Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel Tips for Women | Makeup

Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel Tips for Women | Makeup

The one bag (henceforth known as ‘onebag’) single carry-on travel scene is dominated by men. As the female half of a onebag travel backpack couple who’ve been traveling long term for over two years, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way. If you’re a woman looking for onebag travel tips, DIYs, and how-tos, keep on reading. This article is focused on makeup, but don’t miss the packing, clothing, accessories, feminine hygiene, and toiletry tips articles!

Don’t miss our OneBag travel tips for women. To fit in so much information we’ve made it a multi-part series!

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A Special Note

As the title indicates, this post is aimed mainly towards women. So we thought it fit to diverge from our normal post style and have Shannon write this one. Although, Sergio contributed occasionally. That being said, while this article is focused on tips specifically for women when traveling, we encourage the guys out there who are, will, or aspire to travel with a woman to read this as well. We think it’ll help give them a better appreciation for what the women in their lives go through when travelling, especially when it’s only out of a travel backpack (onebag)!

Quick Links

Before embarking on our travel adventure, I learned a lot from others. But over two-plus years of continuous long-term travel out of a single carry-on travel backpack (Osprey Manta AG 36) I’ve figured out a packing list and style that works for me.

I’m big on DIY (do it yourself), frugality, and being a minimalist. I tend to shy away from the ‘off the shelf solutions’ and prefer being resourceful and creative. My style is bound to be different from yours, but take and adapt what you can!

Don’t Give Up What Makes You, You

Stereotypically men dominate the long-term, lightweight, and extreme traveling lifestyle. Therefore, much of the information out there on packing lists is male focused.

Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists that’s full of tips for both his and hers! On top of packing lists and tips, we discuss the gear we carry, plus explain what we don’t carry and why.

When doing research most of the information I found led me to believe that I needed to minimize my backpack down to the absolute bare minimum. This would mean ditching many of the things that made me feel like me. In other words, ditching some of my femininity.

I played with the idea of no makeup, the same three outfits over and over, no jewelry, and no hair products. However, this didn’t sit well with me.

When I focused my research on packing tips for female travelers, I mostly found tips for the average ‘vacation’ traveler who takes double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of luggage I was going to be carrying. The few tips I found from women travelers who travel with a single carry-on travel backpack were generally vague and unfortunately, not as informative as I would’ve liked. Plus, add to that that every woman has unique beauty concerns and needs, and I was getting nowhere fast!

Tip: I’ve since found the sub Reddit r/HerOneBag which is full of women that are eager and willing to provide plenty of advice and personal experience. It’s a great community for women who want to or actively travel with a single carry on travel backpack or bag.

What works for me is minimal (relative to the majority), but ultimately I refused to give up what I considered my bare essentials to still feel like me.

This post is focused on makeup, a huge part of my daily routine and appearance that I didn’t want to forego entirely!

Women’s Makeup Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

Makeup is a personal preference. So whether you’re like me and always wear makeup or if it’s only for special occasions, it’s not something you have to give up if you’re traveling with only a carry-on bag.

Here are a few solutions to minimize your makeup’s weight and volume.

Storing Foundation Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

Standard full-size foundation bottles only hold an ounce or so of makeup, but they’re usually large heavy glass bottles. Instead of carrying the glass bottle with you, use a small re-usable plastic container!

DIY Foundation Container Solution

I went to a local department store makeup counter, very kindly explained my travel plans, and asked for a few empty sample containers. I was turned down once but found success on my second try!

I filled four of the small containers with my foundation and found that, in my case each container lasts a couple of weeks. The containers are minimal and fit into my TSA sized liquids bag, easily nestling around the larger items. When I need more, I simply buy a new bottle of foundation on the road and refill my light weight sample containers.


Over time I’ve gathered a few different sizes and types of containers for my foundation, powders, moisturizers, and other creams. From left to right: 0.5 oz container purchased in a travel container pack, about a 0.5 oz sample container from Lush cosmetics, about 0.25 oz sample container from a department store, the last two on the right are very small sample containers from a department store.


Off the Shelf Foundation Container Solution

Most big-box stores carry travel sized containers, including two to three ounce jars with screw off lids. However, these are much bigger than needed. Instead you can purchase plastic sample containers on Amazon, usually in bulk. I prefer smaller half ounce (plus or minus) containers, because I can use more than one if needed and they fit more easily into my toiletry bag. If you prefer, you can purchase TSA approved containers that are larger and only use one for a month or more of foundation.

