The Ultimate Guide to Travel-Sized Beauty Products (By a Carry-On-Only Fanatic)

And the best under-the-radar products you didn't know you needed.
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By now, we all know I'm nuts when it comes to traveling efficiently—and my refusal to pay bag fees or wait at baggage claim means I never pack more than a carry-on. While cosmetics and skincare used to be my least-favorite thing to pack, they became my favorite as soon as I began actually researching products. Now, discovering a new favorite travel-sized item is a pre-trip tradition I covet, and I'm a firm believer that the "travel" section of any beauty store is the most under-appreciated. I mean, the place is a candy store! Even if you aren't traveling, it's full of mostly under-$25 finds that are the perfect opportunity to test-out a product before committing to the full-size. And brands know mini sizes are a key marketing opportunity, so they often sweeten the deal on kits by bunching products at a sizable discount. I grouped together some of my very favorite finds below, including this five-day face mask system that will have you looking your best even at the end of your trip, this product which turns any full-size perfume into a mini, the cutest red-and-pink mini straightener, and an update on immunity-boosting Vitamin C packets. Read on for my favorite TSA-friendly picks: 

#1

General Skincare - Drunk Elephant 'The Littles:' I bought this pack before heading on my annual family trip to Guatemala for the holidays, in lieu of my regular skincare routine. The eight-piece set had everything I needed to treat dehydrated skin (hello, day-drinking), breakouts (from tropical sweaty heat), and uneven texture (I survived almost exclusively that week on beer, sugar, and beans). If you buy one thing from this post, this is it, but they also sell packs of just the daytime and evening products as well if you don't want to commit. (This $25 kit is also a great deal!)

The Chicest All-in-One Toiletry Kit - Grown Alchemist: This eight-piece kit covers all the basics, from hand cream to shampoo and conditioner, and even toothpaste. Plus, you won't find a chicer kit out there (this one from Aesop is a close second, but isn't a one-stop shop). 

For On-Board Discomforts - biocol labs' "something for jetsetters:" On planes, my stomach gets so bloated I often avoid eating on board (I just eat a meal before and after, but make exceptions for particularly long flights). To help combat it, I often mix a teaspoon of Nue Co's Probiotic into a bottle of water, but this kit, which includes an immunity booster, melatonin, and pills to combat a hangover has everything you would need to treat discomfort associated with a long-haul flight. 

Face Mask Kit - Flawless by Friday 5-Day Facial Mask Kit: My mom likes to say that once you look like your passport photo, it's time to head home. Jokes aside, my skin often looks noticeably duller after a trip, where I'm eating less-healthy and spending a lot more time in the sun. This kit is designed to combat exactly that, and ensure you still have glowing skin by the end of a week-long trip (plus the routine of putting on a face mask is the perfect way to de-stress from a busy day of exploring or sunning!). 

So You Can Wake Up Refreshed - BYBI Beauty Sleep Bundle: This set has everything you need to sleep on your flight and wake-up refreshed, including a face mask (a travel must) and a nighttime skincare set that includes a mist and serum designed to give you flawlessly bouncy skin by arrival. 

For 'Just in Case' Moments - Pinch Provisions Minimergency Kit: Hopefully, you won't need a single thing in this "minimergency" kit, which includes a small sewing kit, bandaids, pain reliever, and earring backs among other potential life-savers, but you'll be glad you have it if anything comes up!

A Beach or Adventure Vacation Must-Have - COOLA SPF Kit: I used this kit (which features more of their sweat-proof products than this one does) when I traveled to Park City for a ski trip earlier this year, and it contained everything I needed for the blinding sun that bounces off the snow. It's also ideal for a beach vacation. 

The Extra-Special Travel Kit - Rodin Oilo Lusso Travel Kit: Rodin is one of the best skincare brands on the market, with a price tag to match. This one is $250, but is worth the splurge if you're heading on a once-in-a-lifetime trip like your honeymoon or destination wedding! 

If You Can Only Grab One Thing - Let's Get Away Beauty Box: This kit doesn't have everything you'd need, but it has a good mix of makeup, skincare, and haircare that will have you feeling put-together, wherever you are (plus it includes my all-time favorite hydrating lip tint). 

For A Week of Clean Teeth - Marvis 7 Day Set: Each of these toothpastes contains 1.3 ounces and will last you far longer than a "day" as the name of the set suggests. Count on bringing one per each week-long trip. The different flavors allow you to choose your favorite flavor for when you'll inevitably want to invest in a full size! It's also a fantastic deal—their travel-sized pastes go for $7 individually, so this saves you $13.

