Decluttering and capsule wardrobes have become extremely popular in the past few years, especially with those who travel regularly. In effect a capsule wardrobe is just a newer name for how we’ve always packed when travelling, it ensures the maximum looks, combinations and essentials are on hand with the minimum luggage to tote around with us. A few years back I extended the concept to a capsule makeup bag for travel and now it’s all I use 90% of the time.
Table of Contents
- So what is a capsule makeup bag
- Factors to consider in preparing a capsule makeup bag
- What’s in my capsule makeup bag when I travel
- In conclusion
So what is a capsule makeup bag
A capsule makeup bag follows the same concept as a capsule wardrobe. Picking the best products that work together, allows you to put together a variety of looks for different situations and events with the minimum number of products. While a number of holy grail makeup products do make it to my capsule collection there is more to it than being a ‘best of breed’ collection.
Factors to consider in preparing a capsule makeup bag
When putting together and updating my capsule makeup bag versatility of a product and multi-use items are just as important as they are for a capsule wardrobe but there are other factors to consider too.
1. Size of the product
Size matters for a number of reasons, not just to keep my bag as compact as possible. When flying the volume in any liquid or cream product matters if it’s going to be transported in cabin baggage The individual packaging, as well as the total volume of all those products that will need to fit into that relatively tiny ziplock bag, needs to be considered. If you’re flying long haul you’ll almost certainly want at least a portion of your makeup bag in your hand luggage so you don’t get off the other end looking like the living dead.
2. How fragile is the packaging & product
While some of the cardboard packages around now are super cute, yes I’m looking at you here Benefit, I’ve learned from experience that it just looks sad after having its corners dented and being crushed once or twice. Others, especially eye and powder palates are often oversized for the product quantity they contain. They look gorgeous on the vanity but are not practical when I’m packing.
3. How heavy is it
Weighty products and especially where that weight comes from glass packaging also don’t make it into my travel capsule makeup bag. This has made foundation and many of the serums in my wash bag especially limited in choice. Most of my preferred base products come in a glass bottle with a pump, heck many of them are my favourite because they come in a glass bottle with a pump but they still aren’t going to travel with me.
4. Is it multi-purpose
Being multi-use, or at least multi-occasion is really a condition of entry to any capsule collection. Some products suit this more than others but it’s worth critically assessing each item. If you’re travelling to a single destination it can be a bit easier but think about your skins changing needs too, is the destination substantially hotter, more humid or drier than you’re used to?
Can any items serve more than one purpose? A base product that works sheered out with lotion for a no-makeup daytime look and offers more coverage when layered in the evening? Look at your face powder products, can they do double duty on the eyes? Can you use your lipstick to give a touch of colour to your cheeks?
5. Does it dictate the inclusion of other items
An item might be compact but if it can only be used with a specific primer and tools for an application that you might not otherwise need that is space that could be better utilised. Ease of application is one of my prime considerations, I don’t want to pack a full brush collection or deal with dirty brushes if I’m moving on every day or two.
Damp brushes and sponges in and out of your luggage aren’t ideal as they can encourage the growth of bacteria at a time when it’s not practical to necessarily clean them as well or as often as you might at home. I prefer to apply a product with my clean fingers when possible or with a limited selection of multi-use tools.
I limit myself to only 2 eye brushes when travelling, one to pack colour and a fluffy crease brush to make it work. It’s minimalist but with your fingers and 2 brushes, you can go from a simple daytime look to a full smoky eye. I generally also have a kabuki and alternate on whether or not the beauty blender makes the cut, I like the finish best with most foundations but fingers give a reasonable result with most products and they are always with you and easy to clean and dry.
I do need a brush for bronzer and blush, by preference I use a large dense powder brush but after squashing a couple of much-loved brushes beyond recovery even while using brush guards I’m trialling the Real Techniques retractable kabuki brush in Japan later this month. It’s a lot smaller but big enough to get the job done, it’s protected inside the case when not in use and that also prevents powder residue from ending up all through my bag.
6. Do I want to risk it
A final consideration is whether I want to risk it. A much loved, brand new or super expensive palette might be better left at home in favour of another that will do the job rather than risking the disappointment of reducing it to an unusable crumble. I know you can put it back together (sort of) with a bit of alcohol but it won’t be the same, especially by the time it gets shaken around for the return trip. The breakage factor is another reason I’m more likely to include cream and liquid products for travel than I might in my everyday routine.
