Instead of stopping with your daytime moisturizer, add a foundation with sunscreen and brush on a pressed powder with sunscreen (which is also great for portable SPF touch-ups when you’re out and about).
  • Consider leaving all facial devices (such as the Clarisonic) at home. We promise your skin won’t fall apart if you skip using them for a week or so.
  • Always bring a small tube of Vaseline or Aquaphor Ointment with you. Either one performs a multitude of tasks, from soothing chapped lips to removing stubborn eye makeup.

Packing Body-Care Products

Neglecting skin from the neck down isn’t a good idea, even when you’re on vacation and thinking that less is more. Don’t bother packing several lotions and potions, as these gobble up valuable suitcase space and add excess weight. Here’s how you can downsize and still keep body skin in good shape:

  • Pack a few bottles of conditioning shampoo (those from Dove or Garnier are good) and use them as shampoo and body wash.
  • The conditioning shampoo can double as your usual rinse-out conditioner or you can bring a moisturizing styling cream as a stand-in for conditioner.
  • You can also use the conditioning shampoo as a makeshift shaving “cream” in the shower.
  • Alternately, pack one regular size bottle of moisturizing body wash, and let the whole family use this as body wash and shampoo.
  • If you routinely use body lotion to remedy dry skin, pack however much you think you’ll need for the time away—those found in most hotels are highly fragrant and pose too great a risk of irritation when applied all over. If you want to go for a travel size, Cetaphil, Eucerin, and CeraVe offer such sizes, and each brand’s body lotions are fragrance-free.
  • Leave the scrubs, foot creams, hand creams, and body oils at home. Chances are your skin will be just fine without them while you’re away.
  • Use your facial AHA or BHA exfoliant only where needed on the body (for example, breakout-prone areas or patches of red bumps). You can leave your separate AHA or BHA body product at home.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen for all exposed areas! As sunscreen must be applied liberally and reapplied every couple hours when in the sun, you’ll want to bring a full-sized bottle. The trick is to only pack one but plan ahead so you know where you can pick up more sunscreen at your destination. If you suspect finding a good sunscreen where you’re going will be difficult, you’ll need to pack extra bottles to ensure you don’t run out.
  • Look for travel-sized deodorants as these tend to last through several weeks of use, and take up much less space than your usual roll-on or solid.
  • Instead of packing a bottle of perfume, obtain the scent you love in a trial size. Or, purchase a small, refillable atomizer, which can be found in most perfume stores or online.

Vacation Makeup: Think Double-Duty Beauty!

You’re on vacation, so don’t spend too much time in front of the mirror! Packing only the essentials and those that do double duty allows you to get ready and look put together FAST! Here’s what you’ll need to bring:

  • Instead of primer, foundation, and concealer, pack a BB cream or CC cream (or tinted moisturizer) with sunscreen for soft coverage, hydration, and a boost of sun protection. 
  • If you have oily skin and absolutely need powder, pack a powder foundation so you can leave the liquid foundation at home. M.A.C. and Laura Mercier offer wonderful options.
  • Pack a two-toned, matte finish pressed powder bronzer that you can use on cheeks instead of blush and as a crease color for a quick eyeshadow design.
  • Save room in your makeup bag by investing in a durable mini brush set.
  • You know those mini mascaras you always get as part of a free gift with purchase at the cosmetics counters? Toss one in your travel bag instead of your full-size mascara.
  • Choose one or two cream lipsticks you like best and only bring those (you really don’t need 10 lipsticks and glosses for a week away. Be sure one of the colors can also work on cheeks, as you can add a pop of radiant color over the bronzer.
  • That Aquaphor we mentioned above? Mix it with a dab of lipstick to create a sheer lip, moisturizing gloss!
  • If you want to bring eye makeup beyond mascara, consider a small eyeshadow palette that includes a color or two that can double as brow filler and eyeliner. We like the inexpensive eyeshadow quads from Physician’s Formula or check out the smaller powder shadow palettes from Urban Decay or Bobbi Brown.
  • Leave the eye makeup remover at home, and use your facial cleanser to remove your eye makeup. Yes, it’s less than ideal, but we are downsizing here! This won’t work if you plan to wear waterproof mascara, but again, that free gift with purchase may come in handy: They almost always include a mini eye makeup remover, too!

With the tips above, you’ll be all set to enjoy your vacation with a simpler routine that won’t weigh you down—and will allow you more time to enjoy the sights of your destination, whether traveling alone or with friends and family.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth 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.

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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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