Travel Skincare: How to Avoid Breakouts & Maintain Your Glow
Travel skincare can be such a minefield. There’s nothing better than a good vacation, but from temperature and humidity changes to a different sleep schedule, making sure you look good in your vacation snaps can be a challenge. Even just the change in water can wreak havoc with sensitive skin.
To top it all off, you don’t want to be dealing with a complicated skincare regimen while traveling. Quite the opposite. So how can you keep vacation-induced dryness, breakouts and other skin problems at bay while keeping your routine as streamlined and suitcase-friendly as possible?
Check the weather forecast
A crucial step 1 of planning your travel skincare routine! Your skin needs different things, and faces different challenges, depending on the climate (as an aside, this is why you should have separate summer and winter skincare routines.)
Cold air means drier skin, so you’ll need to pack a more intensive hydrator. A hot and humid destination on the other hand means you’ll be dealing with sweat and increased sebum production, so you may want to consider oil control products such as mattifying serum and blotting tissues. Air quality matters too. Are you a country girl headed to the city? Look for formulas which contain antioxidants, to protect your skin against the increased air pollution.
Bring face wipes
While face wipes don’t do such a thorough job of cleaning the skin as an actual cleanser, they’re handy in a pinch – such as when you’re on a train or airplane, or want to wipe the impurities away after a dip in the sea. We love Obagi’s Cleansing Wipes for a quick, on-the-go solution to cleansing and makeup removal.
Consider micellar water for cleansing
Another travel-friendly way to cleanse, micellar water picks up dirt and oil without the need for rinsing. A must-have in your skincare travel kit if you won’t have access to running water, such as when you’re camping. If you’ll be staying in a hotel however, we’d recommend sticking with a proper face wash for a more thorough cleanse.
Load up on moisturizer
Hydrated skin is happy skin! Unfortunately, vacations are full of opportunities for it to get dry and flaky. Airplane cabin air is notoriously drying, while sun exposure, chlorinated pools and salty sea water can all sap away moisture.
Use an intensely-hydrating face serum and face cream just before flying, and consider making Murad’s Hydrate Trial Kit the basis of your travel skincare set – it contains AHAs and BHAs to exfoliate away the dead skin cells that can accumulate with dryness, and provides 24-hour hydration without feeling heavy or greasy.
Pop a face mist in your carry-on
Particularly on long-haul flights, moisturizing before you take off may not be enough to keep your skin looking dewy until you land. The easy fix? Include a hydrating face mist when you’re packing skincare for travel – a quick spritz will instantly quench thirsty skin, and can be applied on top of makeup. Not just great for flights, face mists are a wonderful addition to your beach bag too.
Pack a few sheet masks
While we’re on the topic of hydration, sheet masks take up next to no space in your suitcase or carry-on, and are a great way to give dried-out skin an intense burst of hydration. Avène’s Soothing Sheet Mask is a redness-reducing lifesaver when you’ve stayed out in the sun a little too long! And the minimal mess compared to a regular face mask means you can even use a sheet mask during the flight if you want to.
Drink plenty of water
Okay, one last note on hydration (because it really is important for beautiful skin!) and then we’ll change the topic: drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps your skin to stay hydrated from the inside out, for a radiant glow. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is recommended in general, but if the temperatures are very high or you’re doing a lot of walking, you might need even more than that.
Pack a reusable water bottle into your suitcase – as well as being the sustainable choice, carrying it around with you will serve as a constant reminder to keep drinking.
Step up the sun protection
No skincare travel set is complete without a sunscreen! Really, no daily skincare kit is complete without one, but never is it more important than when you’re off to spend a week sunning yourself on the beach, or going up into the mountains where you’re also exposed to more UVA and UVB than usual. You might therefore want to use a higher SPF than your usual while traveling, or need a formula that’s sweat-proof if you’re headed somewhere hot or plan to be pretty active, such as going hiking.
Traveling light, and want something you can bring in your hand luggage? We recommend the Coola Signature Classic Travel Kit Collection – all four products are in TSA-friendly sizing, and the included zip-close travel storage bag will no doubt come in handy while you’re on the move.
For more advice on picking the perfect sun care, check out our complete guide to sunscreen protection.
Stick to what you know
When it comes to a travel skincare routine, you’ll very likely need to make some changes compared to what you’d use at home, but it’s really not the best time to experiment with a complete overhaul of your skincare regimen. You’re already dealing with different water and a different climate, so to minimize the risk of your skin going into panic mode and having a breakout, keep what you can the same.
An easy way to do this is to buy miniatures of some of your existing products. Perhaps your favorite brand makes a travel size skincare set, or an ‘introductory’ sized one such as the Jan Marini Skin Care Management System Starter Kit, a smaller-sized version of their popular skincare kit.
Leave those hotel products for the next person
A note on the previous point: this also means steering clear of the generic hotel-provided face wash! Chances are it won’t be designed for your skin type, or contain the best quality ingredients. And the same goes for hotel shampoos; if you want to keep your tresses glowing as well as your skin, it’s better to take your own high-quality shampoo and conditioner. For longer trips, you might even want to pack Olaplex’s Traveling Stylist Kit to repair damage caused by chlorine or sun exposure.
Choose TSA-friendly travel size skincare
There are a few good reasons to pack your skincare travel kit in your hand luggage rather than your checked baggage: you have your moisturizers on hand if you need a hydration top-up during the flight; you don’t have to worry about lotions leaking all over your clothing; and if the worst happens and you arrive at your destination but your suitcase doesn’t, you’ve still got everything you need to keep your skin clean, healthy and beautiful.
Just be sure to check the relevant travel regulations to ensure you’ll be allowed to take your skincare products through security. For example, the TSA requires that individual product containers don’t exceed 3.4 ounces (this means can’t take a 4 ounce product even if it’s half empty). Having an expensive new face cleanser confiscated would certainly put a damper on the start of your vacation!
Bonus! What are the best travel cosmetics?
Unlike skincare, you probably won’t need to go out and buy new makeup products for your vacation. Perhaps just a darker shade of foundation if you know you tan deeply and quickly, or a mattifying powder if you’re headed to a more humid climate.
However, if you’re only taking hand luggage and need to maximize space, you might benefit from swapping your regular makeup bag full of products for a handful of multi-use ones. Some of our favorite multi-functional cosmetics for travel include the Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip & Cheek Stain and the double-ended Smashbox Studio Skin Shaping Foundation + Soft Contour stick, as well as all-in-one palettes such as the Jane Iredale Pure & Simple Makeup Kit (it even includes brushes!)
Summary: what are the essential products in a travel skincare routine?
Packing skincare for travel needn’t be complicated. Cleanser, exfoliator, moisturizer and sunscreen are the four basic steps of any skincare routine, and that doesn’t change when you go on vacation. However, you can trim down your travel skincare set by choosing an exfoliating cleanser (such as Jan Marini’s Bioglycolic Face Cleanser) plus a moisturizer with built-in sun protection (such as Supergoop’s Superscreen Daily Moisturizer). Voilà, four steps become two.
From there, you’ll probably want to add in an extra boost of hydration such as a serum, face mist, or sheet mask – if you get a touch of sunburn, swim in a chlorinated pool, or sleep in an air-conditioned room, your skin will thank you for it. But this is all you really need! Simple, right?
If you’re planning a trip to the beach, be sure to also check out our countdown-to-the-beach skincare routine.