How Do You Pack Your Makeup When You Travel?

Published in: Beauty Tips, Makeup Tips/How To

Tabs in Paris...
Vacation, all I ever wanted…

Every worker bee deserves a break from time to time — a few precious days away from the daily grind.


MBB reader Rhian heads on vacay in a few weeks (lucky girl!) and could use some help figuring out how to pack her makeup.

I’m taking a week-long vacation and wonder how the heck I’m gonna keep my makeup safe — especially the MAC Mineralized Skinfinish Natural! I know it’s so fragile, but it’s a complete must. I’m terrified it will crack and shatter.

Also, I want to take a 15 pan palette and a few blushes, but I’m not entirely sure how to pack them securely and save space. No traincases please. πŸ™‚


Hi, Rhian. Where are you going on vacation? Can I stow away in your luggage? πŸ™‚

Unfortunately, I’m the world’s *worst* packer when it comes to clothes and shoes (I bring everything but the kitchen sink), but when it comes to packing beauty products, I have a system that works pretty well for me.

When I’m checking in bags

The liquids in breakable bottles and small jars (like foundation) go into a large, clear plastic bag nestled securely (and cushioned by clothes) in the center of my check-in luggage. Sometimes I’ll even protect the bag in bubble wrap secured with extra large rubber bands. My powder products come with me in my carry-on bag.

If I’m not checking a bag

If I’m not planning to check anything in, I’ll try to find small cream versions of my must-have liquid products (less likely to spill). If there are any liquid products I can’t live without, I’ll transfer them to small plastic travel bottles (the TSA rules allow up to 3-oz in size). I get mine from REI, like these 1-oz bottles for $1.20. And I’ll store the bottles in a quart-size plastic bag which I keep in my carry-on bag.


Powder products — compacts and palettes

I *always* carry these on the plane, storing them in a slim, rectangular-shaped makeup bag like this silver Trina Turk bag from a Clinique GWP. The shape works well for travel and even fits into a standard school backpack.

Extra palette protection!

If I’m extra worried about palettes breaking in my carry on, I’ll bubble wrap each one individually, securing it with rubber bands before popping it into my makeup bag.

Ladies, how do you pack your makeup for travel? Do you have any tips for Rhian?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 39 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Aleksandra says:

    Hey Karen!

    Great tips, sweetheart!

    I am going to try and use that huge roll of bubble wrap I have jammed into the far corner of my attic. There is some use for it after all… Oh, how convenient for my “maquillage” palettes πŸ˜‰

    Lots of love, Aleksa

  2. Kailey says:

    I keep all my makeup in a Coach makeup bag. After putting all my non-delicate makeup in it, I wrap any delicate items with rags/towels, then tie the towel on with rubber bands.I put those in the bag to, them stuff a few more rags in there to make sure everything is packed in with no room to shift around. Then I pack the bag between a few layers of clothes in my over-stuffed suitase. I tend to pack like Karen. A three day trip requires at least 6 outfits xD. I make sure the bag can’t shift, and away I go!

  3. Didi says:

    I really go down to the bare minimum when I travel and I also breakout my stash of samples! I leave things behind so the less I take with me, the better. Plus it gives me space to stash away any beauty buys along the way! I carry everything in my carry-on so it doesn’t break spill and I use mini-bottles for liquids like make-up remover, cleanser, toner, etc.

    BTW – I’ll be visiting Santa Monica and San Francisco in August and was wondering if there are any MUST-SHOP beauty counters you recommend?

    Didi´s last blog post..Shu Uemura Custom Palette

  4. claudia says:

    I try to take as little as possible, and if I will be upset about the possibility of it breaking, I just don’t bring it. It helps me narrow down what I am going to bring, because believe me, I really do want to bring it all over! My Stila palettes travel pretty well though.

  5. Shiny says:

    I’ve been thinking about this myself lately, and normally I pack 2 makeup bags pretty much stuffed with the necessities. I’ve never had breakage because my clothes buffer everything, but I do find it a hassle to access things quickly.

    The other day I went to a gf’s place to get ready for a party and in a pinch I threw my stuff into a long lunch container…

    1) the hard box protects your stuff from damage while in transit
    2) the watertight container protects your clothes from any leaks in your makeup supplies
    3) if you use a long skinny box it actually fits well in your suitcase
    4) For extra protection against breakage you can slip a sheet of bubble wrap in between layers
    5) super cheap, I think my box is from the dollar store

    I am doing 2 trips this month, one with carry on and one with checked luggage and I plan on using this for both. Not the prettiest option, but I think it’s going to work!

