Six Business-Travel Beauty Essentials

Aug 27, 2018

I’m on the road this week.  Five days of long drives, convenience store candy, and Hilton Garden Inns.  Not exactly the five-star business travel that I imagined in my youth, but as long as the bed is comfortable, the room is clean, and the shower is warm, I’ll be happy.  But even on a frugal business budget, you can make your travel beauty routine a bit more luxurious.

One. Under-Eye Gels. Traveling for business is exhausting, but you don’t want to look exhausted when meeting new colleagues or customers.  These Wander Beauty Gold Foil Eye Masks hydrate and soothe to bring down puffiness and reduce darkness.  The serum on these is great, because I don’t need to pack eye cream when I travel.

For a better buy, try these collagen-infused gold eye masks from Amazon.  They’re $11 for 30 packs, and they work like a dream.  They’re so soothing at the end of a long day.  Plus they’re not a liquid or gel, so they don’t count towards TSA-imposed limit.

Two. A Travel Humidifier.  Some of you are thinking, “Essential? A humidifier?  Really?”  Yes, really.  Most hotels have terrible air; those under-window units are the bane of my existence.  But take this Crane Travel Humidifier with you and you don’t need to worry about having dry, sallow skin.  This one’s cool because the internal unit can be used separately from the cup if you’re trying to conserve suitcase space.

Also, that dry air is really hard on my voice, so a travel humidifier saves me from sounding like a whiny Kathleen Turner by trip’s end.  The last thing you need if you’re meeting important people or giving a speech is to lose your voice.

Three. Dry Shampoo.  Overslept?  Running late?  You don’t have time for fresh hair, you need a great dry shampoo and an updo.  I travel with this IGK Dry Shampoo instead of my usual Pssst because it’s invisible (no white residue), and because it hydrates.  My hair gets so coarse when I travel, I need all the hydration that I can get.  Plus, it’s one of the few that comes in a truly travel-size 1.25 ounce can.

Four. Bar Soap.  When I travel, I switch to bar soap to get around the 3-0unce rule.  The only decent facial bar soap on the planet is made by Drunk Elephant.  They make two different bars: Pekee bar, which is gentle and balancing, and Juju, which mildly exfoliates and brightens.  Together, they tackle all of your travel skin woes in a small package.

You can also buy Juju (exfoliating) and Pekee (gentle) separately in a slightly larger size.  You can also let the Juju bar dry on your skin for an oil-reducing mask.

Need a cheaper option?  I used to pack African black soap (great for skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, etc.) when I traveled.  It’s gentle but powerful and you can break the bar into small pieces and just pack what you need.

Five. Heat-Protect Spray.  At a conference, I usually end up styling and re-styling my hair for different evening events.  This puts a lot of heat-induced strain on my ends.  This Moroccan Oil Protect Spray prevents heat damage and moisturizes.  And if I don’t have time to wash, I can pump a little into my hands and just run it through my ends to prevent dry, flyaway hair.

Six. Bath Salts.  I know this sounds like an odd packing choice, but between the car, the new bed, and sitting in bad chairs, my body aches by the end of the travel day.  And one thing that most 3-star business hotels have is a bath tub/shower combo.

These Herbivore Calm bath salts really soothe aches and pains.  They also help you relax and decompress before bed. You can also sprinkle a few into the tub just to soak your feet if you’ve been on them all day.

So what do you ladies pack for business travel to make it more bearable?  Any great tips for the group?


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  1. AP says:

    It’s not a beauty item per se, but…I always keep a pack of antibacterial wipes in my carryon bag for wiping down any hard surface on planes – seat back tray, the seat belt buckle, and armrests. Herban Essentials also makes some great little essential oil single-use wipes that are great for freshening up (the peppermint is VERY fresh and tingly, though they also make lavender, orange, lemon, etc.) or aromatherapy.

  2. Lisa says:

    I have an unfortunate allergy to gold. Does anyone have good eye gels that don’t have gold but are great for perking up under eye issues?

