When it comes to packing makeup, there are two camps. Many relish the chance to streamline their collection, cherry-picking do-it-all pencils and multi-tasking palettes for a capsule edit that’s fit for beach, bar and everything in between.
I’m not that girl.
I sit firmly in the ‘pack it all and pray’ camp, slinging in formulas I haven’t touched all year, hoping they’ll make it to the arrivals gate intact.
I still get called ‘Picasso’ by my father-in-law, seven years after airport security exposed the ten-strong brush selection I’d packed for a two-day mini break. Whether I use everything is another question entirely, but my approach calls for a seriously roomy storage solution.
Whichever group you’re in, one thing is for sure: organisation is key. The right travel makeup bag will save you space, time (crucial when your pre-dinner snooze ran over by 90 minutes) and money – ensuring nothing gets broken before you’ve even got your passport out.
From spacious cases that’ll fit everything (*and* the kitchen sink) to hand luggage-friendly pouches that’ll have you cruising through to the departures lounge, I’ve hunted down the savviest makeup bags for on the go.
Best large makeup bag:
Stackers Lavender Small Hanging Wash Bag, £35
Dimensions: 20.5cm x 8cm x 55.5cm
My biggest tip when selecting travel makeup storage is to ignore the product names and think outside the box. Pencil cases can be brilliant for stashing your brushes and liners, while those marketed as ‘wash bags’ tend to offer most in the way of compartments.
Case in point: this multi-pocket faux leather number from Stackers (the brand’s hair accessory organisers and cable tidy cases are genius, too).
Ideal for small hotel rooms, it can be hooked onto the back of a door to create a makeup ‘cabinet’ wherever you are in the world.
There are three transparent compartments including a removable pouch that’s just the ticket for carrying your in-flight essentials, while the magnetic clasp and handle lets you neatly fold it all away.
And forget garish pineapple prints; this comes in beautifully understated hues such as sage green and oatmeal.
Best makeup bag for protection:
Lily England Large Makeup Bag Organiser, £16.99
Dimensions: 24cm x 14.5cm x 7.5cm
The robust boxy shape of this one means it can be slotted seamlessly into the corner of your case without the fear of its contents getting squished – especially important if you’re travelling with glass bottles or delicate powder compacts.
Inside, there are slots for brushes, with a special cover to keep the heads clean, and a transparent zipped zone that guards against leaks. Open up the second layer to reveal a large area for your bigger items and another pocket that’s perfect for eye and lip pencils.
It’s wipe clean and surprisingly lightweight, considering how durable it is. And all for under £17? A no-brainer.
Best makeup bag for brushes:
The Flat Lay Co Standing Brush Case, £13.99
Dimensions: 22cm x 10cm when closed
If you like keeping your brushes totally separate, may I draw your attention to this slick caddy. Available in a medley of chic prints, it contains pockets for up to eight brushes, with a firm base that lets you stand it up when opened for easy access to your tools.
I find it a lot more hygienic than mixing my brushes with the rest of my makeup and the fact it’s machine washable means it never gets grubby. I use mine all year round, placed on my dressing table, then zip it up when I’m ready to jet off.
Best makeup bag for organisation:
Trish McEvoy Small Power of Makeup Planner, £35
Dimensions: 15.2cm x 10.8cm x 6.4cm
Don’t be fooled by the dinky size of this patented organiser. Dubbed the ‘Filofax’ of makeup, it can fit an extraordinary amount of beauty booty.
Pioneered by makeup artist Trish 25 years ago, on the outside the faux leather cases (available in three sizes) look like ordinary makeup bags. But once unzipped, you’ll find a ring-binder that can be filled with multiple ‘pages’ of Trish McEvoy makeup (bought separately).
Customise it by clipping in one of her mirrored magnetised palettes containing eye and cheek colour refills of your choice. Then use the back pockets for brushes and tubes, and the removable mesh pouch for smaller loose products.
The stacked system means there’s plenty of space but everything’s kept safe, compact and oh-so-satisfyingly neat. It’s an organisation queen’s dream.
Best drawstring makeup bag:
Donna May London Open Flat Drawstring Makeup Bag in Nude Pink Animal Print, £23
Dimensions: 55cm diameter (when laid flat) and 23cm x 16.5cm (when folded in pouch)
If you get a grand total of four minutes to do your makeup on holiday (fellow mums, I’m looking at you), consider a ‘lay flat’ makeup bag your game-changer. Simply spread everything out then scoop it all up using the drawstring once you’re finished – no more scrabbling around looking for each product. They’re great for catching any mess during application, too.
Lots of brands offer them but this female-founded bag, masterminded by celebrity makeup artist Donna May Clitheroe, gets my vote.
It comes with a hairband and matching travel pouch (I use mine for cotton pads/buds/muslin cloths), and there’s also a faux leather version for £32.50 (with optional embroidering of your initials for an extra £3), but I prefer the convenience of this machine washable canvas number.
Heads up: this style of makeup bag isn’t the most compact and there’s minimal padding – although I’m yet to have a single breakage and have clocked up some serious air miles with mine.
Best makeup bag for your handbag:
Gen See Mighty Makeup Bag, £20
Dimensions: 19cm x 14cm x 5cm
Prefer a makeup pouch? I hear you. They’re a no-fuss way to store your makeup, and lightweight and soft enough to chuck in your handbag when you’re out and about.
This one, made from 100% organic fair-trade cotton, is a smart move. Unlike most pouches, it contains four internal pockets so you can still keep things orderly. The base can also be stretched out, allowing you to stash away more than you think. Mary Poppins, eat your heart out…