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Everything You Wanted To Know About The Best Travel Makeup

Doing Makeup On The Plane

Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip over Europe, a cabin getaway on the edge of a crystal lake, or a business trip in New York City, deciding what makeup to pack is not a task you’re going to be taking lightly. In fact, it’s why you’re currently reading this blog. It’s a big deal to you. You want to know what the TSA regulations are when it comes to cosmetics, what best fits into your carry-on, or what product provides you the best bang for your buck. We’re here for you. 

First, I want to congratulate you on not panic-packing one hour before you have to leave for your flight. And if you are panic-googling before your flight, we get it, and we are here for you.

What we cover in this article:

  1. What Defines A Cosmetic Or Makeup Product As “Travel-Friendly” or Travel Makeup
  2. What Makeup Can I Carry Onto a Plane?
  3. What’s The Best Travel Makeup Bag? 
  4. What’s The Best Travel Makeup Brush? 
  5. How To Choose The Best Travel Makeup 
  6. What Are Other People Saying About Subtl Beauty’s Travel Makeup? (Reviews!)
  7. All The Travel and Makeup Bag Tips We Could Fit In One List

There’s no hard and fast rule of what makes a cosmetic product “travel-friendly,” or a universal definition of what makes something "travel-size," but what we’ve often found is that those “mini” products advertised as “travel-friendly” are simply over-priced versions of their non-travel products. That’s why you always want to check the per gram price of your travel-friendly makeup. Don’t be caught out in the cold by outrageously scaled-up prices right before your beach destination. But beyond the price, we've broken travel makeup down into a few different categories: size, container, application, and touch-ups. 

Size Of Travel Makeup Kit: 

  • We generally consider anything less than four grams to be “travel-friendly.” But make sure to check how many applications that is and judge if you have enough for those long backpacking trips. 


  • A “travel-friendly” makeup product will be engineered to fit in your carry-on, backpack, or travel-pouch. For example, our travel starter stack have been engineered to screw into one another in easy-to-pack stacks. But this container must also be durable enough not to break apart or open as you walk across the Great Wall of China. 

Easy To Apply: 

  • Makeup that requires an entire vanity and a block scheduled off in your calendar may not be your best bet. Something that can be applied in a few minutes with just your fingers would be the ideal travel cosmetic product. 

Lasts All Day

  • You want to be able to travel to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe  without having to apply your makeup in the bathroom between stops. 
Makeup Tutorial - A Sun-Kissed Look Before You Even Start Your Vacation

While these guidelines are US-based, they're generally applicable to most international airports and airlines that you’re going to encounter on your vacation.

The rules, as defined by the TSA, are that 3.4 ounces or smaller sized containers are okay, but they must all fit into one quart-sized, resealable bag. Anything bigger will have to go into your checked in luggage or checkpoint security will make you throw it out.


Checked Bag
Containers (like makeup or cosmetics) that are larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml), regardless of the amount inside, must be in checked baggage.

TSA Guidelines For Travel Makeup

It’s important to note that with your carry-on, it doesn’t matter how much is actually inside—only the packaging that your makeup comes in is below 3.4 ounces or 100 ml. If it’s above, you’ll need to check it or toss it out. 

And remember: all your travel liquids, makeup, and toiletries must fit in a quart-sized package (known as the 3-1-1 rule). That means your makeup must be space-saving enough to leave room for your toiletries. 

Can you bring powder makeup on a plane?

The simple answer is yes! A TSA agent is unlikely to ask you to even remove your powder makeup from a bag, making it the most “travel-friendly” makeup. That means our highlighter, bronzer, eyeshadow, and shine-control pressed powder are perfect travel cosmetics. 


Image of Stackable Makeup By Subtl that includes concealer, bronzer, blush, highlighter and shine control powder



Finding the right travel bag for your makeup (and toiletries!) can make packing for your vacation a little bit smoother. When you look online, you'll find a wide variety of makeup bags and cosmetic containers, in various shapes and sizes, some opaque, some clear, some with foam slots for makeup, some with oddly placed or perfect zippers, and padded compartments for your specific toiletries. 

Clear Travel Case:

One makeup bag you'll absolutely want, if you want to make air-travel much less of a headache, is a clear travel case. Travel expert Ciara Johnson, founder of the female travel blog Hey Ciara, prefers clear makeup containers and toiletry bags, because they help her "stay organized and identify what is in each bag." 


Image of a girl holding Subtl Beauty's clear cosmetic bag made for your travel makeup kit



image of Subtl Beauty's clear cosmetic bag made for your travel makeup


Traditional Makeup Bags:

While most clear cases make passing those TSA agents a bit easier, they may not be ideal once you get off the plane and reach your travel destination. More traditional makeup bags, ones that are set up for ease-of-access, organization, and convenience, might be preferable.

For these types of bags, consider the shape of your makeup for their compartments, how they're going to fit into your carry-on, or what extra amenities your cosmetic bag comes with—a built-in mirror might just make or break the product.    