  3. Claire Tassin says:

    I decant all my face/hair products into contact lens cases. They’re great space savers and the perfect size for a couple uses of face wash or lotion so I can stick to my favorites on the road and not risk further angering my skin. I also always pack a sheet mask for the first night to attempt to undo whatever horrors the flight inflicted on my face – plus it forces at least 20 minutes of chill time which is a must the night before a big presentation.
    I also like to pack thick cozy socks. Slippers take up too much space, so socks keep me from spending too much time barefoot on questionable carpets. Finally, I keep a set of resistance bands in my suitcase, so if the gym sucks or I don’t have much time I can get in a decent workout.
    Also, a tip: most hotels will bring you a full size humidifier if you ask. Granted, they can’t guarantee availability so packing your own still makes sense, but I normally have good luck.

  4. Alison says:

    I really like using a solid cleansing balm for travel (for the same reason, a TSA-friendly non-liquid option). My favorite isClinique’s Take the Day Off – one jar lasts forever and it does a great job. Gets everything (eye makeup and all) off and is super gentle. It’s something that I use for business and pleasure travel and becomes sort of a nice part of the travel routine.

    Candy is also a wonderful part of my business travel experience… 🙂

  5. Rebecca says:

    I love using the drunk elephant pekee bar for travel. right now i use a small plastic container to hold it, so i can set that in the shower/near the sink in the hotel, but would love a different option. In additional to the eye gels i love any hydrating sheet masks (they don’t count as liquids either). I’ll pop one on in the morning and do any prep reading i need to do for the day before finishing getting ready. If i bring a travel sized setting spray I will keep it in the hotel fridge for some extra refreshment. My other tip, use the Sephora 100 point perks (especially the perfume and mascara samples). They often make good travel items, so i will just add them to my standard travel bag. Actually, keeping a travel toiletry bag ready to go is my favorite tip for frequent travelers.

  6. Kate says:

    I always bring a face mask. It both makes my travel weary skin look better, and forces me to relax. I’ve collected a bunch of Jo Malone sample products throughout the years, and I like to use them on work travel. I also bring lacrosse balls to use as massage balls on my tense shoulders. Lay a towel down on the floor and roll away. Heavy socks so my feet are warm and don’t have to touch the gross hotel carpet. Clorox wipes to wipe down nasty surfaces. Finally, I bring my own tea bags for sleep, digestion, caffeine, colds, etc. I used to get sick when traveling, so I like to be prepared for germs and illness!

    • Lauren says:

      Kate, I’m so happy to hear someone else travels with their own tea! I’m a tea drinker as opposed to coffee and so bring my own bags since most options tend to be Lipton or a sad orange pekoe (looking at you, Southwest).

      It’s not directly beauty related but since sleep can make a big difference in your looks: I keep a small “sleep-better” bag packed and permanently tucked into my suitcase. It has a sleep mask, earplugs, Badger Sleep Balm, and camomile tea.

      • Anon says:

        I agree on the need for sleep. I carry a small pillow/sleep spray (one that I also use at home) for hotel pillows: not only does the herbal scent mix help me relax and so sleep better, but there’s a psychological element from having a familiar smell in an unfamiliar environment. I think various companies make them; my current one is from Molton Brown.

  7. Katherine says:

    I am on the road about 45% of the time, lots of 5-11 hour flights. Having little luxuries to use definitely makes the travel experience more comfortable (I’m SO into that new copper eye mask). In terms of skincare, for me the key is routine: no new products; no skipping normal steps. This helps my acne-prone and often dull skin avoid a rough patch. I highly recommend a clear zip case for toiletries and clear screw-cap bottles you can label. It used to be that I ‘indulged’ a little while traveling – bread, free airplane wine and questionable pasta. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my immune system, energy level, and skin when I bring smoothies/salads onboard and have sparkling water (…or at least a white wine spritzer) instead. Also take a vitamin c + zinc supplement the day of and days around travel.

    • kk says:

      +1 on saying no to free airplane wine! I try to treat work travel like regular work- would i drink wine at 2pm on a normal workday? tempting- but probably not! My skin and my gut are both thanking me.

      • anon says:

        It’s also good to avoid carbonated drinks on flights. The cabins aren’t fully pressurised, and the lower air pressure can lead to increased bloating effect.

  8. Jules says:

    Traveling wreaks havoc on my digestion, unfortunately, so I always travel with extra probiotics, HCL and digestive enzymes. I also try to pack some healthier protein bars and protein powders to keep myself away from the candy, and try to have something sweet that “feels healthier” (to me).

    And tweezers. I swear to god my eyebrows grow on Max speed when I travel.