Hair Product Essentials - Three Ouai Set: See below for my favorite travel shampoo and conditioner, but if you're looking to fit all your haircare needs in your bag, this set from Ouai is your best bet—especially since it's just $25, which is significantly lower than other similar-quality sets you'll come across.

If You Need Extra Help with Blemishes - Benefit's Boi-ing Concealer Kit: When skincare fails, this kit has everything you need to cover-up under-eye circles, blemishes, and even bug bites (speaking from experience...). 

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Eye Masks - Juice Beauty Algae Eye Mask: More often than not, I don't actually wear a face mask on the plane (i.e., I won't do it unless cabin lights are fully dim or I'm with friends who can join me, then laugh with me). But I'm all about an under-eye mask. My favorite natural option is this Juice Beauty Algae Eye Mask which makes my eyes look noticeably plumper, but I can't resist these gold eye masks from Wander Beauty (they also sell them in a travel kit!), which Emily turned me on to.

Blemish Patches - CosRX Blemish PatchesOkay, I'm going to admit a kind of gross thing here. My greatest skincare faux pas is that I pick at my face. And, whether it's because of the universally unflattering light or the fact that I'm simply bored, the place I'm most likely to do this is an airplane bathroom (don't say I didn't warn you). These days I know this is literally the worst thing I could possibly do for my skin, since it's already dehydrated and fragile, and my hands are dirty from travel (and I used to wonder why I always broke out on flights!). Now, I smuggle CosRX into the bathroom with me, and place them on pimples as soon as I'm at cruising altitude. Then, right before landing, I remove them so that customs doesn't think I'm nuts... It's been a game-changer in terms of starting my trip off blemish-free. 

Face Wipes - Ursa Major Cleansing Face Wipes: I keep these Ursa Major wipes placed strategically in my car (for if I'm not able to shower immediately after a workout) and my purse. Since they're individually wrapped, they can go anywhere!  

Blotters - Boscia Clear Complexion Blotting Wipes: If you have oily skin, these are a must-have, especially if your skin over-compensates and gets oilier from the dehydrating, air-circulating air cabin. Just a few dabs are all you need to remove excess oil.

The Chicest Antibacterial - Aesop Rinse-Free Hand Wash: Not only does this hand cleanser come in Aesop's chic packaging, but it also isn't alcohol-based so it's non-drying. And, no surprise here: It smells incredible. 

Deodorant - Pinch Provisions Deodorant Towelettes: These pre-soaked towelettes will have you feeling fresh as a daisy, even after a trans-Atlantic flight.

Aromatherapy - Tata Harper Irritability TreatmentYears ago, I splurged on this oil from Tata Harper because it smells incredible and really does work to make me feel less anxious on flights. I dab a tiny bit on the inside of each wrist (not enough so my seat mate can also smell me) and catch whiffs of calming eucalyptus throughout the flight.

3

Shampoo and Conditioner - Kristen Ess Shampoo and Conditioner: I love these products because they work for all hair types (truly) and smell incredible. While I now use Aesop's shampoo and conditioner at home, they're what I bring on every trip. 

Heavy Duty Shampoo - Christophe Robin Salt Scrub Shampoo: If you're heading somewhere hot and sweaty (or traveling for a destination running race), it may be worth bringing a serious detox shampoo you can use every other day. I love this one from goop, but Christophe Robin's, which comes in travel size, is a suit-case friendly option.

Dry Shampoo - VERB Powder Dry Shampoo: Some bad news—you aren't allowed to bring your full-size aerosol shampoo spray on the flight if it's over 3.4 ounces. This powder shampoo from VERB is a fantastic alternative. And I would know: I have the world's greasiest hair.

Styling Product - Ouai Spray MiniWhen I travel, I want my hair routine to take as little time as possible, so I can get out of my Airbnb and on with my day. I usually plan my hair cuts around travel so I can start my trip with a blow out (my hair dresser, Melanie, now greets me by saying, "Where are you headed?"). Once my blow-out loses its luster, I opt for for clean, air-dried hair with a touch of product, like this one from Ouai which gives my thin hair a bit of bounce that lasts from breakfast to dinner. 

Hair Dryer - T3 Feather-Light Dryer: When I do do my hair, I'm often able to find an Airbnb or hotel that provides hair dryers. Otherwise, this one from T3 is so strong and light, it's worth the splurge. (This one from EVA NYC is also a great option, though I prefer to spend a little more on the T3 since it's stronger.)