Tip: I also use a sample container for my setting powder. When applying, the opening is just large enough for my brush and the lid works as a place to tap the excess powder off.


I keep my foundation (0.5 oz and lasts about 3-4 weeks) and setting powder (about 0.25 oz and lasts 3-4 weeks) in sample sized containers to save space and weight.


Makeup Brush Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

Makeup brushes are a must if you’re applying powders and preferable for applying foundation. However, standard makeup brushes tend to be too big and too heavy for single carry-on only travel.

Instead of spending money on an entirely new set of makeup brushes in travel size, I decided to use my own trusted and true full-size makeup brushes… just with a DIY twist!

DIY Travel Makeup Brush Set

To figure out how long my makeup brushes needed to be, I paid attention to where I placed my fingers while applying my makeup. After marking the spots, I handed the brushes over to Sergio and he used a Dremmel to cut off the long handles and sand the edges.

I would venture to say that I ended up shortening the handles by 75%. Plus, after using them for a bit and adjusting to the new lengths, I realized I could have gone even shorter. So, the next time we had access to a Dremmel I took matters into my own hands and cut off a little bit more for maximum weight and volume savings! They now measure in at less than three inches in length.


Top: My DIY travel makeup brush set is my favorite full sized brushes with a modified (cut) handle! This is the entire set, minus my foundation brush.
Bottom: The ends of my travel makeup brush after cutting and sanding.


Frugal Travel Makeup Brush Solution

If you’re looking for a powder or foundation brush, there are a few makeup brands out there that will give them to you for free. For example, Bare Essentials has a powder brush they give out with powder samples. They’re short (under an inch!) stubby brushes and work well.

I have one for setting powder, one for foundation (later replaced with a branded stippling foundation brush), one for blush, and one for bronzer/contour.

I have yet to find an off the shelf set of brushes that are this compact and lightweight!

Tip: Since the brushes look identical, I used different colors of nail polish to paint the end of each handle. (Plain is for setting, silver for bronzer and contour, and pink for blush.)


Free brushes from Bare Minerals that are given with makeup samples are a great option for setting powder, contour, bronzer, blush, and even foundation. They aren’t contoured and they start to shed after 6-ish months (in my experience), but they’re incredibly compact and get the job done.


Off the Shelf Travel Makeup Brush Set

A simple ‘travel makeup brush’ search on Amazon brings up many thousands of choices. So to narrow your options to a few minimal (weight and volume) travel makeup brush sets, here are a some options.

Cleaning Makeup Brush Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

It’s smart to clean your makeup brushes regularly. Instead of carrying makeup brush cleaner, I simply take the brushes in the shower with me and use shampoo and conditioner. Some would argue that this isn’t the most conditioning method for the brushes, but it gets the job done when traveling so minimally.

Of course, there’s no need to shower with your makeup brushes as they can also be cleaned just as well at the sink.


Cleaning my brushes on the road (in a hotel room)! Either in the shower or at the sink, use shampoo to wash your brushes. I wash them a few times, until the suds are clear of makeup, and then finish them up with a round of conditioner. With a napkin or paper towel, I press the brushes dry and then leave them out to dry. In this case, I was able to dry them on the hotel balcony (over looking Sighisoara, Romania’s citadel)!

Full Face Makeup Palette Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

I searched high and low for a makeup palette that had everything I needed in one palette and wasn’t big and bulky.

I wanted something that included three to four eyeshadows, a bronzer, and a blush. Most of what I found at the time was just eye shadows or just face powders (bronzer, highlighter, blushes). It was a tall order but eventually I found a palette by Tarte that had everything I needed, in my ‘ideal’ colors.

After a few months of usage I realized a couple downsides to using my Tarte palette (After Dark, limited edition).

It Was Still Relatively Heavy

In terms of onebag lightweight travel, it was still pretty heavy. It came with a mirror that I never used and it was encased in a thick heavy plastic. While the heavy duty case was protective of my makeup (it never cracked or broke), I wasn’t convinced that the added weight was worth it.

I Don’t Use All Makeup at the Same Pace

I put more of some colors on and less of others. So, I would run out of the main shadows and highlighters well before I ran out of the contouring colors. I realized that when I ran out of the first color I’d have to purchase a new palette, which meant either throwing away the old one and wasting the remaining makeup, or carrying two palettes around.

