Beauty and the Backpack: What I Took With Me

I spent a full year traveling the world with only a 35-liter backpack (that carry-on only life!). For a beauty junkie like me, paring down my backpacking makeup was the hardest part! Here’s how I managed to fit enough in my bag to look and feel at least a little bit cute.

I’ve covered the basics of my packing here: how I decided what clothes to bring, how I fit them all in there, and just how little you really need on a trip like this.

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I’ve always been interested in makeup, not in the school of the Kardashian wanna-bes with their thick contour and spider-like false eyelashes. My beauty look is more low-key, because with too much obvious makeup I look like a little baby prostitute and that’s a concerning vibe (it’s the curse of the babyface).

contents of a travel makeup bag for longterm solo female travel
My little bitty travel makeup bag

Glossier is a big staple of my travel look: I’ve always been a fan of their low key makeup that is just you, but a little glowier. Their Skin Tint tinted moisturizer, Cloud Paint cream blush, Boy Brow eyebrow wax, and Haloscope highlighter just make me look like me, but like I’m always in good lighting.

Add in some lipstick for a more glam look (Laura Mercier babylips for a soft pink, NARS Dragongirl for a perfect red that really stays) and that’s pretty much it. Occasional mascara too if I’m really feeling it.


French skincare classics from Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, Resultime, and Caudalie

Skincare, on the other hand… I love. I have high-maintenance skin (acne and rosacea and dryness oh my) and am rather vain, so my at-home skincare regime involves 5-10 steps a night and a few in the daytime too. I’m regularly mistaken for a college student at age 33 so I don’t regret spending all that time, but on the road it’s just not practical.

Bioderma wipes are super easy to use after a long day, and really gentle. Add in some sunscreen to keep my porcelain skin as pale as possible (that’s how I like it! I want to look like a Titian painting) and a little lip balm and some lovely, thick Embryolisse moisturizer and I’m all set to go.

The lure of the French pharmacie

Being in one place in one apartment for the whole month, I decided to splurge a little and hit up the famed French pharmacies. Seriously, they’re amazing. Good prices for luxe skincare and bossy pharmacists who will tell you exactly what you need (thanks, lady who just looked in my basket, shook her head, and got me products better suited to my super-sensitive skin!).

French haircare products from Klorane with Marvais toothpaste and Bioderma products

I have been indulging in some excellent Klorane haircare: all the Parisian women have beautiful hair so I have to fit in! And some lovely moisturizing products that make my dry skin happy in the cool October air.

This will all leave once I take off for Greece in a week, but it’s been lovely to pamper myself a bit with some hair masks while I lounge in my bathtub reading Proust.

The final look

a solo female traveler in an artsy apartment in Paris
Et voila!

Being so limited in my beauty products has been good for me in many ways. It’s much easier to carry around, for one. I save quite a bit of time in my day too, and money. Sephora is surely sad to see me and my VIB Insider account take a break.

But aside from the surface considerations of my surface routine, paring down has helped me get more comfortable in my own skin. I can’t hide behind my subtle but flattering eyeliner and concealer any longer: it’s not in my bag so it’s not an option. I just go face the world with my more natural face and grow and learn and listen and explore.

In a world where women are told constantly that our main value is what we look like, it’s my own little rebellion to value my time more than my outside appearance.

More female travel packing resources

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