It is a uniquely Western phenomenon where we women are made to feel that caring about our looks is ‘vain’ or ‘shallow’. And succumbing wholeheartedly to this philosophy in my youth, I’ve lost count of how many miserable days I spent hating my clothes and regretting my lack of toiletries on a long trip. Because the truth is, in most of the countries you will be travelling around, the women are GORGEOUS. And they wear nice clothes, and make-up and do their hair and basically break all the rules you thought existed for a liberated, free-spirited female traveller. And if like me all you have packed are modest linen outfits and travel shampoo, prepare for your self-esteem to be tested.
But you don’t have to suffer like this! I’m not saying pack your GHDs and all your usual toiletries (please don’t do that!), but with a few adjustments and a few key additions you can look and feel great while you travel – cos let’s be honest, that’s super important too!
1) Pack a few nice dresses
These days I am the constant envy of my friends and travel companions as they are dismayed by last-minute dinner plans while I am able to produce a nice dress from the depths of my backpack. But this was one learned through experiences best not dwelt upon. Just trust me – a nice summer dress or two take up practically zero space and will be invaluable for unexpected dinner invites, impromptu parties, or dates with hot guys along the way. Hey, it happens! In most countries outside of Europe/North America you will find it between difficult and impossible to find, at short notice, a smart and affordable outfit that you feel comfortable in. So come prepared.
2) Buy your ‘modest’ clothes in-country
For many destinations you will need some more modest clothes, at the very least for entering temples and other religious sites. Conversely to the first point this is something Western countries do less well – for us summer is for short skirts and tank tops and long clothes are for warmth (simplistically speaking). The clothes you will find at home that are sufficiently modest will either be too warm or designed for your granny to wear. Why not save yourself a fortune and a fashion crime and pick up some loose ‘traveller pants’ when you get there. Even better, do as the locals do and snag yourself some stunning shalwar kameez or colourful wrap skirt (known by a different name in almost every country it exists!). Not only will you look great and feel cool, but these items double up as a great souvenir.
3) Get yourself sorted before you leave
Get your hair cut, your legs waxed or your feet pedicured. This is not a conscriptive list, but rather a suggestion that any beauty regimes that are important to you and which are likely to impact negatively on you if they are not done – book them in just before you leave. I have been there. You don’t bother getting your hair done because it will be tied back the whole time. Then you meet the man of your dreams, or in my case are unexpectedly interviewed on live TV, and suddenly your straggly locks are all you can think about. Don’t go mad with the pre-trip pampering, after all we are talking serious travelling here not a week in Magaluf, but anything that is likely to threaten your self-esteem if neglected is worth a place of your pre-departure To Do list.
4) Don’t neglect important regimes
If you know your skin breaks out if you don’t wash your face morning and night, or your hair dries out if you don’t use a certain conditioner or product, then it is probably worth the slight extra weight to pack these items, right? Trust me, I’ve been there. Travelling around South East Asia with spots too many to count and hair so brittle it looked like I’d been electrocuted. It’s no fun for you – and when you’re miserable that’s no fun for the people you are travelling with. Sure, my bag only weighed 11kg – but boy would I have added on a few kg for my favourite products. Again, don’t go overboard (see next point), but if something is really important in your home beauty regime it is pretty likely you will want it with you when you are travelling.
5) More of some things, less of others
Make-up in a tropical environment, in my opinion, is largely a waste of time. If you are hoping to have a hot date or two along the way or a couple of fancy dinners out it might be worth packing a face powder and some waterproof mascara. But beyond that is probably not worth the extra space. Foundation turns your face into a shiny, melting sheen and eyeliner/eyeshadow etc smudges within seconds. Far better to follow a good skin care routine as above to ensure your skin is as healthy as possible to face the sun.
Equally, perfume is often a waste of packing space. If you wear it during the day time it can give you pretty nasty burns, and even at night it is often eclipsed by the strong smells found in many countries such as tropical flowers, spiced food and some other less pleasant smells.
Take care when using hair products in hot countries. A lot of these burn up in the sun and cause your hair to dry out. Some people like to use an SPF hair spray during the day which sometimes also has hydrating properties. Personally I don’t bother.
Suncream is vital! At the very, very least use a high factor (I’m talking 50) on your face, neck and backs of your hands. These areas age more than anywhere else. You will thank me when you’re in your fifties, I promise. But many suncreams can block your pores and cause your skin to become greasy. This in turn can lead to your face breaking out. It is worth shopping around to find one you like, and considering using a higher-end brand on your face if you are prone to break-outs.
6) Enjoy your journey, you look great anyway!
So these are the tips and tricks I’ve learned to look my best whilst travelling. What other pearls of wisdom have you guys learned? What is your ideal travel beauty regime?