    • amanda says:

      OMG +1 to the warp speed eyebrows. Hahaha I’m glad it’s not just me.

    • Allison says:

      Ha! Tweezers are my ‘stranded on a dessert island’ beauty item. In a pinch I’ll take my chances with hotel soap and shampoo, but travel without good tweezers? No way.

  9. MSmarymary says:

    I’ve been trying to use more natural products in general, but I really like them when I travel. A beeswax-based balm can get through most airport security screens (I’ve only had a problem once in Denver) and the solid bars are no problem. Whole Foods and some grocery stores sell travel packets of coconut oil. I also take along bar soap from local natural/organic sources.

    On the less crunchy side, my friend swears by traveling with powdered Pedialyte. I haven’t tried it on a flight yet, but it does help if you’re dehydrated from general travel (or the climate) or if you had a few too many drinks the night before.

    • AmandaG says:

      One of my last trips I knew I would be indulging in a lot of drinking so I brought some electrolyte tablets that dissolve in water. I didn’t have to worry about Lewis and it really helped out.

  10. Mary L says:

    This is such a great topic! In addition to all the great suggestions here, I have a few more:
    I use Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash as my facial cleanser- it is powered rather than a bar (so, still solid, but you do not have to pack a wet bar of soap). I just tip a bit of powder into a baggie and pack that.
    Whole foods sell 0.5 oz of coconut butter (sometimes in the skin care, sometime in the cooking section). They are perfect for travel- I use them for moisturizing my skin and even for oil cleansing in a pinch. I have also put it in my hair overnight when it is really dry and angry.
    Last, I like to exercise when I travel, but sneakers take up so much space in suitcases and get smelly. So I use vibram fivefinger shoes. They are lightweight, squish very flat, can be put in a large zip-lock if they are smelly, and can be machine-washed. I use them on elliptical, treadmills, for weight training, and for short out-door runs. I cannot go on long outdoor runs with them, but then, when I am traveling for work I do not have the time anyway so it does not matter.

  11. C says:

    I like the idea of bar soap. I have thought of it before but never tried it, because I was worried about how to stash it. Do you keep it in/pack a plastic soap box?

    Also, love the contact lens idea!!! I normally get extra sample containers from Sephora (since I am in there so much), but the lens cases are bigger.

  12. Monica T says:

    I just happen to be traveling for work this week as well and although I don’t travel more than twice a year for business, I made some changes this time. I always try to travel light and I always end up regretting the changes to my skin care routine that requires. So this time, and for future personal and business trips, I invested in a big train case from Sephora and thanks to trying a bunch of the trial kits from PTR I just used my big containers to fill little travel containers of all my regular products. Having the room to bring everything means my skin feels as great as it does at home. I also always bring a detox mask like a charcoal or clay mask. Long days always make my skin feel grimey and I agree, a little time in the room reading and doing a mask and taking a bath is a great way to have some chill time.

  13. kk says:

    all good tips, and i agree on all except the bath salts! yuck! i would never, ever in a million years soak in a hotel bathtub- i doubt those are cleaned regularly, and probably full of other people’s filth.

    the othr thing i never do is drink hotel room coffee- I’ve read too many tips on how to steam clean your unmentionables in a tiny coffeemaker!

  14. Wendy says:

    Another frequent traveler here – I use the same humidifier – never leave home without it. I also bring eye drops as it seems like the laundry detergent that many hotels use gives me red itchy eyes. I bring a stash of handiwipes, and like others have mentioned, also bring thick socks and hydrating masks.

    • Jw says:

      Oh girl, I feel you on this!I started traveling with my own pillow case years ago for this exact reason! Easy to throw in my suitcase and no big deal if it gets forgotten. It has saved me from those horrible red eyes that are just miserable.

  15. J says:

    Writing in from a Hilton Garden Inn (!) in Frankfurt right now:

    1. Always a carry-on
    2. Mobile boarding passes
    3. Eye drops
    4. Hand cream
    5. Sleep mask
    6. Noise-cancelling head phones
    7. 6ft charging cord
    8. Cozy socks

    • NEENS says:

      Weekly work traveler here and I second of all these!

      Question though – anyone have favorite noise canceling headphones that aren’t bulky? Would like to find over the ear ones that fold nicely so its compact, or even in-ear noise canceling if anyone has recommendations?

