Written by: Lindsay McEwen
At this point, the famously complicated multi-step Korean skincare routine has completely saturated the internet, spawning thousands of blog posts, articles, YouTube videos, and forums all dedicated to answering the question: What do I need to slather on my face to make it look like that?
I’ve been following my own version of the K-beauty regimen for nearly 5 years now and the results have been incredible—my oily-dry, acne-prone combo skin is now soft, bright, and hydrated. Sure, it might take me a bit longer than the old cleanse ‘n go method I used to employ, but I’ve found gently patting all that lovely goop onto my skin is the perfect way to unwind before bed.
The downside? A typical Korean skincare routine does not travel well.
The slightly insane number of bottles, tubes, and jars currently occupying my bathroom counter are a pain in the ass to stuff into a suitcase and haul overseas, which turns packing for every trip into an annoying game of “which products can I actually bear to abandon for two weeks.” Decanting liquids into those cheap plastic travel bottles you buy at the dollar store is one option, but after a few too many suitcase spills en route, I’m not a fan of that approach.
Instead, I’ve scoured the web to find those holy grail products that are not only effective, but travel-friendly to boot. By paring down my usual skincare lineup and subbing in travel-friendly replacements where I can, I’ve now got an on-the-go K-beauty routine that will keep my skin glowy and fresh no matter where I end up.
Check out some of my favorites below (bonus: they’re all carry-on approved!):
Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash
A unique and gentle cleanser that starts off as tiny granules but foams up nicely when lathered with wet hands. With a pH of 5.5, the Enzyme Powder Wash is perfect for anyone with sensitive or acne-prone skin, and its dry form means you don’t need to worry about tossing it in your carry-on. At just over $10 for a generous 70 ml of product, this cleanser is totally budget-friendly, too!
Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing StickIf you like to travel light, stick cleansers are a godsend. Their portable design, snug cap, and non-liquid contents make them easy to throw in a backpack or handbag without worrying about leaks (or the TSA). Winner of the 2017 Teen Vogue Acne Awards, Neogen’s Green Tea Cleansing Stick smells amazing, won’t strip your skin, and uses real green tea leaves to gently exfoliate your face.
Prelab Toning Peeling TapIf your regular beauty routine incorporates acid exfoliation, then these cute little “taps” will be your best friend on the road. Prelab’s Peeling Taps mildly exfoliate by using fruit extracts to peel away dead skin cells and brighten your complexion. Each packet is tipped with a small cotton applicator and contains its own dose of essence—all you need to do is squeeze to crack the seal and soak the cotton pad, then run it over your skin post-cleanse.
COSRX One Step Moisture Up & Pimple Clear KitsCOSRX is one of my absolute favorite Korean brands thanks to their awesome, affordable products and cute mascot, so I was excited to learn about their travel-friendly “One Step” kits for both normal/dry and acne-prone skin types. Each kit contains a packet of their low pH gel cleanser, a cotton pad soaked in either Moisture Up or Pimple Clear essence, and one of their Holy Moly Snail sheet masks. These kits are super handy for quick trips where you don’t want to lug much of anything around since each one is basically a mini-routine in and of itself.
Maskingdom Organic Cleansing Flakes
Okay, okay, this one isn’t strictly a K-beauty product, but Taiwanese brand Maskingdom deserves some love for their excellent formulas and gorgeous packaging (seriously, look at that art!). Their Organic Cleansing Flakes are pH-balanced, super portable, and use natural ingredients to cleanse and nourish your skin. Just take a flake, lather it up with a few drops of water in your palm, and scrub away!
Sheet MasksLast but not least, sheet masks are lifesavers when it comes to keeping your skin hydrated and happy on the go. There are literally hundreds of different brands and types to choose from, but some of my faves are Leaders, Lovemore (another T-beauty brand!), and Papa Recipe. In a pinch, sheet masks can take the place of toners, essences, and serums in your regular K-beauty routine, which seriously cuts down on the number of products you need to pack. They’re also great for keeping your skin moisturized during those long flights!