Going on a hand luggage-only holiday definitely has its good and bad points. The good? No need to worry about queuing up for ages to check in a heavy suitcase or having to lug it to your hotel once you reach your end destination. The bad? Trying to squeeze your beauty routine into one of those flimsy 20cmx20cm airport bags.
Although a little cumbersome, there’s no denying that it helps focus our minds when it comes to deciding what's really worth taking with us - the best travel-friendly makeup , and the skincare that really delivers. Which products have found a permanent place in our carry-ons? From our favourite minis to the creams and lotions worth going to the effort of decanting into 100ml bottles, here are our ultimate 20x20 travel edits.
Victoria Woodhall, Editor - tan avoider and frizz tamer
“For me, holiday skin is all about avoiding rays (I have a lot of sun damage from an ill-educated youth) while trying to not look as pale as I actually am. My other beauty concern is keeping my frizzy holiday hair hydrated and not too mad-looking while I’m on a break from styling.
“I’ll pick up a body sunscreen airside, but am fussy about what goes on my face. Avene Cleanance SPF 50+ 50ml, £12.37 is a mattifying mineral sunscreen meant for oily skins but does a great job on dry skin too as it’s non-sticky and quick drying (perfect also for hands), doesn’t make you look ghostly and won’t budge in the pool. Leonor Greyl Huile Secret De Beaute spray oil 95ml, £43 , does double duty for hair as a pre-wash treatment or daily frizz tamer, serves as a body moisturiser and comes with a gorgeous gold bracelet too.
“For a serum and almost invisible foundation in one, I’ll take Perricone No Foundation Foundation Serum 30ml, £45 , which has broad spectrum SPF 30, and I always wear SkinCeuticals Mineral Eye UV Defense 10ml SPF 30, £28 , as it’s slightly tinted and covers dark circles.
“For body, I love an antioxidant cream for extra protection against sun damage and there’s nothing that smells more like holiday or has a better sink-in texture than Sol de Janeiro Açaí Body Power Cream 75ml, £18 . I’ll mix it with a few drops of Balance Me Gradual Tanning Drops Travel Mini 4ml, £10 every day to create the illusion of a deepening tan.
“I generally sleep badly on holiday but I’ve found a genius organic Dream Oil Cleanser by Desavery 30ml, £36 , which contains spikenard, traditionally used as a sedative and proven to enhance the production of the relaxing neurotransmitter GABA.
"For skincare, this one pot is all I need: Dr Frances Prenna Jones Fix Holiday 50ml, £245 . It’s a cooling, soothing hydrating gel that provides potent rest and recharge for the skin. It’s packed with anti-inflammatories. It can go up to the eye and it can be used as a mask and day and night moisturiser all in one."
Judy Johnson, Digital Editor - concerned about flare ups
“My ultimate goal when going away anywhere is: do not have a skin flare up. My sensitive skin is temperamental at the best of times but throw in heat, sunshine, a bit too much cake at the buffet and even different water and you’ve got a recipe for all kinds of itches and rashes. That’s why I keep my skincare simple with the products I know I can trust (and might not be able to find airside). First is the brilliant Superdrug Pure Hydrating Serum 50ml, £2.99 - it’s so cheap and yet so effective. My skin tends to be on the drier side and although they have a night version, when restricted I know I can use this day or night to add a bit of plumpness and moisture to my complexion - even without an added cream on top I know I’ll wake with hydrated skin. Next is my Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water 100ml, £5.20 ; I really, really wouldn’t advise skipping a proper cleanser but when those pesky little square bags just won’t do up and it’s time to make a skin sacrifice, I’ll ditch anything creamy and opt for this alone as I know it’s effective at swiping away the toughest of eye makeup as well as my base (and then I’ll make sure I flannel with hot water afterwards at the very least).