    • Megs says:

      6ft charging cord…So clutch! As another frequent business traveler, I don’t know how I lived without this (and my lacrosse ball for knots).

  16. Becky says:

    If you’re looking for another non-liquid face soap to get around the 3 ounce rule, I really like the True Tincture Cleansing Stick from Belif (the Korean skincare brand). The chamomile in it keeps my skin happy when I’m traveling and it smells lovely.

  17. Emily says:

    No matter the time of year, between plane air and gross airport bathrooms and taxi cabs, I always seem to get sick either while traveling or soon after.To help prevent this, I always bring Airborne and a small plastic Neti pot that I use as soon as I get into my hotel room. It’s really helped me stay healthy when I travel!

  18. Meghan says:

    A pillowcase! I traveled a ton this summer for weeks at a time. Having a pillowcase from home went a long way in feeling more comfortable at the end of the day. Easy to pack and functioned as a dirty-clothes bag for the way home.

    Also, Mario Badescu facial spray – always refreshing, particularly for longer flights.

    • Beth says:

      One warning when you bring your own pillow case — bring one that isn’t white or take it off the pillow and put it back into your bag if housekeeping will be changing your sheets (I’ve lost two pillow cases this way)

  19. Meghan says:

    One last comment – I finally put together a designated travel kit of all of my favorite items, making packing and unpacking so much easier. H/T to Hitha and her amazing book for that one!

  20. KATE says:

    I always travel with a 10’ lightening charger, extra ziplock bags, a hydrating sheet mask, and a white noise machine. The mechanical sounds from the Marpac Dohm is how I sleep at home, so I bought the Rohm for travel. It’s the best purchase I’ve made for travel comfort!

  21. Kelly says:

    I started a designated toiletry travel bag this spring, and it’s the best. Most of my trips are road trips, so I’m still working out the kinks for air travel. I’ve been testing out the Lush’s shampoo bar and kind of love it. I tried the solid conditioner twice and then never again It was…not good.

    • Belle says:

      I think Hitha Palepu, who has a book called How to Pack that you should read, keeps all her toiletries in a bag ready to go as well. I should probably do that, but I always end up raiding it when I run out of something.

  22. denise says:

    Frequent international traveler (in coach) here.

    Some packing tips and tricks:

    (1) For long economy flights I pack 2 toiletries bags – one with ‘bathroom’ items (toothbrush / toothpaste, dry facial cleansing cloths, moisturizer, etc) and one with ‘seat’ items (tissues, visene, lip balm, wet wipes, ear plugs, sleep mask). Slide the bags into the seat back pocket so you can access them

    (2) I travel with a lacrosse ball in my carry-on to roll under my foot and ease tension in my plantar band. also good for shoulders, neck.

    (3) Since I like to work out on my travels but sneakers take a lot of space and are generally not pristine, I travel in them. If you find them offensive upon landing, slip into some flats at the airport lounge.

    (4) COMPRESSION SOCKS. For real. Not sexy, but you’re flying 12 hours in coach, which is equally non sexy. Commit and enjoy far less swelling.

    (5) For Europe trips, ear plugs are essential. The only thing worse than the wifi in Europe is the a/c. Your door will be open overnight and you will hear NATURE at night. I’m a Houstonian and we are not down with nature sounds. Enter ear plugs.

    (6) Equally problematic in Europe is lack of washcloths and lack of topsheet. If they are important to you (note – duvet only conflicts with #5 / crappy a/c), bring both. Also consider a dual-voltage travel hair dryer. Because some older hotels have crazy hair dryer contraptions that look like a vacuum cleaner. It is horrific.

    (7) Because I’m in sales, my Europe trips tend to involve copious amounts of alcohol. long flight + alcohol = bloating, so I make sure to take that into consideration in my footwear. If it’s borderline tight in the US, I leave it home!

    • Denise says:

      One more thing!

      Never pack something in your toiletry bag that will devastate you to part with.

      On my last trip to China I was *running* to grab my Beijing connection. They have different rules on liquids and aerosols. I had to simply abandon half my toiletries because I didn’t have time for security re-run them. Fortunately this was on my trip home so I didn’t care at all…losing my dry shampoo and shave cream on the way there might have been problematic!

  23. Annie Q says:

    I keep a candle and matches in my travel kit. Hotel rooms often smell musty and a nice vanilla scent makes any room more inviting.

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