The abundance of 7-11 convenience stores was basically my favorite thing about Bangkok. After hours of sweating in over a hundred degree heat in the crazy city streets, I’d dip into the cool air conditioned sterile encasement of that store. I’d forget for a moment where I was in space and time as I scanned the products promising to make me beautiful again. If you’ve ever been a single white woman traveling in Southeast Asia, you understand.
Except every single product had a bizarre whitening agent in it that would bleach my skin.
The painful emotional implications of this cultural paradigm goes beyond the scope of this blog post, so for now let’s just consider the toxicity of it on the body. My general rule, is that if I won’t put it in my mouth, I won’t put it on my skin. And as a sun worshipping beach bum who couldn’t recognize herself without a tan, I wasn’t about to start bleaching my armpits with my deodorant or “brightening” my face with bleaching skin cream.
My high quality toiletries from home had all run out a long time ago, and here I was backpacking the world wanting to feel clean at least some of the time.
Because even when we’re backpacking, we still want to feel beautiful. Even when we’re traveling, we still deserve to feel luxurious and lavished… no matter if we’re sleeping in a wooden beach hut or a twelve-bed dorm room. We deserve to worship the temples that bodies truly are, gifting them with offerings of daily decadence.
And this is not easy on the road.
Sure, there were the times when I found some little gift shop offering some coconut oil homemade this or that. Or the times in Costa Rica when I had access to Bioland, a national all natural and organic brand. But none of it worked well, and none of it was easily accessible.
Experience has shown me that if I want to give my body the luxury it truly deserves, I have to be able to make the goodies myself, from anywhere in the world.
So here it is, my All Natural Travel Beauty Kit, that you can bring in your carry on bag, that you can produce and make from anywhere, and that actually work better than any conventional brand on the market. First I’ll list out the ingredients to have on you, then the ingredients you can find in most places in the world, and finally I’ll share my recipes for my favorite beauty products.
What You’ll Need to Bring
I try to keep what I pack at a minimum, so that I always have the option to take my bag as a carry on. Since I started using essential oils, this has become way easier, because they’re ultra concentrated and I can just dilute them with water or high quality oil once I arrive at my destination.
A little of this stuff goes a long way, and it’s very versatile. It helps reduce the appearance of scars, protect your skin from bacteria, and I use it regularly as a lightweight hair serum. Back a small travel size bottle.
The ultimate teeth whitening agent. Activated charcoal is also in my Travel Wellness Kit because it does an amazing job of binding to toxins and clearing up food poisoning when ingested.
You can usually find this on the road, but it’s not a liquid and you don’t need a lot, so I just pack a small amount into a Ziploc. That way I don’t have to worry about trying to find baking soda while I’m traveling. I use it to clean my teeth, in my deodorant, and I add it to my shampoo for the world’s best clarifier.
I use these multiple times a day, they are in most of my recipes, and using them always makes me feel well taken care of. They come in 5ml and 15ml bottles which means they take up very little space (I travel with as many as 20!!) and you can take them on the airplane. My favorite essential oils for my beauty kit include lavender, frankincense (the best skin product ever), and purification (a blend that cleans wounds, works as deodorant, and keeps away insects). Read more about essential oils and how you can order them wholesale here.
Glass is heavier, but I prefer the quality of it, so I travel with some small glass bottles, a couple with droppers and a couple with sprays, for making my beauty products on the road. I bought mine at Whole Foods but you can also order them online here.
Getting off the dead skin is the best way to have what my dear friend Sarah calls “rebirth.” In Morocco they use a special kind of mitt, almost like a cloth sandpaper, to scrub their dead skin off in the public baths. I love these mitts far more than any loofah, you can get them for $1 in Morocco and you can order them online here (but unfortunately marked up to $20, crazy).
What You Can Find on the Road
Depending on where you’re traveling, there are sure to be natural beautifying ingredients for you to learn about and explore. In Morocco they have herborist shops with all kinds of special natural treats. These are the very simple things that I trust I can find basically anywhere.
High Quality Oil
I use coconut oil as the base for most of my beauty product recipes, and fortunately you can find it in most tropical countries. Be sure to get the extra virgin, cold pressed kind, which will be clear when liquid rather than yellow when liquid. In Morocco I have used the local Argan oil (marketed in the USA as Moroccan Oil) and in Spain I used cold pressed olive oil.
Local Handmade Soap
It’s a nice treat, and usually at farmer’s markets or co-ops you can find really nice all natural stuff using local ingredients. In Costa Rica I regularly buy a wonderful detoxifying charcoal soap and a delicious chocolate soap.
