Leave the giant bottles and tubes at home and keep your luggage light with this guide to packing skincare products effectively

Nothing eats up space in a suitcase like bottles, tubes, jars and pouches of skincare products. But travelling is stressful on the skin and body, so you want to make sure you bring the products you know will keep your skin calm and happy.

Of course, if you have products that you need for treatment (such as acne or rosacea), always make room for these necessities. But avoid bringing new products, especially those with actives, such as salicylic acid, alpha hydroxyl acid, fruit complexes, etc. These ingredients can work wonders for some people, but this isn’t the time to experiment and possibly get a bad reaction from something new.

All the products below are mostly available from drug stores and specialty cosmetics stores like Sephora and Murale.

Packing Small for Your Skin

I have two main strategies for keeping things compact when packing skincare products: samples and tiny jars.

Throughout the year as I buy my usual skincare products, I always ask for samples so I can keep my travel bag stocked up with basics. I find brands like Kiehl’s, Fresh and Avene are great for providing small sachets of their products that each will easily last a week. Always ask for samples!

If I don’t have a sample of something I need, I reach into my stash of small jars that I always keep on hand for transferring products. Small jars are amazingly versatile. I put everything from hand cream to lip gloss to vitamins in them when I need to conserve space. Any time I finish up a sample that came in a tiny pot, I clean it out and toss it into a bag I keep with my travel paraphernalia.

Best Skincare Products to Bring on Your Travels

I have dry skin, so my products will differ from what you choose for yourself, but the overall concept should apply to anyone. I’ve specified brands when listing items, but the brand really isn’t as important as the general product, so always go with what works for your skin type.

This is my go-to list of skin care products I’ll always bring with me when I travel:

Avene Cold Cream Ultra-rich Cleansing Gel ($44.50): I’ll usually use whatever soap the hotel supplies, but I’ll always bring my Avene creamy gel face cleanser, which I use morning and night. Unless I’m using a super-strength sunblock on my face, this cleanser is enough to remove makeup as well. It’s concentrated, so a small amount is all I need.

Olay Complete Sensitive SPF 15 Moisturiser ($17.99): I wear sunblock every day and for days when I’m mostly indoors, this is my favourite product. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to products, so if I can find an effective item that kills two birds with one stone, I’m all for it. This has a photo-stable formula with titanium dioxide that agrees with my skin without making it an oil slick.

Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Sunblock ($30.95): For days when I know I’ll be out in the sun a lot I like this sunscreen, which is photostable and has a decent PPD rating (UVA protection). I can use this one on both my face and body so I don't need to pack separate products.

Shu Uemura Beauty Cleansing Oil ($40, 150 ml): I only use this if I’ve been wearing sunblock, so a tiny sample bottle is all I ever need of this concentrated product.

Avene Rich Compensating Cream ($48.50): This definitely isn’t for everyone because it’s very thick and rich, but for me, it’s the skin care equivalent of putting yoga pants on at the end of a day. It's a lovely, basic moisturiser that makes no great claims other than to keep my skin hydrated, which is all I need, especially after a day on an airplane.

Fresh Sugar Face Polish ($63): It’s always nice to polish the face every couple of days and this exfoliator smells divine and is so effective. It’s not an aggressive scrub so I know my skin will simply feel softly refined after using it, which is always nice after a day of travel.

Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 ($8.50): My lips are always dry, especially on airplanes, so I always have lip balm with me. When I travel, I like to bring this one because it’s really basic but effective, so I can use it for other purposes, like tending to my ragged cuticles and even putting a smidge on my face (like around the eyes) if the climate’s particularly dry.

Lubriderm body lotion ($7.99): This may be the only product I’ll actually go out and buy specifically for a trip. I use a lot of lotion so my tiny jars won’t suffice, but I certainly don’t want to bring a large pump bottle with me. The small tubes are brilliant for filling this gap and I like having one in my purse (I wash my hands a lot!) and one with my general toiletries.

Catherine Tse is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver who brings her love of style to a variety of print and online publications. She discovered early on that writing and an ambitious penchant for lovely things was a good combination.