    Hope this was helpful!!

  6. meimei says:

    What a timely post! I’m actually preparing for a long-haul move right now, so practically everything in my makeup and beauty stash is Ziploc’d for protection – especially bottles and samples. That way, if anything spills, it’s easily contained.

    meimei´s last blog post..If You Must Take Up One Hobby This Summer…

  7. Anne says:

    Im afarid I dont have anything to share other than wrapping it buble wrap. I had my share of broken e/s and palette but still struggling on how to pack.
    When you find out the best way pls do share.


    Anne´s last blog post..Now that you’re HOME.

    • Taylor says:

      do you have to unwrap it when they go through security? i wanna bring my 88 palettes and dont want them to break

  8. DIMPY says:


  9. jojoba says:

    i am on vacation now and I have been away from home for almost 2 weeks! i packed so light that i wanted to laugh. i took upon parisb’s (www.mywomensstuff author) advise on packing minimal and it worked!!!

    i brough along quite a few samples to try and play. and i also have my usual staples too. however, i’d recommend those who have sensitive skin don’t try this as you don’t want to look for a dr. if anything happens! πŸ™‚

    jojoba´s last blog post..Thoughts/Swatch/Comparison: Christian Dior Diorskin Shimmer Star 004 Pop Diamond, Summer 2009

  10. Caitlin says:

    I have to say packing makeup can be a little chaotic for me!! Usually I can stuff most everything I own into a Clinique GWP bag I got years ago, and it’s the perfect size to wedge into the side of my suitcase so whether I carry on or check my bags, it doesn’t get mashed!

    For the most part, like Karen said, surround with clothes and hope for the best!

  11. Aisha says:

    I definitely pare down when traveling. I’ve got some aluminum eyeshadow palettes that won’t crack, and a makeup bag lined with plastic. But I double bag my liquids in ziplocs (yes, that’s 2 ziplocs :P). Plus, I use mini bottles that say they are leakproof, like nalgene. Samples are great to use for traveling, too, as one poster said above. Another place to get sample containers for creams, etc. is department stores and Sephora who will make you a sample to take home if you want to try it before you buy it.

    Also, some suggestions for Didi–if you got to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, there is a MAC store right across from the Sephora store. And a Fresh store right down the street!

    Also, there is a MacPro store on Robertson, either in Beverly Hills or adjacent. You can stop by the Rock and Republic store nearby too.

    The Beverly Center has Sephora, Bloomingdales (which sells the Rock and Republic line) and a MAC store plus several other beauty stores.

    Century City has a Bloomingdales that houses a Space.NK store which is kind of interesting if you’ve never been inside one.

    If you’re willing to drive down to Costa Mesa, there is South Coast plaza which has a Nordstroms and a Shu Uemura store. But I think there is also a Shu Uemura store in San Francisco as well.

    Have fun! :d

  12. Karen4 says:

    Shiny’s long plastic box idea is brilliant! I always try to minimize when going on vacay. As much as I’d like to bring everything, I pre-plan a couple of “looks” that I can do with only a few products. I usually use a vinyl-lined makeup bag and tuck it in the middle of the clothes which protects it from shifting and anything breaking. You could wrap delicate items in bubblewrap and secure with elastic if you’re worried about your MAC powder. Ziplocks work great as well, since you can see what’s inside more readily. Remember that a lot of airlines have weight restrictions and possible charges for checked baggage. Try to pack light, is my motto! Have a great vacation!