What’s in my capsule makeup bag when I travel
While I don’t totally agree with the ‘full coverage’ claim on the packaging it has enough coverage for me for a night out while being able to be worn as a sheer cover for a light makeup day. It also lasts really well without breaking up, settling into pores or looking cakey.
Its SPF protection is impressive but I still like to layer my sunscreen. I use a face sunscreen that plays nicely with makeup such as the Biore Aqua Riche Watery Essence which sounds terrible but is a holy grail for me and doubles as a great primer base for makeup. I never rely on the protection of my makeup alone but especially if applying it with a light hand or thinned out with a serum or lotion, remember you need a solid cover to get the full SPF benefit.
A surprise budget alternative to the IT Cosmetics I’ve found recently when working through a few tubes that had built up in my bathroom vanity is the Garnier BB cream. I wear it in light and while its endurance throughout the day and into the evening isn’t quite as impressive it’s a good alternative at a great price. Just remember that the SPF on this one is only 15 so I still apply SPF first.
When travelling I’m often outdoors for a good portion of the day and will be topping up my sunscreen so I’ll usually want to freshen up and redo my makeup before heading out for dinner anyway so longevity on those days is less of an issue.
Face colour and powder
In my 40s I’ll forgo any semblance of glitter but a healthy glow and the natural soft contour it gives my face means I won’t be without it.
Currently, I’m using the Mac Matte Bronze powder as it’s completely matte, not too warm-toned and a soft enough colour that it will give me both a light contour and a healthy tanned glow. It looks scarily dark in the pan for my skin tone but works perfectly.
I only use mechanical pencils in my travel bag for eyes and brows, their formula means they seem to break internally less often and I don’t need to carry a sharpener. There are some great options for both making it a no-brainer for tight-lining and a quick and compact brow solution. It can take a little more work to get my brows right with just a pencil and spoolie but it works.
For eyeliner, at the moment I’m packing the Mac Modern Twist Kajal Eyeliner in the Cat’s meow (true black) which stays put all day and is safe for the waterline and tight lining. On the brows, it’s NYX taupe fine brow pencil which is a good match to my brows and has a functional built-in spoolie so no extra tools are needed.
My current eye palette of choice is the Two Face Matte Naturals palette. It has 9 shadows, all matte as the name suggests and includes a suitable inner corner and brow highlight, natural shades and enough depth to smoke it up for an evening look if I need to.
When Lancome discontinued my best-ever Hypnose Star mascara it did take me a while to admit my final tube was well past its use-by date and move on. I eventually settled on the Lancome Hypnose Doll Eyes and although I doubted the brush shape initially it does give good length and fullness and will last the day without flaking or smudges even on my pale eyes that have a tendency to water frequently.
I’ve tried in the past to limit myself to one lipstick and one gloss but it generally doesn’t work for me. I prefer to have both nude and darker shades of lipstick. I like to have a gloss for hydration and protection if I’m out walking, at the beach or pool as it will stay in place better.
With darker lipstick, I dab it on lightly with a finger for a more wearable daytime look but I do love my nude or MLBB (my lips but better) colours during the day and find I’m happy enough to squeeze in an extra tube in my kit. I’ll never be a true minimalist.
No one solution will work for everyone. Clearly, I’m not on the red carpet or working regularly in front of a camera, I’m very happy with my spot behind the viewfinder and enjoying our travels. I opt for a natural look most of the time but I’m not ready to leave my makeup bag at home full time either. With age comes confidence too, I’m not going to pass for 30 anymore but I no longer care so much what total strangers think.
While the products get swapped out from time to time this capsule travel makeup kit in concept looks very similar to what I would pack when I did regular business travel, I just need a better SPF these days as I’ll actually get to see daylight and I’m out in the elements most days.
Products and trends have changed, it’s easier to source a variety of brands but the biggest change is that in most categories over the years I’ve found my holy grail products. I’m now happier to cut the clutter and only have one or two in a category instead of collecting drawers filled with products. The reality is that even with more choices I’m still only going to reach for those products that I truly love. To avoid mistakes when purchasing I’m happy to ask for a sample or to try on a product in-store and walk away to give it a wear test rather than purchasing on the spot if I’m not sure.
What about you? Are you a cosmetic collector or a makeup minimalist? I’d love for you to share your current top pick and what makes it absolutely essential for your travel bag in the comments below.