Beyond the endless Bastise cans and overpriced coconut oils of this world, lies a wholly underappreciated group of slightly odd essentials for your capsule cosmetics bag. Forget chic shower miniatures, deep nourishing gloop made from unicorn tears and those infuriating mini straighteners that tear much more then they straighten. As a person in a constant struggle to keep my bag of cosmetics from taking over my bag/surfaces/life, I can attest to the fact that minimalism (or at least trying to embrace minimalism) is vital when it comes to heavy, leaky cosmetics that will undoubtedly slow you down. Cut your cosmetic consumption with some of these thrifty, travel-friendly ideas.
1. All-Purpose Balm
Nothing makes more sense when packing light than an all-rounder product that can save you valuable space and millilitres. Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream is really the gold standard here, and you’d be forgiven for judging this product by its cover. “Made with the blessings and guidance of our ancient Egyptian ancestors” – okay then. But this product really is magic! A natural balm that exists in a solid state while at room temperate, once rubbed between fingertips turns into light oil which can be used for many uses: moisturiser for face and body, bug bites, sunburn, eczema, hair serum, lip balm – and apparently lube (although the jury is still out on this one, for now.) Available in travel sized pots of 30ml and 60ml, super handy for any adventure. The only downside is magic comes at a price, and this stuff is relatively expensive, but how many beauty products are endorsed by a Pharoah – no, really. For a more economical, and no doubt less-mystical experience Lucas Remedies Paw Paw Ointment is similar and a fraction of the price.
2. Bentonite Clay
You maybe have a massive bag of this somewhere that you’ve been progressively working through for the last five years; I know, because I do too. Bentonite clay is the gift that never stops giving. It’s cheap, light and compact. It can be used in a number of ways, first and foremost as an extremely effective face mask, but can be used as a bath soak, and even in your hair. Its necessary to mix the product with fluid to create the mask. At home, I use apple cider vinegar, as this is a more delightful experience and makes you look slightly less like something that’s crawled out of a nearby swamp. However, it can also be simply mixed with water, with a lumpier outcome. I like to fill a small ziplock bag and take on my travels for nights when you feel like your skin needs some TLC. Just mix with water and voila! Interestingly, I have yet to be stopped at customs with my big bag of grey powder.
3. Tinted Lip Balm
It’s increasingly hard to know what makeup you will wear while away, depending on the trip. Will it sweat off my face? Will I need something “dressy”? To avoid accidentally bringing the kitchen sink, choose a lip product that can serve more than one purpose. Tinted lip balm is the perfect way to give a slick of colour and shine without committing to a full face of makeup. You can also dress it up for an evening look, or simply use for a chapstick. My personal favourite is Benefit Benebalm, but there are also some great cheaper alternatives such as Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer and Maybelline Baby Lips, to name a few.
4. Jojoba Oil
Another multi-purpose miracle worker, this little-known oil is actually a wax. It has a similar chemical compound to the oils found in our skin and for this reason is a wonderful addition to your wash bag. Use as a light moisturiser for sensitive skin, add to night cream for an extra nourishing mask, apply to dry skin and eczema, use as a hair serum to tame that frizz or to simply remove your make up. You can even cook with it! A little goes a long way, so a 100ml bottle can easily last several months and takes up much less space than bulky moisturisers.
5. Anti-chafing Gel
While originally made for alleviating thigh rub (which interestingly it’s actually not that great at – and I have the kind of thighs that can confirm this data) chafing gel makes for amazing makeup primer. It’s actually a bit of a secret around the makeup forums that this product is almost identical to well known expensive brand Smashbox (but shhh!) Ideal for hot, humid environments where your make up would otherwise slide off your face, or for a fuss-free all day look that requires minimal touch-ups.
6. Nappy Rash Cream
I think it’s something my mother instilled into me in childhood which means I have never left home without a tub of this curious white goop. Super cheap and available almost everywhere (so perfect for picking up along the way, if needed) this is a total necessity for travel. Fallen off your moped? Nappy rash cream. Scratched yourself silly with bug bites? Nappy rash cream. I even once gave myself an at-home chemical peel – which was stupid, and you should never do – and guess what helped? Nappy rash cream! The active ingredient – zinc oxide – is a natural mineral used for helping skin heal faster – so it really has nothing to do with babies, or nappies – just speeds up the healing process. Great for acne, cuts, sunburn, eczema, accidental face peel mishaps and just about everything else.
7. Hair Lightening Spray
Fancy some sun-kissed beach hair, sans la beach? As a blonde (albeit secretly naturally dark blonde) who undoubtedly lies about their natural hair colour, I’m in a constant state of trying to fend off roots that might out me for what I really am. For years I plastered bleach highlights into my hair, which became increasingly tricky while on the move. If you grew up in the 90’s, you are probably aware of Sun-In, which was a drug store hair lightening spray back then which would take you a few shades lighter but at a very high cost. It was notoriously bad for your hair, so naturally, I used it loads. Now, thankfully we have similar products on the market that can give you a subtle lightening effect but without the damage of high strengths of peroxide. John Frieda Go Blonder Lightening Spray is ideal for dark blonde to medium brown hair to add a touch of buildable blonde. But you can also damage your hair with this, so be careful! Only use once or twice a week at maximum, or you’ll end up with that Sun-In look, and hair that resembles chewing gum. I’ve found my hair is in much better condition using this kind of product, and although it’s not Stefani-blonde, it easily livens up dull hair. It’s become my travel go-to for a quick hair fix and it comes in an aeroplane-friendly 100ml bottle. Clearly, it was meant to be.