  13. ines says:

    when i’m checking a bag…i will stick to solid sticks and pots that are multitaskers. i pack mainly neutral shades that i can work in different ways. i also stick to non-liquid (i.e. sticks, powders) when i have to carry something on.

    usual stuff:
    nars the multiple – copacabana,
    nars blush – orgasm (or, if it’s somewhere sunny, guerlain poudre bronzante legere – brunette, or both sometimes),
    MAC select moisturecover NC15,
    bobbi brown long lasting gel eyeliner – sapphire shimmer ink and ivy shimmer ink,
    bobbi brown 4-pan palette filled with – champagne quartz, copper sand, heather mauve, gunmetal,
    MAC blot powder – light
    a non-smudging mascara, like diorshow l’extreme waterproof or blinc kiss me volumizing mascara in black

    then i throw in a few lippies, the usual culprits being:
    nars lipstick – funny face (with matching liner)
    nars lipliners – funny face, jungle red
    guerlain rouge le G de guerlain – geisha red
    clinique long last glosswear spf 15 – bamboo pink
    clinique superbalm moisturizing gloss – apricot
    nars lip gloss – chihuahua

    skincare-wise i pack the following:
    biotherm aquasource a levres spf 8
    avene eau thermale spray
    clinique moisturesurge extra extended thirst relief
    neutrogena sensitive skin sunblock spf 60 for face and body
    garnier fresh makeup dissolving wipes
    cetaphil cleanser
    the body shop mango body butter, 50ml size

    other stuff you find me packing:
    mark. by avon travel brush kit
    federic fekkai glossing serum
    miniatures of aveda rosemary mint shampoo and conditioner
    small bottle of a versatile fragrance that is cabin friendly, e.g. ralph lauren romance 30ml or clean shower fresh 30 ml

  14. ines says:

    ps – i carry on the powders to prevent them from breaking but keep most liquids in separate groups, sealed in ziplocs and put in a huge makeup bag by lancome that i got for free with purchase. to comply with airlines i try to carry as little liquid as possible.

  15. Meream says:

    I always place the liquids inside an airtight bag and placed in the center of my luggage. I carry the powder and gloss with me. πŸ™‚

  16. To echo the advice of some of the commenters above…ziplocs, ziplocs, ziplocs! Everything I bring gets bagged in case of spillage, especially liquids. And ESPECIALLY self-tanners.

    For pressed powders/compacts, I like so stuff the airspace between the powder and the lid with cotton rounds. Keeps them from getting jostled, and even if they do (gasp!) break, the pieces will hold together and stay contained.

    Same trick for loose powders like mineral foundation…stuff cotton balls in the space between the little sifter and the lid, and you won’t have an exploding mess of powder in the top of the jar when you arrive.

    Beauty Addict Kristen’s last blog post… Bronzer for Pale People: MAC Solar Riche

  17. Erin says:

    Hi there, I am a new reader to the blog and I am addicted (much like I am to makeup — fitting that I love the blog, right?).

    Even when I check a bag, I keep my makeup with me at all times, since I would be devastated if I lost any of it.

    I am with Didi and I use the freebies and sample sizes when I travel for skincare. I use Clinique for skin so I have a lot of sample sizes from GWP.

    I pare down for eyes and face and usually take either a Chanel or Stila pallet with me.

    For lips, which is my obsession, I can’t pare down and I still take a full bag of glosses. That doesn’t leave my side, EVER!

  18. Dao says:

    For palettes, I bubble wrap them if I have to put them in my luggage. Otherwise, they’re in my carry-on. Also, I try to take the multi-functional products with me to cut down the amount of stuff on board.

    Dao’s last blog post… L’Oréal HiP Kohl Eyeliner: Rock It Like Cleopatra

  19. Well I just made the mistake of taking my Make Up For Ever loose HD powder to London and not taping the holes up. So when I got there TONS of the powder was in the lid area and I lost a lot of it. I highly recommend taping those holes shut so it can’t escape!

    I also brought back a bunch of nail polish safely by putting them in a plastic bag then putting that bag into a bubble wrapped envelope and putting it in my suitcase surrounded by clothes and they all were fine when I got home!
    [rq=2726,0,blog][/rq]MAC Trip 5 Cool Eyes

  20. Sejal says:

    I have a MAC medium size makeup bag that is just slightly larger than the size of a 15 paletter. Not sure if it is still available but I highly recommend it. I usually carry one 15 palette, narrow down the other products like blush and liner to a few basics, and carry foundation in a plastic bottle so it doesnt break and weighs less too. I recently got the MAC plastic travel bottles and they work great. I too use the MSF Natural and have taken it all sorts of places without it breaking so I don’t think it will be a problem.

    I pad the makeup bag with clothes. I try to keep packing simple and don’t like using bubble wrap and all that excess stuff…I’d rather pack another extra top or dress and use that as padding.

