The Definitive Guide to Packing Your Makeup and Skincare in a Carry-On

Getting our clothes lost in luggage is one thing, but our beauty routine? No way we’re letting that happen.
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Apr, 2023
Must-Have Travel Beauty Products

Going away? Great! But before the sunrise selfies and experiences of a lifetime, you first have to get through something harrowing: packing. From trying to remember all your favorite holiday outfits and accessories to packing your makeup and skincare in a carry-on bag, you have your work cut out for you.

So, what exactly is the best way to pack your makeup and skincare, especially in a carry-on bag? The last thing you want to do is show up at your friend’s house with your face wash leaking all over your clothes or your favorite eyeshadow palette cracked and mixed together.

Don’t worry. We’ve got your definitive guide to packing a makeup carry-on here so you can travel worry-free this holiday season.

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Where to Start?

Where to Start

The first thing you need to do is find a good bag to carry your makeup and skincare products in. Trust us, this is worth the investment, especially when flying.

It’s essential to keep in mind that any liquids in a carry-on, even they are a moisturizer, cream, mascara, or other items you may not traditionally consider a liquid, must go in a clear quart-sized bag for TSA review.

So even if your carry-on bag already has a small section for makeup or skincare products, go ahead and get a separate bag that’s clear and can act as your makeup carry-on or skincare bag.

We’ve included a few suggestions for you here so you can go clear and see exactly what you’re grabbing (and what you’re packing) for a speedy security process when you arrive at the airport.

Decanting vs. Not Decanting

Decanting vs. Not Decanting

Decanting your skincare products is definitely a worthy consideration if you have full-sized products to ensure everything will fit in your makeup carry-on.

However, decanting isn’t the right choice for every product—mostly just for liquids like face wash or sunblock and creams such as moisturizers that you need to keep under the 3.4-ounce (100 milliliters) limit for a carry-on.

If you’d like to transfer your products to a separate container, there are a few things to consider:

  • Some products—such as vitamin C serums—are in a dark bottle for a reason and shouldn’t be transferred to a separate container.
  • Although glass travel bottles are heavier (and can be prone to breaking), they are generally a safer and more hygienic option than plastic bottles when decanting.
  • Be sure to use clean tools and hands when transferring products, as they can easily become contaminated with bacteria.
  • Always choose leak-proof containers to ensure you don’t arrive at your location with ruined clothes or other items.

All in all, whether or not you choose to decant your products for traveling will depend on the products you’re traveling with, whether you can find mini sizes of these products or if they are even able to be transferred into a smaller container.

Bring Your Double-Duty Products

Bring Your Double-Duty Products

Mini sizes and double-duty products can help you keep a complaint makeup carry-on when flying.

Some double-duty products to consider include foundation with sunblock, a liquid bronzer or highlighter that also functions as a serum, or a moisturizer that doubles as a face mask or spot treatment.

Even though double-duty products can certainly be helpful on your travels (and before leaving when you’re in a packing frenzy), it’s generally not a good idea to purchase products you have never tried before just to travel with. If your skin reacts to that product or you find the color just doesn’t suit you, you’re stuck with it on your trip.

What you can do is look for mini versions of your favorite products or purchase a product to try before you go. Some examples of double-duty products and mini sizes to consider for your holiday travels include:

 This product doubles as a sunscreen while helping you set your makeup and create a matte effect on the skin.

This pigment helps build color for lips and cheeks and is available in 12 different shades—no separate lip tint or blush is required in your makeup carry-on.

Get four different pigments available in three different palette color selections to suit your skin tone, all in a mini size.

This mini-size product can be used as a serum or overnight mask to rehydrate dry and thirsty skin.

Expert Tips When Packing Your Products

Expert Tips When Packing Your Products

So, you’ve got your clear quart-sized bag and you’ve decanted what products you can and bought mini sizes of the rest. What else do you need to do? Finish packing your makeup and skincare products like a pro with these expert tips:

  • Can’t decant a product or find a mini size? Bring makeup or skincare samples if you have them, which generally allow for one to two uses before you can toss the packaging.
  • Avoid liquids where possible—look for dry shampoos, powders, and bar soaps you can bring with you to prevent liquids from leaking in your carry-on. Plus, it gives you more flexibility when traveling as you won’t need to squeeze these items into your clear quart-sized bag.
  • Only going away for a couple of days? Use a contact lens case to pack moisturizer, foundation, or sunblock, so you don’t have to bring full-size products.
  • Finally, keep your bag of liquid products on top when you first open your carry-on suitcase or bag. It will make it faster and easier to get through airport security.

By following these tips and packing smart, you can ensure you arrive at your destination with everything you need for your makeup and skincare routine.

Download Your Guide to the ‘Just Say No’ Skincare Ingredients

We get that shopping for products to put in your makeup carry-on can be overwhelming. To help YOU get started and avoid ingredients that could potentially irritate your skin, download your guide on the skincare ingredients to avoid not just this holiday season, but every season!

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