Deciding what clothes to pack for a trip can be stressful enough, but adding to that all the beauty products—from tinted moisturizers to lip stains and everything in-between? Ugh.
What makes packing beauty products for a flight particularly tricky are all the TSA regulations. As a refresher, you’re allowed to carry on one one-quart clear, resealable plastic bag filled with liquids and gels in containers of three ounces or less. (An easy trick to remembering this is thinking of it as “the 3-1-1 rule.”) Anything you want to bring in addition to that needs to go into your suitcase.
We’ve all experienced horror stories of arriving at a destination with exploded foundation all over our favorite printed dress, or moisturizer now lining the entire interior of our makeup bag. Avoid any and all future travel disasters with this handy guide on how to pack all your various beauty products so they don’t explode, shatter, or worse.
Before Anything, Organize Your Products
First of all, no, you don’t need to take everything with you. Wherever possible, opt for travel-size containers of things like shampoo and perfume, and, once you have everything together, separate out the items that are fragile (glassware, powder compacts) or at risk of leakage (foundation, moisturizer).
Keep Like Items Together
Don’t mix your makeup with your toothbrush, or your moisturizer with your shampoo.
Invest in Small, Refillable Plastic Bottles
Really passionate about products that don’t exactly offer “travel-size” versions? Make your own. It will make the all the difference in both packing and your happiness on your trip.
Put Your Daily Essentials in Your Carry-On
Remember, you’re allowed to take that one-quart resealable bag with you on the plane, so take the products you use on the regular—concealer, mascara, moisturizer, lip balm, gloss—and put those in a resealable bag for your carry-on. That way, you’ve got your go-to products handy if you want to freshen up when you get off the plane or—worst case scenario—your bag gets lost.
Get the Excess Air Out of Your Bottles
You know how your ears pop on a plane because of the pressure? Well, air pressure changes can really wreak havoc on sealed bottles with air trapped inside of them, too. To avoid explosion risks, give your bottles a little extra squeeze to get any excess air out before you pack them—then seal them up tight.
Store Fragile Bottles Inside Your Sneakers
Sneakers are designed to cushion your feet while you run, so they’re well-equipped to protect really fragile items like perfume or foundation bottles while you travel.
Pro tip: Not packing sneakers? Wrap each fragile item inside a pair of rolled socks.
Double-Seal Your Bottles
Of course, you should make sure that any and all caps are screwed on tightly, but as an added layer of protection, try wrapping your products in a plastic cling wrap—paying special attention to the cap area—before packing it up. Looking to be extra-extra safe? Try duct tape around any pop-top openings or bottle caps.
Pro tip: Pay extra attention to products like foundation, tinted moisturizer, and self-tanner that have a higher chance of staining your clothing.
Don’t Neglect Your Powders!
Compacts with powders—like eyeshadow or blush—can break into pieces if they’re crushed or dropped. Protect these by surrounding them with sponges or tissue, and don’t put them at the bottom of your bag.
Embrace Resealable Bags
Next time you hit the grocery store, stock up on those quart-sized Ziploc bags (or whatever brand you prefer) so that you’re not left packing in a hurry and grabbing some rink-a-dink plastic grocery bag that you stuff all your products into. Resealable bags are the rear guard of your army of beauty product protection: If the worst happens and something spills, at least these bags will keep it from getting on any of your clothing.
Pro tip: If you have multiple items giving you heart palpitations when it comes to possible spillage, put those in a separate bag from all your other products so there’s less clean-up later in case the worst happens.
Pack Everything in the Middle of Your Suitcase
We know it’s easy to forget about your cosmetics until the end of your packing, but make sure to plan ahead and put those resealable bags of well-wrapped beauty products in the middle of your suitcase. If possible, surround them with items like tees and sweatshirts—items that are nice and cushioned. Never put something that you’d be devastated to see stained right next to your beauty products.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2015.