Toiletry Bag

If you want something that packs a heavier punch, something that may help if you aren’t staying in a room with its own toiletries, you might consider a full toiletry bag or a dopp kit-style toiletry bag. While these are generally built with more masculine features (which is great too!), finding something with a durable, sturdy fabric, one that is easy to keep clean, and has all the compartments your little heart desires, is what you're looking for. 

Hanging Toiletry Bags:

It’s possible that while on vacation, perhaps during a hiking trip, you might be spending a lot of time without accessible countertop space, so a hanging toiletry bag can work in a pinch. But make sure to get one that comes with a mirror! 

Others Travel Items To Consider:

Don’t forget to consider refillable containers and travel pouches when you’re planning which travel bag to go with. You may find that using refillable travel items in conjunction with a clear travel case is preferable to one with built in compartments. 

Your travel makeup look can only be as flawless as the tools you use to apply it. If you have oversized brushes that are squished at the bottom of your makeup bag, collecting all the powders and fallout in the bristles , that cute put-together look might not pan out.

Your perfect travel-friendly makeup brush should come in a convenient, easy-to-pack container that is durable enough that it won’t get damaged, it wont pick up bacteria from your travels and, ideally, it will be a single brush that is multi-purpose. 

Our adjustable, multi-purpose brush is our stack’s best friend. It was built specifically built for travel which means –

  1. It’s adjustable and can be used for multiple different kinds of application
  2. It has a protective lid so your brush hairs stay safe from being squished and safe from dirt and bacteria 

Lucky for you, it comes free with any purchase — just add a product to your cart and we’ll include the brush, no questions asked. 


Image of Subtl Beauty's Yellow makeup brush


PROTIP: if your brushes are used, and don’t come with a lid, wrap them with a small sandwich bag and an elastic band (more tips at the bottom!)



We’ve travelled quite a bit of ground (or air) already: we’ve introduced you to what we think meets the criteria for “travel-friendly” makeup, we’ve explored what makeup you can bring onto a plane, and helped you decide on the best makeup bag and brush to take with you on vacation. 

Now you have one more step to undertake: what’s the perfect travel makeup for you and how do you decide? 

We’d be lying if we didn’t think our line of cosmetics were the perfect travel makeup set for on-the-go beauty. In fact, if you search “how to choose the best travel makeup,” you’ll see that nearly every bullet point and requirement that any expert lists would naturally fall within our product line.

That’s why we’d like to take a moment to refer back to those categories we’d established earlier and see how our cosmetic travel line “stacks” up against the competition. 

As a reminder, the categories we listed as most important for travel makeup are listed below:

  1. Price
  2. Size
  3. Container
  4. Ease of application
  5. Lasting all day. 

Travel-Sized Prices: 

Most travel-sized cosmetics are a money-grab designed to gouge you just for making their products smaller. The dollar per gram or ml is usually much higher than their standard product. Our travel-size is our standard product. You won’t see overpriced travel makeup at Subtl Beauty. 

Take a look at Subtl Beauty vs two other brands.


Image of Comparing Travel Makeup Sizes of brands and Subtl Beauty


Products pictured:

Travel Makeup Sizes: 

Again, our “travel” sizes are our standard sizes. They’re big enough to be used as your every-day go-to makeup choice, and small enough to fit into your carry-on, in a stack, with our full suite of cosmetics. 

Each of our 3.5-gram pressed powders are good for approximately 60 applications and our creams are good for 90! 

But with other brands, looks can be deceiving. That’s why you should always compare the price points and the grams, to get an accurate picture of what you’re getting. While these products come in long and sleek packaging, giving the illusion that the price points are respectable, when you break it down you’d see that’s not the case. 


Image of Comparing Popular Travel Makeup to Subtl Beauty


Products Pictured:

Travel-Sized Convenience:

When it comes to cosmetic packaging for travel, you want a product within a container that’s durable, convenient, and compact. That’s a hard combination to achieve when you’re also looking for affordability. 

As you can see, our entire set is engineered to screw into one another. Get this stack in your hand and you’ll see how sturdy each piece is. Toss it into your bag, reach a mountain peak, and come back to earth with your makeup stack still intact.

“I love the fact that it's so small it literally fits into the palm of my hand. Like, I'm holding five or six products right now, and it can fit into pretty much every bag that I own.” — Insider

Travel Makeup Should Be Easy To Apply:

It’s possible you found this blog because you searched for the “best travel makeup brushes,” so a makeup brand that is easy to apply might be the most important feature to you. You might even be thinking, instead of finding the perfect makeup brush, that makeup you can apply with just the tip of your finger may be even better. 

Of course, if you still want a brush, we’ll throw that in for free.   

Your Travel Makeup Should Last All Day:

The Subtl Beauty makeup reviews are in… our travel makeup stays on all day: 

Heather Rossi wrote a review about Eyeshadow Duos

“I have been wearing the color Jelly since I received it! It's very pretty, soft looking. However it stays put all day!!! So easy to apply and blend. I love it and purchased another color.”

