Because we don’t all “wake up like this,” Beyonce!

Living out of a backpack for an extended period of time presents a special challenge for the beauty-conscious traveler. Below, I’ve listed a few tips to keep yourself looking great so you can focus on the beauty around you while exploring!


  1. Just mascara, lipstick, and a bronzer/blush go a long way. Depending on your destination, you may find it is easier to wear no makeup at all (I often have!). However, it is always nice to have a few staples on hand for those nights you want to doll up. When you have to pack everything you need for a few months in a backpack, space is very limited. Pick out the 2-3 essentials you truly depend on from your makeup kit, and leave the rest at home. For me, this is mascara, lipstick, and bronzer.
  2. If you straighten your hair regularly, consider getting a Brazilian keratin treatment. If you have hard to manage hair that reacts unpredictably to humidity (like me!), a Brazilian keratin treatment from a salon will do wonders. For me, the treatment completely eliminates the need for a blowdryer and straightener. Post-treatment, my hair air-dries in half the time and maintains a manageable texture, eliminating the need for a straightener! This is extremely helpful, considering space in my backpack is limited and a blowdryer and straightener would take up a good amount of room. Also, being able to shower and go without worrying about my hair saves so much time on the road, leaving more time for visiting with fellow adventurers and sightseeing! The treatment can be a bit on the pricey end (ranging from $80 to $300), but lasts for 3-6 months. Make sure you only use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to make it last longer. I like the Organix and Aveeno brands, often available in travel sizes at drugstores.
    Wet hair, don’t care! Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe


  3. If you must pack a straightener, purchase a mini-straightener. This will save a good bit of space! While I am not packing this for my summer travels, I love my trusty Mini Flat Iron from Sephora. If you absolutely cannot live without it, this tool will save a lot of room while packing.
  4. Dry shampoo and baby powder work miracles. In case you don’t have time to wash your hair between exploring all day and going out in the evening, a dry shampoo will add volume to your hair and give it a fresh look. I recommend Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo in an airline-approved travel size (pack a few cans!). This is available at most drugstores. Old-fashioned Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder applied at your roots provides the same benefits at a cheaper price.
  5. Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF 50. Even if you “don’t burn” (which is usually my case…until it isn’t!), you will when you’re exploring non-stop in the sun from dawn to dusk. I recommend Coppertone Sport in a travel size, which is waterproof (pack a few!). I prefer a lotion to a spray, as a spray can leave unsightly streaks if you are not extra careful when applying.

    The “bushman’s soap” (found in the bush of southern Africa) will provide instant soothing and healing to a severe sunburn. All you have to do is find the Devil’s Thorn plant in the bush and apply water!
  6. Pack a hat or two, as well as a Buff. Hats are great for keeping the sun off of your face and your hair in place in all weather conditions. I always pack a trusty baseball cap, a straw brimmed hat, and a Buff. A Buff is a convertible headband/bandana piece, and it’s great because you can wear it so many different ways! They also come in a variety of colors and patterns. I always keep one tied to my backpack just in case I need to get my hair under control at any given moment.
I also highly recommend purchasing matching hats with your friends you make while traveling when possible!

7. Just let go and embrace the natural! I am someone who enjoys consistently wearing makeup in my regular everyday life. It makes me feel ladylike and put-together. As my grandmother says, if the barn needs painting, paint it! However, part of the beauty of traveling is just going with the flow. While in Africa, I did not wear makeup at all until the very end of the trip (and only because it was Christmas night, and we celebrated by dressing up and having a braai!) Not wearing makeup was truly a liberating experience, and I feel like I grew more comfortable in my own skin as a result. Stay focused on the experience, and your inner glow will provide all the beautification you need!

Embracing the makeup-free life while hiking in the beautiful Matopos, Zimbabwe!