    Sejal’s last blog post… Bipasha’s Beauty Secrets

  21. Redhead says:

    I find it’s a LOT easier to store my delicate makeup items (eyeshadows, loose powder, blushes, etc.) in plastic wrap in case any of the lids have an opening where product might escape. I then wrap all of the saran-wrapped delicates in one big bubble wrap package, try to arrange them in the flattest order possible, and store them in a big tote bag. Liquids get done in the same order, except I try to find empty sample bottles less than 3 oz. (like hotel shampoos and conditioners) and store a small amount of the product there. Mascara is stored with the liquids. Creams stay in their cases – I identify creams like this: if they’re over 3 oz and fluid enough to reach a bottle, they’re liquids. Anything else is either a powder or a cream! My brushes go in a MAC brush roll and in a separate compartment in case they fall out with my sturdier hair tools (hairbrush, straightener, blowdryer) and I’m good to go!

  22. Alexzandra says:

    I place all my makeup in my carry on when I travel so…
    1) I try to stick with items that multi task and can travel easily ie. sticks, creams, pressed powders.

    2) I take minis of any liquids or gels and tape around the lid before I place them in my zip-lock baggy. Also, for some liquids like perfume and makeup remover it works best to soak cotton balls with the product before you leave home, place the cotton balls in their own separate and labeled zip-locks, and then just take them with you instead of the whole bottle.

    3) I place cotton pads over my blushes/powders before shutting the lids, so that they have extra padding if I’m concerned that they will break.

    So far I’ve never had anything break or leak, and everything has worked out okay πŸ™‚

    Alexzandra’s last blog post… Nars Loves S.F. Event Photos

  23. cloudburst says:

    The best advice I have for protecting compacts or powders is to fill the gap inside the compact between the product & the lid with cotton pads or disc sponges, that way if they do (god forbid) get dropped or rattled around the product is less likely to crack because it’s being held snugly in place by the padding.

  24. I put all my makeup and perfume in my carry on. I spend to much on it for it to get messed up or be missing when I open my luggage. I try to take a lot of powder makeup so then I can put my liquids in the storage bags you have to us. I am going to be living Monday the 15th for Oahu for 2 weeks. Hope you will try to contact me. I will give you my number and maybe we can meet.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joyce,

      How exciting! You’ll love Hawaii!

      I actually don’t live on Oahu… I live in the SF Bay Area. I have family there, so I visit every once in a while.

  25. penelope says:

    use tape on bottle stuff for example like lipstick, foundation on the cap so it can stay

  26. Aisha says:

    hi again! Not sure if Didi is going to see this, but just wanted to let her know tha the Mac Pro store on Robertson (south of Beverly) validates for the parking structure across the street. πŸ˜€

  27. Rhian says:

    I completely forgot that I sent this in a while back! It was so useful when I went to Japan, and next week I’ll be heading to Cairo, Bangkok, Singapore and Bali with my brother and parents over Christmas break and it has come in handy yet again! Thanks for the tips, Rhian.

  28. nichelle says:

    i tend to bring a lot when i travel, but i can also simplify & travel oh so lightly when i need to.

    *ziplocs are a must (of various sizes)
    * put shampoos & conditioners in freezer quart bags, use them up during the trip (just cut off a corner), then toss the bag when i pack to go home.
    *i always tape up the lid of any liquid and place in a freezer ziploc.
    *i put a layer of glad press & seal over each blush, shadow, highlighter, palette (anything that i don’t want to shatter), to protect it. i put those in their respective makeup bag or ziploc bag and then, i also pad it in between clothes in my suitcase.
    *i bring lots of samples to try out new products.
    *i only bring solid perfumes.
    *i’ve given up on loose powder & bought smashbox halo; you just turn the “head” and it “scrapes” off just enough product for you to use. i love it! no loose powder, no mess in my bathroom,, makeup bag, etc.
    *i usually travel only in the summer & i never wear foundation (only tinted moisturizer) when it’s hot, so i don’t have to worry abt breaking my expensive foundations.

  29. Karla Murray says:

    These are great tips Karen and I like the silver turk bag! I’m one for traveling light. Making sure I have my daytime makeup and one palette of darker and shimmer shades of eye color to spruce up for night time. I use to bring it all, almost a tackle box, but I noticed that I didn’t use half of what I brought – maybe it was a security thing! lol
    Karla Murray recently posted … Beauty Tips for The Perfect Lips

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