Kelly M wrote a review about Cream Concealer

“I was worried the color match would be too dark for my skin, but it was perfect. I might end up purchasing a lighter shade for under my eyes. The coverage is super buildable and stays put all day. It never feels cakey on my skin nor does it settle into any lines on my face. My new go-to face makeup.”

Kathi S wrote a review about Eyeshadow Duos

“I recently bought the sunset and dune duos and they are gorgeous! Very pigmented,I tape the eyeshadow brush onto my hand to brush off access then apply to the lid.That usually works pretty good. Beautiful colors that last all day.”

llison Fairhurst wrote a review about Eyeshadow Duos

“These are the best eyeshadows! So easy to apply, you don't have to be an expert, they enhance the eyes so naturally and last all day.”

If you’re interested, but not sure where to start, you can try our makeup quiz here which will help you select your perfect travel makeup stack.
Otherwise, we believe your best bet is our essential Starter Stack, which contains: 

Each of our products are Cruelty-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan & Made in the USA.

And since, more than our travel products, this blog is for YOU, here are some bonus products we don’t carry, but we “cant live without” when we’re travelling. 

  • Neutrogena Makeup Wipes 
  • Tinted Moisturizer with SPF - Laura Mercier

Mini Mascara — Too Faced Better Than Sex

"Final thoughts: if you are someone who is into light coverage makeup, if you are someone who travels a lot and likes that fresh, natural type of look, you'll enjoy investing in Subtl Beauty." 

Beauty Minimalist: “There are a lot of brands that tout their products as ‘portable’ but this indie brand actually lives up to the expectation [that a traveller wants]. My stack comfortably fits in the palm of my hand, can easily fit in any purse, and the lids stay on tight so no risk of a makeup mess.”

Insider: “Concealer… really really good. Bronzer… I LOVE how it looks. This blush is incredible. I’m obsessed.” 

“The pans all screw in really, really tight, and I feel confident that if I threw this in my bag, it wouldn't just pop open and make a huge mess.

I do think that this little stack makeup is worth it if you are somebody that's just tired of hauling all your stuff around all the time and just want a simple solution.” 

Buzzfeed: “Promising review: “I love my new stack, which I purchased for my travel bag and handbag. The quality of the cosmetics is very good, as is the stacking container. I am frequently too sensitive to new cosmetics, but my skin stayed perfectly healthy with this. The concealer is effective and so lightweight. The blusher gives a nice glow, but still looks natural. Overall, I am pleased with this.” —Melanie K.

Shape Magazine: “Perfect for your gym bag!”

Real women, real travel makeup that they're wearing. 

Pre-Plan Your Makeup Looks

    One of the best ways to stop yourself from bringing unneeded makeup to your travel destination is to pre-plan your makeup looks. Pre-plan the weather you’re going to expect, what you’re going to wear, what kind of events you’re going to go to, and what makeup would match each situation. 

    Invest in a Padded Makeup Bag

      Not every makeup stack or travel-selection comes in easy-to-use and screwable stacks. If you’re worried about your travel makeup getting ruined by some unruly baggage carrier, a padded makeup bag will go a long way. 

      Protect Your Powder Compacts With a Cotton Pad

        Like a padded makeup bag, pop in a cotton pad into your powder compacts if you’re worried about the powder shattering.

        Find The Perfect Travel Brush

        The all-in-one perfect brush, that will be the BFF to your makeup stack, is out there. You just have to find it!

        Invest In A Makeup Refresher Spray

          In a jiffy, when you’re on the road and don’t have time for a full re-application, a makeup refresher spray can be a life saver.

          Travel-Ready Makeup Kit 

            Why not save the time and get an all-in-one makeup stack that’s travel-ready? 

            Pack Multipurpose Products

              Getting multi-purpose products for your upcoming trip can be a space saver!

              Tinted BB Cream

                Speaking of multi-purpose products, a tinted BB cream can work as lotion, foundation, and sunscreen all in one.  

                Save Space By Stacking Products 

                  As the go-to stackable brand, this might be our favorite tip. 

                  DIY Contact Lens Cases

                    The origin story of Subtl Beauty actually started from a DIY makeup solution in a contact lens case. If it worked to start our brand, it’ll work on your next vacation! 

                    Pack Ziplock Bags!

                      There’s about a million uses that you could use a ziplock bag for! Ones we mentioned earlier was wrapping ziplock bags over your brushes with an elastic to keep the bristles from ruining your clothing!

                      One pair rule - Makeup and clothing

                        Figure out your favorite in each category and stick with it — one pair of leggings, one eyeshadow, one pair of jeans.  

                        Either-or method

                          If you’re deciding between two things, simply pick the one you use the most and let the other go. 

                          The China-Doll Method 

                            Stacks in stacks in stacks. Start from the largest piece you want to pack and work your way down. 

                            Refillable Containers

                              You can find a lot of refillable toiletries at organic stores.

                              Perfume & Moisturizer Samples

                                This is a hack I love. The duty-free shop will have free perfume and moisturizer samples that are perfectly sized for traveling. 

                                Got a travel tip you want to add to the list? Send it to us and we’ll add it and link to you! 

                                Not satisfied? Keep reading: 

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