One for the girls: What makeup should I take when traveling light?

I’m aware that not all girls take makeup with them when traveling, but perhaps I’m a little bit vain. I like my eyes to not look as if I’m still asleep, and I like to have a warm, even glow, even if it’s the middle of winter.

However, deciding on the bare minimum isn’t easy. The first thing to examine is “where am I going?” In certain areas of Western Asia and South America and most parts of Europe, North America, and Oceania chances are that you’ll be surrounded by women who aren’t too far away from their eyeliner. In other parts of the world, areas in South America and much of South-East Asia there will be a far more relaxed attitude toward aesthetics because it’s either too hot to wear makeup or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places things like shelter and food at a higher priority level than your $100 Guerlain Bronzer. You also have to think about the elements as well as your safety and pack accordingly. For instance, will it be really sunny/windy/cold? Then take a foundation with SPF 30+ and a decent lip conditioner. Will you be in cities like Costa Rica’s San Jose? Guatemala City? Rio? Apart from the fact that your highlighted hair and peachy complexion will already have you standing out from the locals, nothing screams “rich foreigner” more than a thick coat of iridescent, super plumping pearly gloss smacked all over your English-speaking lips.

The second question to ask yourself is, “what are my strong points?” If you are blessed with a perfect complexion you might not need concealer or foundation. If you are a rosy-cheeked English or Irish lass, you probably won’t need any blush. If you are Asian, you probably won’t need anything, unless you want to look even younger than you already do. 

The third question to ask yourself is, “do I want to pick up?” Because really, in cities like Rome or Paris (particularly where I was staying in Montmartre) you can look feral and still attract attention from the opposite sex. I remember my days in Paris, sans makeup, red-faced and shiny in 35 degrees and 85% humidity, jogging along the street in my very unfashionable exercise gear…..yes, believe it or not, even this heavenly vision managed to rouse some excitement.

So when you know where you’re going, what your intentions are and how much you want to stand out you can start seeing how much makeup you’ll need to take. Try to get things that can double up, for example brown eyeshadow and also be used to fill in your eyebrows and rouge is good for both lips and cheeks. I keep it minimal but comprehensive (and this is now the extent of my makeup purse when I’m back home, too):

All this goes on top of a daily SPF 30 moisturiser and for daytime takes me about 3 minutes to apply, and about 5 minutes for an evening look. As you can see below it’s not much in total, packs nicely into a small toiletries bag and isn’t much larger (or heavier) than a regular paperback book. Easy peasy!


All images appearing on this blog ( may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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2 thoughts on “One for the girls: What makeup should I take when traveling light?

  1. Kelly says:

    Sol, that is larger than my current makeup bag! This past trip I traveled with a concealer stick, mascara and some good blistex as well as a teeny tube of SPF30 moisturiser for my face and a small tube of general mosituriser for elsewhere as required. Previous trip (Asia mainly, but then onto Europe where I cursed my very light backpack) I had only soap and a tube of the basic nivea moisturiser (I don’t count actual sunblock or mosquito repellent in this category).I think the best bet would be the minis of everything from the body shop or elsewhere if you have the cash; there’s nothing better than smelling like tropical fruit if you’re staying in sorry horrible, dingy hostel to bring up your mood 🙂 These days I have a sample sized little screw-top container which can fit just enough cleansing face wash for a long weekend and that’s awesome 🙂

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