Tarte Rainforest After Dark Colored Clay Eye & Cheek Palette *Limited Edition*

Tarte Rainforest After Dark Colored Clay Eye & Cheek Palette *Limited Edition*


DIY Makeup Palette (AKA Makeup Palette 2.0) Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

I decided the best option would be to make my own makeup palette. (Sergio here! She’s the female MacGyver I tell you!)

I could go with a commercial off the shelf method and use Makeup Geek’s or Inglot’s ‘make your own palettes’ and purchase the inserts I wanted (expensive). Or I could go the DIY path in one of two ways. One, I could de-pot my makeup and stick them to a magnetic makeup case like Z Palette (heating plastic and glue, and prying the tins out). Or two, I could de-palette my makeup completely, breakdown the powder, and then reconstitute it in the the palette of my choosing.

I did the later DIY option and it was easier than I expected!

Following Travel Fashion Girl’s DIY Tutorial I found a lightweight makeup palette at a drug store and emptied out all of the powders I didn’t need and replaced them with colors I wanted (alternatively, purchase an empty makeup palette). When I was done, I used masking tape to reinforce the lid and make it more durable.

Ultimately, I ended up with two palettes, one with blush, highlighter, and bronzer, and one with everything else. Combined they’re still lighter than my Tarte palette!

Now, when I run out of a color I just replace it and not the entire palette!

Tip: Whether it’s a DIY palette or an off the shelf palette, I always protect my pressed powders with a layer or two of tissue. I’ve used sewing backing, tissues, and paper towels, cut to size and folded to the right thickness to fill the empty space between the powders and the lid.


My DIY makeup palette is so much lighter and more versatile than my off the shelf palette!

Touching Up Makeup Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

I don’t know about you, but for some reason a day of travel wears my makeup a bit more than a ‘normal’ day.

My makeup bag is pretty minimal, but rather than have to take out everything to fix my makeup mid-day in an airport or train station restroom, I keep the essentials near the top of my bag and make sure my makeup brushes are within easy reach.

Before I pack my bag that morning, I leave a little extra powder on my setting, blush, and contour brushes. Since most of the time all I need is a touch-up, a small amount of powder on the brush is enough. Easy, quick, and efficient!

Makeup Removal Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

When Sergio brought home this thrift store find that he thought I could make use of, I looked at him with disbelief (Sergio here! In my defense, it was new in box and had great reviews on Amazon!).

I thought that there was no way that the Makeup Eraser (a small pink towel) would remove all of my makeup!

But I entertained him and gave it a shot. In a side by side comparison (using a white cotton towel to dry my face), the Makeup Eraser removed as much, if not more makeup than my normal routine did!

I was a convert. I now carry this towel with me everywhere! Now, to clean my face all I need is the the Makeup Eraser and a bit of water!


The Makeup Eraser easily takes off all of my makeup, even my full coverage foundation and waterproof mascara!

Makeup Travel Case Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel

Rather than carry around a makeup bag and a travel case for my brushes, I store them in DIY reinforced Ziploc bags!

All of my accessories (jewlery, makeup, perfume, etc.) fit into a snack size Ziploc bag that then fits into my DIY makeup travel case!

My makeup is minimal enough to easily fit in a quart size bag and my brushes (cut to travel size) fit in a snack size bag. In fact, the snack size bag that holds my brushes fits inside my makeup bag along with another snack size bag of earrings (2), necklaces (2), bobby pins (5 or 6), hair ties (2), and perfume (2)!

Tip: We reinforce our Ziploc bags but we’re still often asked about the durability of our DIY packing cubes. In the case of my quart size makeup bag, it’s original and still going strong after 2+ years!


All of my makeup fits into a single quart size Ziploc bag! I’ve been using the same reinforced Ziploc bag as my DIY travel makeup case (our DIY packing cubes) for over 2 years.


Final Thoughts

So many women I’ve met along the way comment on how they have too much makeup in their travel bag to even get close to traveling in a 36L travel backpack like we do. However, I wear more makeup than most and I refused to give it up.

With a bit of resourcefulness and creativity it wasn’t too hard to miniaturize my makeup to a quart size bag and still keep all of the functionality!

Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel Tips for Women | Feminine Hygiene and Toiletries

Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel Tips for Women | Feminine Hygiene and Toiletries

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