“Sun cream is, of course, a must, and Ultrasun Family 30 100ml, £19 is my favourite in terms of practicality and packability because their formulas can be used on face and body - I use this all over and you only need apply once a day for full protection too. I top up my face with Clinique’s City Block Sheer SPF25 40ml, £19 as it adds a layer of sun protection as well as giving me a glowy tint that’s far more suitable for the beach than my usual foundation; I can swerve my usual base if I use this teamed with my ultimate cover-up, Clarins Instant Concealer 15ml, £22.50 , which works on everything you want to hide, be it a dark circle or an angry spot.
“If there’s space I’ll slot in my Balance Me Radiance Face Oil rollerball 10ml, £15 as I find it really soothing come nighttime, and tend to miss my oils if I am away for more than a couple of days - few things make a more visible difference than a couple of drops of this travel-sized version of the skin brightener, perfect if you’re enjoying a few late nights on your break. Lastly, although I’d have plenty of other makeup with me, the essential is Urban Decay’s Primer Potion in Minor Sin 10ml, £17.50 as it stays on all day and doubles up as an eyeshadow with its golden, shimmering tint.”
MORE GLOSS: 6 makeup products the GTG team couldn't travel without
Alex Harrison, Administration Assistant - breakout-prone
“The first thing that I cannot go anywhere without is my holy grail cleanser, Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser, £9.95 that comes in a handy 50ml travel size - life saver! This is great for my oily, acne-prone skin as it’s really clarifying without being too stripping. Used with my trusty muslin cloth, they’re a match made in heaven.
“Next up is the serum that convinced me to actually use a serum. It’s the Bareminerals Blemish Remedy Anti-Imperfection Serum 30ml, £36 - I never go to bed without slathering this all over my face, no matter how many cocktails I’ve consumed! It’s a really lightweight, watery texture which I love as many serums I have tried in the past have been far too heavy for my troubled skin. It sinks in immediately and leaves no oily residue behind which I love. This helps to keep breakouts at bay and calm my skin which is definitely a plus for me on holiday when I like to be makeup-free during the day.
“My lips always tend to suffer in the heat, they have a tendency to go dry and flaky on me. My saviour when it comes to this is Blistex Intensive Moisturiser Hydrating Lip Cream 5g, £2.69 , a super cheap and highly effective lip balm that I slather on when sunbathing, before applying my evening makeup and before bed at night.
“Facial SPF has been the bane of my life for many years! If you have skin that breaks out easily you will feel my pain I’m sure. I have tried so many in the past but just this year I have found my go-to. Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF50 60ml, £33 is perfect - it’s a really lightweight, milky consistency which dries down to a matte finish (a must-have for my oily skin!) and doesn’t break me out. This is so good it’s now become a staple in my everyday skincare rountine, not just for my holidays.
“Although I like a lighter base on holiday, I am not at the point where I can be separated from foundation altogether! I need a light base for the evening to add a bit of colour to my face and to cover up scarring from previous nasty breakouts. My top pick for this is MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation 50ml, £24.50 . And finally, my summer holidays are now no longer complete without my Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom and Honey Cologne 30ml, £45 . This was my first Jo Malone fragrance and continues to be my favourite. The fresh and fruity scent is to die for.”
Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer - trying to convert myself to a ‘skin first, makeup second’ kind of person
“Shoehorning liquids into the transparent bag gets me every time - I can spend hours deliberating over whether to bring this serum or that foundation and always push the limits of the bag so that it’s bursting on its journey through the security scanner. I normally just about get away with it, but if I’m concentrating on skincare, Elemis Pro Radiance Cream Cleanser Mini 30ml, £7.20 , is non-negotiable - it gently but effectively washes away makeup (including eye makeup) without drying out skin or stripping off my self tan. Speaking of which, James Read H2O Tan Drops for Face 30ml, £30 , are my new faux glow obsession and almost make up for the fact that I can’t fit my foundation in.