And finally, here are my recipes, for my favorite toiletries and beauty treatments, that actually work, that you can make on the road.
Three Ingredient Deodorant… That Works!
When you’re dealing with tropical weather, wandering around hot cities, hiking in the mountains, you’re probably going to sweat a lot. There are certainly ways you can reduce how smelly your sweat is, mostly from eating a clean diet and drinking lots of water. Still, armpit odor may occur. The smell comes from the bacteria that’s already on your skin, so the key is to kill the bacteria before you start to sweat.
Conventional deodorant has all kinds of chemicals, aluminum, and other ingredients that I’d never want to absorb into my system. But none of the all natural brands like Tom’s of Maine have been very effective for me. Then I created this homemade deodorant, which works better than anything I’ve ever used.
3 tablespoons Baking Soda
3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
A few drops of Purification essential oil
Make sure that the coconut oil is liquid before making the recipe. If you’re in a cold climate, just dip the jar into hot water until it melts. Stir the coconut oil, essential oil, and baking soda together until combined, and put it into a small jar. You can also pour it into an empty deodorant container, however it may liquefy in the heat or become way too hard in the cold. I just keep it in a little jar and use my finger to rub it on.
Some people have irritation from the baking soda, so you can swap out the baking soda and the coconut oil mixture for magnesium oil mixed with purification essential oil. The reason I use purification, is because it’s specifically blended to kill bacteria, which is the cause of the odor in the first place. It has tea tree in it, but it has a very pleasant smell that’s much less medicinal than tea tree. I’ve also used just straight purification oil rubbed in my armpits, which works great, however you will use up your essential oil more rapidly this way.
Facial Oil for Glowing Skin
Perhaps the biggest toll travel takes on your appearance, is through your skin. I was blessed with clear, glowing skin for most of my life, and never really struggled with breakouts. Then, I started traveling in Southeast Asia. It seemed like no matter what I ate or eliminated or cleansed, my skin was always breaking out.
When you’re traveling there are so many factors affecting the health of your skin, from the quality of the water you’re bathing in, the level of pollution in the air, and the unfamiliar food you’re eating. Using this facial oil has dramatically changed the appearance of my skin, keeping it smooth and blemish free in the dry USA Pacific and in the tropics of Costa Rica’s Caribbean.
1oz quality oil (I use jojoba oil)
5 drops frankincense essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
Use a small glass bottle with a dropper top. Pour all of the ingredients into the bottle, screw on the top, and shake. You only need a couple of drops a day, so it lasts a very long time. I use it after washing my face in the morning and again before bed. I will also occasionally put a couple of drops of pure frankincense in my hands and rub it on my face after washing. It does wonders for my skin and the smell is very uplifting. For blemishes, I spot treat them directly with tea tree oil, however since using the frankincense, I don’t really get blemishes anymore.
Super Whitening Toothpaste
I’m going to get a little crazy here, and tell you guys that rubbing black charcoal on your teeth is the best way to whiten them. Seriously. I stopped using conventional toothpaste two years ago, after learning about how harmful chemicals, dyes, and fluoride are for your health, and I started making my own toothpaste. Since then, my teeth have never been whiter, and people constantly comment on them. While I think putting the charcoal on directly can be a bit too harsh, it’s a great addition to a homemade toothpaste.
¼ cup baking soda
1 teaspoon activated charcoal
1 teaspoon coconut oil
3 drops of peppermint essential oil
3 drops of thieves essential oil
Optional: bentonite clay and Himalayan salt
Mix all of the ingredients into a small jar that you can dip your toothbrush into. It should form a soft paste, even in warm climates. The peppermint oil gives it a nice fresh taste and the thieves is a blend with cinnamon and clove that tastes delicious and removes bacteria. You can also make a mouthwash simply by adding peppermint and/or thieves oil to water.
Kiss Me Breath Freshener
Add a drop of peppermint oil to your water and you will have a makeout ready mouth. Yep, that’s it! No need for sugary, chemically breath mints or gum!
Sweet as Sugar Scrub
When my friend Marissa, who I’ve known since childhood, and I were traveling around in Central America a few years ago, we were getting a lil too much sun. Let’s just say we had a lot of skin peeling off. So, we invented this delicious skin scrub to keep our skin moisturized and glowing.
½ cup coarse grain sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Optional: essential oil, coarse ground cacao, and coarse grain coffee
Mix all ingredients together into a jar. Use the coffee, cacao, or essential oil of choice to create the smell and experience that’s yummiest for you. Apply to your skin and spend several minutes scrubbing to exfoliate and stimulate your skin. Rinse off and the coconut oil will keep your skin moisturized after the shower. I recommend doing this after you use soap or a cleanser.
