What makeup can you take on a plane? I travel frequently and tend to lug a lot of my makeup around when I do (chronic over-packers represent!). Taking skincare and makeup items with you on a plane can be quite tricky, though. Here I’ll tell you what best to pack into your carry-on, and what should go into checked baggage (and what you can do if you only have a carry-on).

Carry-on: what goes where

The dreaded liquids bag. Here’s the deal: It should hold about one litre (one quart), be clear, and resealable (more info here). I just use freezer bags.

EVERY liquid or gel goes in there, and every aerosol. Containers can’t hold more than 100ml or 3,4oz of liquid, but you can cram your little freezer bag full with those little bottles and containers (I often use samples or Muji containers I filled with my favourite products). You can’t pack a, say, shampoo that’s in a 300ml bottle but only has about 50ml left in it. So, repack and transfer into smaller containers.


What’s a liquid or a gel?

Everything. Ok, kidding, but err on the side of caution (see here for more info). Depending on how nice the airline personnel is, they absolutely will make you throw the offending item away at the security check.

what goes into the liquids bag
How packing always starts – just put everything on the bathroom counter …


  • lipstick is considered a liquid (or not, I’ve had experiences with airline personnel who thought it was and those who thought it wasn’t)
  • mascara
  • foundation
  • lipgloss and lipbalm
  • concealer
  • liquid or cream blushes, bronzers or highlighters
  • cream eyeshadows (especially those in a tube)
  • primer
  • setting spray
  • brow gel or pomade
  • nail polish and remover
  • cushion products.

There’re some things you can do to avoid filling your plastic baggie to the brim. A lot of beauty products are also available in powder form, e.g. eye shadows, blushes, highlighters, bronzers. There’re also loose mineral foundations or powder foundations, mineral concealers in powder form and brow pencils. Why not consider those options?

Skin-, body- and haircare

For skin-, body- and haircare, I’ve done well with sample sizes, sachets and transferring must-haves in little containers. Muji has an awesome selection, or have a look at your local drugstore or pharmacy.

Toiletries that are considered liquids are

  • all creams, moisturizers, sunscreen, serums etc.
  • cleansers and toners (also cleansing balms)
  • toothpaste, mouthwash
  • shampoo, conditioner
  • bodywash and -lotion
  • hairspray, hair gel and other styling products and deodorants.

To make things easier, have you considered shampoo bars, conditioning bars both for hair and body, deodorant in powder form or toothpaste tabs? All available from various indie brands or Lush cosmetics.


My liquids bag

what to pack in your liquids bag
My skincare travel recs: use sample sizes, sachets and empty containers you can fill with your favourites


… Contains things I consider absolutely during necessary the flight are hand sanitizer, hand cream and saline solution for eyes and nose, also some moisturizing lipgloss or lipstick.

For trips when I use only a carry-on, I pack the following makeup items:

  • two lipsticks
  • two lipglosses
  • mascara
  • foundation transferred into a mini pot
  • concealer
  • a mini UDPP.

Everything else is a powder product and goes into a different bag that stays in the carry-on (i.e. eye shadows, blush, highlighter, powder, eye liner).


Also in the plastic baggie goes:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • skincare items: moisturizer, sunscreen, cleansing oil, micellar water, serum, eye cream
  • perfume samples
  • toothpaste
  • deodorant and hairspray.

All in sample sizes or transferred into my trusty sample-sized pots. If neither your skin nor hair is finicky, you can of course rely on hotel toiletries.

Extra tip: pack valuables and other items you consider absolutely necessary in your carry-on. Always.

Cosmetics in a liquids bag
And here it is, the fully packed liquids bag! All rubber duckies approve!


A note on packing

I’ve heard from people who always pack all of their makeup items into their carry-on, because they’re afraid of things breaking, being stolen or end up missing. I’ve used European, Asian and US airlines and while luggage handling will always be rough, I’ve ended up with one missed bag (that was delivered one week later) and nothing stolen at all.

If you’re concerned about breakage, I’ve never experienced that. You can minimize the risk if you put cotton rounds into powder compacts and eye shadow palettes. Plus, pack smart. Breakable things go in the middle of your bag. Build it a little ‘nest’ and make sure nothing can bump around in the bag. The emptier the bag, the more likely breakage becomes.

Also, don’t over-pack on makeup and beauty items. 😉

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Beauty junkie with about 20 years of beauty experience under her belt. Editor, writer and twindly's PR heroine. Has an unbelievably large nail polish stash and a passion for skincare. Gets a kick out of pretty powders.

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