Straightener - EVA NYC Straightener: EVA NYC is my go-to brand for travel-sized hair tools since they're powerful, cute, and affordable. I love this red-and-pink straightener for S-waves or straight hair (and this heated brush if you want to get out the door even quicker). 

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Portable Razor - Sphynx: This thing is incredible because you can shave on the go with it, in a pinch. It comes with a built-in Shea butter bar! Take it from me, just buy the refill pack now. You're going to love it. (It also comes in this chic shade of black.) 

Serum - Vichy Vitamin C Serum: Because serums are the most expensive part of my routine, I leave my "nice" ones at home, and bring a Vitamin C-rich serum I wouldn't be devastated to lose or break while on the go.

Face Sunscreen - Supergoop Setting Mist: We featured this mist in a Find of the Week years ago, and it's still my favorite sunscreen while traveling. It's 50 SPF, so it offers plenty of coverage, and is a mist so it literally couldn't be easier to reapply (I keep it in my purse during the day so I don't forget!). 

Must-Have Hydrating Lip Tint - Olio e Osso in 'No 9 Spring'This tint gives an effortless, pretty tint but it's also so hydrating (with Shea butter, beeswax, and olive oil), you won't need anything else to keep your lips from getting chapped. 

Body Sunscreen and Lotion - Supergoop 2-in-1: Sunscreen is more important than ever when traveling because chances are you're spending more time outside than you would normally at home. I love this option from Supergoop, which doubles as a lotion and includes a built-in SPF lip! Genius.

Toner - Thayers Toning Towelettes: Whenever possible, buy the towelette version of your favorite product since it'll save you from fitting one more thing into your 'liquids' bag. Our entire office loves this Thayers toner which (blissfully) comes in easy-to-pack towelettes!

Exfoliator - Dr. Dennis Gross Daily Exfoliator: If using an exfoliator is an important part of your routine, this is probably the best one to travel with, since it comes in individually wrapped wipes and is gentle enough that you're safe to spend a day in the sun while using it, though I recommend applying it at night. 

When You Need a Refresh - Cora Feminine Wipes: The thing I love most about these wipes, besides the fact that they double as general body wipes, is how subtle they are. Unlike other feminine wipes, which announce themselves with pink in-your-face packaging, no one's going to immediately know what these are for if they fall out of your carry-on. Plus, every purchase supports a woman in need. I love what the brand stands for.

Toothpaste - Tom's Natural Whitening Toothpaste: I love this option, but most toothpastes come in a mini version so you can always find your own (or put it in a to-go tube).

Toothbrush and Holder: I use an electric toothbrush at home, but bring one of these (which come with their own cases) to keep my bamboo toothbrush safe when I travel. These cases are great if traveling with a family, since they come in four different colors!

For the rest of my favorite skincare and makeup products, see "How I Transitioned My Entire Beauty Routine to Be Natural"

5

Perfume - Perfume Atomizer: In my post about traveling to Paris and Copenhagen, I wrote about why I loved bringing the Le Labo Discovery Set (it was fun to use a different perfume everyday, depending on my mood!), but I also consider this Perfume Atomizer to be one of the most underrated products. It allows you to pack your favorite full-sized perfume!

The First Thing I Add Post-Plane Ride - RMS Champagne Rosé Luminizer: I've written about this product a million times, and I'll probably write about it a million more. It's magic. Because I don't wear makeup when I fly (it isn't great for your skin and may kick off your trip on the wrong foot), I add a dab of this to my cheekbones once I land. It's all I need to feel pulled-together and pretty.

If You Want a Travel Glow Before You Go - Kora Organics Gradual Tanner: This lotion is the all-natural, organic version of Emily's favorite tan towels (which also work amazingly well!). Begin applying it daily in the month leading up to your beach vacation to avoid feeling ghostly for the first few days. 

6

A note on the clear TSA 'liquids bag': When traveling within the United States, I always use either the pink reusable bags that come with Glossier purchases or the removable pouch that comes in this Hudson + Bleecker train bag. The only airport I was told to use a plastic zipper bag in (which they provided) was London, Heathrow. I usually pack my toiletries in a reusable clear bag (clear being the key here) since so few airports insist on using an actual zipper bag.

Favorite Cosmetics Bags for Travel (I have mine in 'Pebbled Blush')
Best All-Around Travel Container Set
For Your Beauty Blender
For Your Clarisonic (or just bring this travel-friendly version)
For Miscellaneous Basics You'd Rather Fill Yourself
For Your Toothpaste