“SPF-wise, Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced SPF 50+ 50ml, £4 , does the job for a short break, and I’ll slather it all on while I’m there to reduce the liquid load on the way home. Come evening there’s nothing more refreshing than Susanne Kauffman After Sun Gel 100ml, £32 - you don’t need much, it sinks in immediately, it’s incredibly cooling and it leaves legs and anywhere else you put it as soft as silk, even if your skin’s been hot and bothered during the day. Another luxe addition to the liquids bag would be a new Sisley Phyto Lip Delight, £37 - I’ll count it as skincare because it’s balmy, vitamin enriched and moisturising, but the sheer colour and light reflective formula means that I can skip lip gloss and lipstick. Finally Regenerate Advanced Foaming Mouth Wash 50ml, £10 , helps to remineralize enamel jeopardised by the likes of holiday rosé, plus one tiny bottle supposedly lasts for up to 50 rinses, which makes it apt for short haul, long haul and home use alike. It’s not the mintiest of mouthwashes, but the enamel protection is a huge plus.”
Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor - radiance and hydration seeker
“First things first, SPF. I adore Murad City Skin Broad Spectrum SPF50 PA++++ 50ml, £55 , for my face. It's lightweight for a 50 (thank goodness), incredibly hydrating and helps to defend skin against environmental aggressors. It also has a slight peachy tint to it, which I quite like for a holiday as I often go without any foundation as I find it too heavy. I will also do everything I can to squeeze in Clarins Sun Care Body Cream 100ml, SPF30, £21.50 . It's hands down the creme de la creme of suncreams and I can’t risk the airport not stocking it so I will always pre-pack it.
“On holiday, my skin can get incredibly dry, so I always take Votary Rose Geranium and Apricot Cleanser 100ml, £45 , decanted it into a slightly smaller bottle if I'm low on space as you only need a few squirts for each cleanse. It’s a multitasking delight; the perfect makeup remover and cleanser in one and it leaves my skin thoroughly cleansed, calm and nourished. I pair this with Votary Neroli and Myrrh Facial Oil 30ml, £65 , to moisturise and hydrate my skin both morning and night. It's light but powerful and feels great on parched skin. They've actually just launched a new set of travel minis which I'm going to be purchasing immediately for my next trip as it has a 50ml cleanser in it. For added hydration on the plane and in the mornings, I use the small but mighty La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 serum 50ml, £37 . It packs a punch for moisture.
“As for makeup, I am very minimal on holiday. A quick dab of Rosie Huntington Whiteley’s Amazing Skin Secret Concealer, £14 , covers everything from under eye bags to evil breakouts while YSL's False Lash Effect Mascara, £26 , will give you instant glam to take you from poolside to cocktails. My little bonus pick is my teeny tiny 5ml travel-sized Aurelia Botanical Deodorant, £5 - it's so dinky its slides straight into any free area inside your plastic bag plus, you only need a pea-size amount to fight sweat all day!”
Ayesha Muttucumaru, Senior Features Writer - keen to avoid skin and hair drying out
“I’m a massive over-packer, but nothing focusses my mind better for beating the habit than a 20x20 transparent airport bag. It causes me to take a long hard look at my luggage and strip it back to the essentials, which for me is all about making space for my tried and tested hydrating face and hair favourites. As for any bulkier body care items like sun cream and shower gel, I tend to just pick them up in duty-free.
“Face wash-wise, I find that Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser 60ml, £8 , scrubs up particularly well for my drier skin type and, it now comes in a handy travel-sized version for added practicality. For days when my skin’s feeling the effects of too much sun, a soothing slick of Vichy’s new 30ml Mineral 89, £13 , does the trick (it’s like a tall glass of ice cold water on a hot day). And as for sun protection, I carry Ultrasun’s 6-piece Travel Collection, £17.52 , with me. Its Face SPF30 and moisturising SPF30 Lip Balm are particular favourites of mine.
“Lastly, Aveda’s Damage Remedy Kit, £16 , has proven to be a pivotal part of my holiday hair care regime. Containing a triple threat of high performance hydrators - its Restructuring Shampoo, Conditioner and Daily Hair Repair - it keeps my dry ends in check in the face of too much sun, sea and holiday-excess.”
What are the travel beauty essentials you won't go on holiday without? Let us know in the comments section below.
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