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Creating a Capsule Makeup Bag for Travel

Capsule makeup bag for travel

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.

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, allow 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 it 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 packaging around now is 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 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 my serums in my wash bag especially limited for 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 travelling with me.

4.  Is it multi purpose

Being multi use, or at least multi-occassion 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 purposes?  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 your lipstick work 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 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 isn’t ideal as it 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.  If I can apply a product with my clean fingers or with a limited selection of multi use tools that’s going to be preferable.  I limit myself to only 2 eyebrushes 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 simply 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.  For bronzer and blush I do need a brush, 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 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.

Whats in my capsule make-up bag when I travel

Base products

I love the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream as a versatile base.  The tube packaging with a pump is perfect. It can be applied with your fingers in a pinch, and 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 a 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.
It’s 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 it’s 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 15 not 50.  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

My English rose complection can be a blessing and a curse but my tendency to pink in my cheeks does mean that I can often skip blush all together without being washed out but I do still  like a good bronzer.  In my 40’s 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 scary dark in the pan for my skin tone but works perfectly.

Eye products

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 tightlining.  On the brows it’s NYX taupe fine brow pencil which is a good match to my lightening brows and has a functional built in spoolie so no extra tools are needed.

My current eye palette of choice is the Two Faced 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.

Lip products

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 a nude and darker shade lipstick.  I like to have a gloss for the hydration and protection if I’m out walking, at the beach or pool it will stay in place better.  With a 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.

In conclusion

Capsule makeup bag

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 product.  The reality is that even with more choice 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 makeup minimalist?  Either way I’d love you to share your current top pick and what makes it an absolute essential for your travel bag in the comments below.

Capsule Makeup travel bag

3 Comments

  • I’m a make up minimalist even when I’m not travelling! That said, I always have some BB cream, a small eyeshadow palette, eyeliner, mascara and some lip glosses (in various colours.) I also have a small, travel roller ball perfume which is so handy for travelling. I keep this capsule make up bag with me in my handbag (with the exception of the BB cream) so of course it comes with me travelling too!

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