Saltwater Proof Hair Serum
Swimming in the ocean every day and subjecting your hair to the harsh sun can do a ton of damage to your hair. For a long time I’ve used coconut oil, which I still love, but which can begin to build up and make your hair greasy. I still use it for a deep conditioning before going into the ocean, but now I use a different homemade hair serum for after I wash my hair. This serum is super concentrated so it lasts forever and it tames my curls without making my hair look greasy.
1 oz castor oil
5 drops essential oil of choice
In a small glass bottle with a dropper, blend the castor oil and whatever essential oil you choose. I personally like lavender mixed with the joy blend (which is apparently good for hair growth). While my hair is still wet I put a few drops into my hands and lightly glide it over my hair. The castor oil apparently helps rebuild the cellular walls of your hair to repair breakage, and if you massage this serum into your scalp it’s supposed to promote hair growth.
DEET Free Insect Repellent
For most of my life I had a serious problem with mosquitoes. I remember as a kid spending the summer camping in the mountains and coming home covered in scabs from scratching myself so badly. When I started traveling in the tropics I sprayed myself in the strongest DEET you could imagine, and it still didn’t make a difference. I would get huge, swollen bites everywhere. Then, everything changed. It stopped being a problem. If you want to cure yourself of mosquito bites, check out my post How I Cured Myself of Mosquito Bites Forever. Now, I use an insect repelling oil, which deters the mosquitoes and keeps away sand fleas. This is what locals in all of the islands use.
2oz coconut oil (or other high quality oil)
10 drops purification essential oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops thieves essential oil
Mix all together in a travel size bottle. Slather on your skin throughout the day, and particularly before sunset when the bugs come out.
Sun Worshipper Sunscreen
Sunscreen wasn’t a huge concern for me before I started traveling. My skin browns easily and I rarely get burned. But when I went to places close to the equator, even SPF 30 wouldn’t cut it. I ran out of sunscreen quickly, it cost a fortune to buy it locally, and I still got burned. Perhaps the solution was to spend more time in the shade, but I love to swim in the ocean for hours and walk on the beach in the sunshine. Then, I started to notice how many chemicals came in sunscreen. I didn’t want to feed my skin that anymore. So I stopped using sunscreen altogether, just applying coconut oil and trying to get in the shade. I got sunburned a lot. Finally, I found a solution, a simple truly natural sunscreen that I can make from anywhere, that is strong enough to keep even my delicate face from getting burned.
The proportions and ingredients will differ depending on how high of an SPF you want to have.
Stir and mix together and put into a jar. If you want an ultra creamy blend, you can mix the coconut oil and shea butter in a double boiler before mixing in the other ingredients. Once it has all mixed and cooler, take a hand blender and whip the mixture. You will need to reapply often, especially after getting out of the water. To make it more waterproof, add beeswax when you’re melting the ingredients in the double boiler. For more info, check out this recipe on Wellness Mama.
What I Buy Instead
Unfortunately, there are a few products that I’ve had a hard time creating myself. Specifically with shampoo and conditioner. In the past I experimented with no shampoo and coconut oil for conditioner, but my hair looked terrible. If I’m checking a bag, I’ll pack multiple bottles of an all natural, sulfate and paraben free brand (right now I’m using Acure).
Makeup is another one of those things that I experimented with making myself, and then decided it wasn’t worth it. Fortunately, you probably won’t be wearing it that often while traveling (especially if you’re in beach destinations) and it will last you a very long time. I’ve never run out of makeup on the road. I use the all natural brands that they sell at Whole Foods, Pharmaca, Super Supplements, and other health food stores. I keep it simple, packing just an eyeliner/eyebrow pencil, mascara, eyelash curler (I know these are terrible but I’m addicted), bronzer, and a highlighting stick. I’ve chosen to forego any type of concealer or foundation, which is really terrible for your skin, and instead focus on my diet and using essential oils for clear skin.
I’m also a huge fan of Dr Bronner’s Soap, which is extremely pure and highly concentrated. If you get the unscented one you can add your own essential oils to it depending what you’re using it for. I use it to wash my face, body, clothes, and dishes.
So there you have it friends! Everything that fits into my travel toiletry bag! To find out more about essential oils and how I use them for travel, check out my post, Why I’m Obsessed With Essential Oils.
Also be sure to check out My (NEW) Travel Wellness Kit with everything I take in my travel medicine cabinet.
To your health and beauty my sweeties!