Stress-Free Secrets to Travelling with Your Makeup Kit - QC Makeup Academy

As a successful makeup artist, travel could very likely become a regular aspect of your career. Contrary to popular belief, the artist chosen for a job is not always the one living in the city where that job takes place. If you work with an agency, a celebrity or brand (as a rep or trainer) you will likely find yourself packing your kit for some air travel. It’s all part of the glamour of the beauty industry.

Anyone who has traveled with makeup or cosmetics—even small ones for personal use—knows the potential perils. Pressed powders shatter to dust, foundations mysteriously leak half their contents, and the bristles explode off the heads of your brushes. Okay, so I made that last one up, but since the other two makeup disasters are awaiting you, it is essential that you know how to prep and pack your kit!

Makeup bag or case?

certified makeup artist with travel makeup case

Personally, I have always used a bag. I find it far easier to pack and travel with (both local and long-distance). Others prefer metal cases or rolling cases. I say to each his own. But you may find it easiest to navigate an airport if you have your kit in a carry-on or in your checked baggage. Trust me, bringing a metal box through airport security will not make your trip any faster.

To carry on or check?

Now, with airports, there are two ways to plan your travel. You can take your makeup kit on as your carry-on, or you can check it below the plane. Now, I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to the essentials for me to do my job, so I have never checked my makeup.

Because of the liquids and the exceptional number of products and tools, however, you may not always be allowed to carry your kit on board. For that reason, I still recommend packing it as if you would check it. This is the only way to ensure that your products will not be destroyed. One bit of advice: even if you choose to carry on, always remember to pack your tweezers and eyelash scissors in your checked baggage!

Make a list and check it twice

eyelash curler in makeup kit

Before any job, local or not, you should always check your kit. It is the best way to be sure everything is there and fully stocked. This is the perfect time to replenish your disposables (cotton pads, mascara wands, cotton swabs, etc). I keep a list of what is in my kit and I always double check it. This has always kept me from getting to a job and not having what I need. Do this as a favor to yourself, because once you land in a new city, getting your favorite, forgotten product is not always as easy as it is at home.

Pack the products carefully

One of the most important factors when traveling with makeup is organization. I recommend reusable makeup bags. These squares and rectangles perfectly hold the product, minimizing the size of the kit and making it perfect for travel. If you do not have these or do not care to invest in them, a Ziploc bag will do the trick.

You will want all liquids, gels, and creams in a sealed bag. This will save you a ton of clean up if any of them break or leak. When packing the liquids, wrap each one in a folded paper towel and place it in the reusable bag. Pack the bag tightly so nothing moves around, filling the top with additional paper towels if needed.

To ensure the safety of your compacts, cushion each one with a powder puff (or several cotton rounds). This little shock absorber will shield your powder blushes and foundations from the excessive shocks that cause breakage.

makeup brush roll for travel

If you keep your brushes in a roll they will be safe and secure. Much of what we carry will be just fine for travel, checked or carry-on. It just never hurts to use a little more care with the products that are particularly temperamental—like liquid and cream foundations and pressed powders.


My professional makeup kit is always very small. Over a 20-year career, I have learned to distill everything I could possibly need to do any job into a small black bag that is half the size of the totes people carry for errands. If you still have a mega-huge kit, you will need to minimize it to the essentials and a few favorites for travel.

To cut down on the excess for travel, consider multi-use products, like lip and cheek stains. Try putting cream products (foundations and lipsticks) into palettes, and take only a few liquid foundations (be sure to bring enough light and dark so you can mix every shade between).

In my professional kit, I carry almost 90 foundations. The powders all fit in a small bag, the creams are in tiny palettes and I carry only 4 liquids that allow me to mix any shade by using the other liquids and creams. You may not be there yet, but learning to edit and condense will save your shoulders and your wallet.

A few last tips…

cream blush

If you do opt to pack your kit in your clothing suitcase, simply separate the items in sealed bags and place them between your clean clothes in the middle of the suitcase. Super easy…and super secure. Just remember to bring a kit bag to put it in when you get there. And of course, pray that this won’t be the one time your luggage gets lost.

If you plan to check your make up in the belly of the plane, don’t keep it in a metal case. They have less padding and shock absorbers, so the product will likely break in the rough handling. Also, the many doors, compartments and hinges are not made for rough handling or drops. A metal case is a recipe for disaster and the last thing you want is your broken, empty case to roll around on the luggage rotary, right?

Traveling as a makeup artist can be very fun and exciting, so be sure not to let improper packing and securing of your makeup dampen the journey.

Put Nathan’s tips into practice by setting your sights on work as a runway makeup artist or a movie makeup artist!

Author Nathan Johnson

More posts by Nathan Johnson

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Carmen Thomas says:

    Thanks this was so helpful. I’m a Traveling Makeup Artist and I’m Traveling to New York very soon for New York Fashion Week! And I’m so worried about flying with my makeup! Thanks Again

    • Daphne Bichler says:

      Thank you for this great resource!

      I am particularly curious about traveling with alcohol activated palettes, such as skin illustrator. Do you have any experience if they are fine in my carry-on bag, and if they would need to go into the liquids bag? I don’t think they should, as they are not really a gel or liquid, but I would hate to lose an $80 palette to that assumption…

      Thank you for your help!

  • ALLYSON Mc KELL says:

    Great piece. Super practical! I’m not a traveling makeup artist..yet! However I do travel a fair amount with my makeup so the tips were very useful. Excited to use them in a month’s time.

    • Catherine Hammond says:

      We’re so glad you found this article useful, Allyson! Good luck with you career and we’re excited to see how you improve!

  • Nzinga Imani says:

    Thank you!! I’ve been doing makeup professionally for several years and finally booked my first international makeup gig in Jamaica! This article was extremely helpful!

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