How To Pack Fewer Toiletries in a Carry-On

The one thing that is always a bit tricky with the carry-on way of life is adhering to the limits on liquids and gels. At home, I’ll use anywhere between 5-15 liquid products in a day. Between shampoo, conditioner, hair product, face wash, toner, foundation, toothpaste, sunscreen, and perfume, how is one expected to fit everything into a tiny plastic bag?

(Also, we should talk about how expensive it is to be a woman. It’s so unfair.)

The solution? You gotta pare down, no question about it. Here are my favourite strategies for bringing less toiletries and makeup.

Simplify your routine

Do you use a different shampoo for your roots and your ends? Do you have a different face lotion for morning and evening? Kudos for self-care and loving your body, but I doubt you’ll have room for all that. Make a point of simplifying your beauty routine and you’ll already be miles ahead. This is particular to each person, so I can’t prescribe any blanket solutions, but test which products you can forgo and which ones you can’t. For example, I gave up on blow-dryers or any hair tools for that matter. Just.Not.Worth.It.

Use what’s available

Are you staying in a hotel or with friends? Much like a towel, if you’re staying in a place that has toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, and you’re not *too* picky, you can save a lot of space by just using what’s available on location. Staying an extended period of time? Pick some up there if you think you’ll use it all up before going home. I do that with sunscreen and beach vacations. I just know I’ll need so much more than 100 ml.

Maximize double-duty products

This is by far my favourite tip. Almost all the products I pack have dual purposes:

Bring solids

Lush is a good brand for this (they make solid toothpaste, whaaaat?), although so far, my favourite products are still mostly liquids. If I only need a face wash (maybe shampoo is available on location), I can get by with a good quality tea tree soap bar. Deodorant and perfume can also be bought as solids, and if my skin is healthy, I can get by with face powder and a bit of stick concealer and leave the foundation at home.

Use samples and travel sizes

I never knew how much I liked free samples at beauty stores like Sephora until I started packing said samples for 1-2 night weekend trips. I could stretch a sample over two days and throw it out — no fuss, no muss. The mini versions of mascara and lipstick are also great space-savers and über cute.

Do as much as you can before you leave

If you’re just higher-maintenance by nature (hey, no judgement!), do as much of your primping before your trip as possible. If you need a dye touch up, to get a wax, whiten your teeth, do a hair mask, get a facial, go tanning, get your nails done, etc etc, do it all before you leave so you don’t have to bring anything with you, since you’ll be a darn right vision already.

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