How To Travel With Your Skincare Routine

TSA doesn’t care about your 10-step regimen. Here’s how you can avoid a skincare disaster while you’re away from home.
Written by Témi Adebowale
Is this article helpful?7 min read
How To Travel With Your Skincare RoutineSTIL/Unsplash

While you may be ready to jet off to your beach vacation or city escape, your packing list needs to be taken care of first. Packing is a very important but, let’s face it, very annoying part of going away. The good news? Your clothes, shoes, and electronics can usually be tucked into a suitcase or carry-on bag without any fuss. Skincare, however, is a totally different story.

From breakable glass bottles and leaky tubes to the sheer volume of the rotating products you like to keep on hand to address different skin concerns, successfully condensing your regimen for a few days or weeks away can feel daunting. In order to find out what parts of your skincare routine are worthy of taking on your trip and what products can stay home, we tapped two top skincare experts for their insider advice.

Skincare Products to Travel With

First things first: Regardless of how short or long your normal skincare routine is, there are a few products that should be classified as non-negotiable. “If you pack like I do (i.e. 24 outfits for a four-day trip), then you might think that you’ll need to bring everything but the kitchen sink,” quips Katrina Moreno Lewis, founder of Kura Skin. “But, in reality, you’ll just need a handful of musts.”

So, what makes the must-have list?

  1. Cleanser
  2. Moisturizer
  3. Sunscreen

Basically, you’ll want to embrace the ‘skinimalism’ trend. “If this trio looks familiar, that’s because these are the same core elements that you should be reaching for on a daily basis,” Lewis shares. “Keeping those core daily elements consistent as you travel can be a very good idea.”

As for those skincare extras — like serums and treatments — Lewis says you should consider the number of times you actually plan to use the product and what you intend to use it for. For example, “if you find that using your exfoliant three times a week predictably helps keep your skin clear, then it should go in the bag,” Lewis notes.

Skincare Products to Leave at Home

As for what you can skip, avoid products that have the potential to aggravate or irritate your skin. “Traveling is actually quite stressful for your skin,” says Krupa Koestline, clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants. “When your skin is stressed, avoid using too many harsh skincare actives and exfoliants.” That includes retinoids, exfoliating toners, and even clay masks. “Focus instead on calming and soothing products,” she shares. “If you break out while on vacation, just use a clay mask when you're back home to refresh your skin a bit.”

For those that need to be conscious of luggage weight requirements or limited space in a carry-on, Lewis says you should opt for multitaskers. “If you’re flying only with a carry-on, you may have to make a few trade-offs,” she notes. “In these cases, what I typically leave behind are things like sheet masks, which fall into the ‘nice-to-have’ category.” In keeping with Koestline’s calming and soothing advice, Lewis likes to pack a hydrating serum and facial oil. “That combination allows for more layering options and flexibility while on the go,” she shares.

Lewis also cautions that your girls’ trip is not the time to experiment. “This is not the best time to introduce products that you’ve never used before,” she says. “And it’s just about the worst time to swap your whole routine for those miscellaneous little sample packets you’ve been squirreling away.” Koestline agrees, noting that it’s best to “avoid anything new to your skin [while traveling], as it may cause you to react because your skin will be more sensitive than usual.”

Skincare Products to Add While Traveling

As we mentioned earlier, the stress of traveling can affect your skin. As such, you may decide to add a few products to your travel skincare routine to offset the dryness and irritation that can arise when you’re away from home. This is especially an issue when flying. “The essential key to maintaining your skin during travel is moisturizing,” Koestline says. “Airplane rides and air pollution dry your skin out, so the best way to combat this is to keep your skin hydrated.”

Her go-to hydration kit includes a balm, basic moisturizer, and overnight mask. In the latter category, she’s a fan of the Tata Harper Hydrating Mask and Hear Me Raw Hydrator. “These are beautiful formulas with natural hydrating botanicals and clinical ingredients to plump the skin,” she notes. One of our favorites for air travel is the goodhabit Catch Flights, Not Feelings Skin Shielding Serum, which is specifically formulated to shield skin from the dry air, dust, and pollution you may encounter while on a plane.

Your travel destination should also inform which products you should swap in or out. “For example, if you’re heading to the desert, you might pack a richer moisturizer and facial oil,” Lewis notes. If your destination is hot and humid, reach for a lightweight hydrator. “These little swaps can be really important to helping your skin stay in balance,” she says.

As for the ever-popular sheet masks and face mists that many influencers and content creators post about using before take off? Both Koestline and Lewis say that sheet masks can be skipped, but face mists can be great — so long as you check the ingredient list. “If you like mists, rose hydrosols are a must-try,” Koestline says. “They act as an astringent toner, anti-inflammatory agent, as well as a hydrator all in one!” Avoid spritizing your face with formulas that include alcohol or other drying agents that can make matters worse.

Don’t Underestimate Lifestyle Factors…

One last note — while being away from your normal skincare routine can lead to skin changes, it’s important to remember that other travel-related elements can affect your complexion. “It’s a mistake to think that how your skin looks and feels is the result of only your skin plus your skincare,” Lewis warns. “There are so many new variables that can enter into the equation while you travel.”

We know climate is one such factor, but so is your overall health and wellbeing. “Diet can have a huge impact on your skin,” Lewis says. “If you’re eating out or suddenly ordering a dessert every night, that extra sugar can throw things out of whack.” And then there is the topic of beauty sleep. “Don’t forget the stress of travel or lower quality sleep,” she adds. “All these factors can mean a hit to your skin.”

How To Travel With Skincare

Now that you know what to bring, the question is how to bring it with you. Whether it be because of size or the material the product is housed in, many skincare products are not well-equipped for transport. Some brands sell travel-size versions of their bestsellers. But, if you can’t find a mini or prefer a more sustainable option, there are a number of travel beauty accessories that are perfect for every type of tourist:

For the Type-A Traveler: Cadence Build Your 6 Bundle


This editor-approved travel set consists of a set of magnetic honeycombs that can hold anything from serums and toothpaste to hair gel and vitamins. You can customize the color and icon of each container for a truly personalized experience. $70,

For the Laid-Back Voyager: Sephora Reusable Travel Container Set


This five-piece set is TSA-friendly on all fronts. It comes with a quintet containers in varying sizes and pump styles, as well as a set of labels so you know exactly what product you’re picking up. The best part? It all stows away in a convenient clear pouch. $12,

For the Hands-on Explorer: Kitsch Refillable Travel Pouch 3pc Set


Perfect for those who struggle to get the last drop out of their products, these flexible pouches can be squeezed and refilled time and time again. Their slim design means they’ll take up less luggage space, and the fact that they are dishwasher-safe means you can swap out what’s stored in them without worrying about cross-contamination. $10,

For the DIY Globetrotter: Renée Rouleau Toning Cloths


The best way to avoid spills? Not traveling with liquids in the first place. There’s no need to worry about a leak when you have toning pads. Simply saturate the cloth with toner, eye makeup remover, or even cleanser, then put the cloth into a reusable bag (check out the demonstration here). While you could technically try this trick with cotton balls or tissue paper, Rouleau’s cloths are made with fibers that absorb 50 percent less product. $16 for 130 cloths,

The Takeaway

Traveling with your skincare routine can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually pretty simple once you establish your plan of attack. Your base routine should feature a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF, and additions can include hydrating serums, mists, and masks. Steer clear of harsh exfoliators and retinols (unless they’re already key parts of your routine!), and new products should almost always be avoided. As for travel containers, there are a number of options that can save space and make getting through TSA a breeze.

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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TÉMI ADEBOWALEis an editor at AEDIT.

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