Backpacking Beauty Hacks; From A Bag Lady

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I started to write this blog about backpacking beauty hacks from the perspective of an industry-educated, experienced traveler and how I cope with my obsession for all things beauty while on the road. I relent, instead, to my instinct to keep it real.  

My unique background, which includes half a decade in the beauty industry, consists of many hats: a regular Renaissance woman of sorts. Of the various stylish job descriptions and titles I’ve held, it’s the beauty industry that I’ve remained the most passionate about. 

Why Travel With Beauty Hacks in Mind?

Applying the education (shoutout to FIDM alumni) and experience (3 yr. Sephora cast member) gained during that chapter of my journey to my present minimalistic lifestyle as a backpacker has helped me maintain appearances on more than one occasion. You can take a lady out of Sephora, but you can never take the Sephora out of the lady.  

Backpacking beauty hacks
No matter where I go, SEPHORA finds me

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer turned travel blogger, backpacking my way across the globe has humbled me with dozens of life-altering experiences. None so much as the impact of human waste on the planet. It’s become a topic of advocacy in my world in recent years and spills into almost everything I do, including travel. 

Jet setting, as I do, sadly, but truthfully, increases my carbon footprint. As a result, I do my best to minimize my output of waste and harmful gases in various other ways such as not owning a vehicle or reducing my participation in single-use plastics. I hear the melodramatic murmurs making their way to the front of your mouth as you read this and I get it; most humans can care less about their carbon footprint, but there are some of us that actually care enough to do what we can where we can. 

As one of those humans, catering to my worst habits while on a backpacker’s budget, I’m required to be more than a little resourceful when it comes to, what I paraphrase as, “traveling while fly”. So, without further adieu, here are a handful of practical backpacking beauty hacks that won’t break the bank that you can find (and fit) right in your luggage.

Backpacking Beauty Hack No. 1: Toothpaste

Not just for brushing your teeth, toothpaste tops this list of backpacking beauty hacks! The ingredients in common (white) toothpaste reduce inflammation and discoloration on the surface of the skin. Let me emphasize that I do not recommend smearing toothpaste all over your face. Use it, rather, as a spot treatment as it’s aces when you’re in a pinch. 

User’s note: Take care of ingredients that may irritate your skin. Allergies have been known to happen with some tooth-whitening agents. 

Toothpaste is the perfect backpacking beauty hack for pimples.
Image: Pinterest

Recently, I found myself without my luggage. It, along with my full toiletry bag, had been mistagged and sent to an entirely different country. While I was without my favorite charcoal mask, I used my (gifted) tube of toothpaste for more than just cleaning my teeth. I treated problem areas that would break out from the influx of sweat, dirt, and oil on my skin as well as bug bites (mosquito) on my face and neck. A little goes a long way allowing you to stretch the use of even a travel-size toothpaste bottle. 

Who knew?

Backpacking Beauty Hack No. 2: Pumice Stones

This little lava rock is great for scraping the dead skin from your feet, yes, but have you ever considered using one as a full-body scrubber? Lather yourself in soap and then gently (at first) trace the outlines of your body with the pumice stone. Adjust your pressure accordingly making sure to focus on problem areas like the underarms, elbows, and knees. 

Our bodies are constantly regenerating and shedding themselves, it’s natural. The exfoliation process sees to it that this dead skin is removed from the surface of your body and leaves skin smooth to the touch, not to mention the natural glow you’ll achieve in the process. 

My pumice stone is a staple item and my go-to for full body exfoliation after a day in the sun, slathered in SPF protection in place of lugging around a huge jar (or bottle) of body scrub. And now you can add it to your packing list as an easy backpacking beauty hack for your next solo adventure.

Pummus stone to the rescue for backpackers with a beauty twist.
Lava rock pumice stone

Backpacking Beauty Hack No. 3: Chapstick

Another backpacking beauty hack for minimalist is chapstick. A staple item with multiple purposes, this avid solo traveler never leaves home without it. A healthy beauty practice is to apply a lip balm before the application of any lip gloss, pencil, or lipstick. This level of moisture not only acts as a base or primer for any lip product but keeps the lips appearing plump. 

Although chapstick is used primarily to protect your lips from severe cold or hot temperatures, while on the road the consistent moisture locked inside the miracle salve has often doubled as a makeup remover (genius for removing mascara smears), a hair product (tame flyaways and/or baby hairs), or as an eye cream. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

The area around the eye is sensitive and without pores, yet requires moisture to stave off crow’s feet aka laugh lines. Before bed, I smooth a bit of the stick under each eye and use my ring finger to smear it around. Past training has taught me that the eyes (and decollate) can betray the appearance of youth as they are a few of the first visible areas to display signs of aging.

Chapstick is a perfect backpackers beauty hack for moisturizing eyes as well as lips.
No sexual inuendos here!

Additional Backpacking Beauty Hacks From A Pro

Living life seemingly as a permanent tourist has reshaped how I see the world of beauty. Realistically, there are dozens of pointers I can share all learned from my own trial and error. But a few relevant tips are:

  • If booking hostels, make fast friends with the other bedmates to help reduce the risk of treasured beauty items going missing in the shared bathroom. 
  • Do not, under any circumstance, use that community hand towel to dry your face! Use your robe or shirt, equally icky, but a more controlled dirty surface, or simply opt to let your face drip dry (personal go-to).
  • Take advantage of community space. That abandoned bottle of shampoo or toothpaste right when you were running out equals fair game. 

If that’s enlightening, let me make it abundantly clear that you should always take all of your personal belongings out of a shared bathroom after each use: backpacking beauty hacks 101. 

Admittedly, these three hacks are essential when the beauty going gets tough—so to speak. Realistically, these backpacking beauty hacks can be utilized by anyone, anytime. Slowly introducing the usage of these products into a daily routine can significantly reduce the amount of individual waste we leave on the planet. 

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10 Responses

  1. Thank you for this! I just hit the end of month 2 of travel in South America and my skin is really starting to hate me. Between dehydration and not bringing along nearly enough of my anti aging cream, I’m starting to look like a weathered sack. I never knew I could use a pumice stone for other parts of my body!

    1. Perspective is a wonderful thing! You can also use your loofah as an exfoliate for your face (pumice Stone May be too harsh—depending) and when I doubt, add more moisture to your regimen 👌🏾

  2. Yes, thank you for sharing this!! Beauty is the one thing I always forget about when I travel.. and in the moment, I don’t care, but I definitely regret it when I look back on my pictures.

    Good call about the toothpaste! I used to use it as a go-to for emergencies back in the day, but haven’t thought about it since!

  3. I never thought of using lip balm in these ways. This peaked my curiosity and I am going to research. And I agree, we should all be more mindful of our carbon footprint. Happy travels.

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Welcome to Bag Lady Meredith San Diego!

As a global citizen with more than 57 passport stamps, my adventure mandatory, serial-expat existence offers intuitive insight into globetrotting as a solo Black, female.

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Bag Lady Meredith San Diego is always on the move! Completing her 57th country in 2022, where can you spot Meredith San Diego adventuring in 2023? Stay tuned to find out just where in the world is Meredith San Diego!