How I travel with acne – 18 tricks I’ve learned along the way

I struggle with acne and lately, it’s come back to scar my chin and cheeks. I look at my non-acne-plagued friends and I stare at their beautifully clear foreheads and wonder how, despite the tropical heat and humidity, do their hormones remain balanced and calm. Life is unfair like that, isn’t it?

While travelling, I’ve definitely picked up a few tricks in those moments where my skin refuses to acclimatise to its surroundings and decides to protest violently. So, when packing for each trip, I’ve learned to prioritise my skincare based on my skin’s concerns: acne and acne scarring.

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way, which I’m going to share on the internet, to make life easier for acne-stricken travellers like me.


1. Only travel with products you know work for your skin

Why bring additional crap that will only weigh you down? I travel with the basics:

  • Make up remover, anything that gets waterproof mascara off
  • Gentle cleanser, non-foaming (gotta listen to Caroline Hirons)
  • Toner
  • Moisturiser – Lightweight, acne fighting stuff that won’t irritate my skin and can be used for night and day. I usually double up if the air is dry and my skin needs help.
  • Sunscreen
  • Eye cream
  • Pimple cream/gel
  • Neroli or Lavender essential oil – great for gently rubbing off 3-day-old scabs. I also mix a drop with my moisturiser for added “oil” if I find that the air is too dry and my moisturiser isn’t enough. This rarely happens though.


2. Sunscreen is your new best friend

Apart from the actual pimple, acne scarring wasis also a major concern of mine. I used essential oils to help with that, and also made sure to use a heck tonne of SPF to make sure the scars didn’t deepen under the sun.

After applying sunscreen, my face usually ends up looking like a greaseball a shade lighter than the rest of my body. I end up dusting a little bit of powder to reduce that shine and look a little less weird.


3. Travel with face masks at all times

My one luxury. Or two. On my trip around Europe, I carried two 100ml Muji tubes worth of facemask. I simply couldn’t live without it, I was terrified to live without it to be honest. While travelling around South East Asia, I decant my facemasks into an old contact lens case, perfect for 3-day to week-long trips.

The goal here is to maintain the same routine as I would at home and since facemasks are part of my routine, I bring them with me too.

If I have extra space, I bring along whitening sheet masks too. This also helps with the scarring but can be embarrassing to whip out in a hostel.


4. Green tea leaves make great facial scrubs

At home, I take my cleansers off with a face cloth and since I don’t have that luxury while travelling, I resort to DIY exfoliators to help me out.

I mix used tea leaves, green tea or peppermint, with my cleanser and sometimes, lemon juice, into a paste and use it as a scrub. It gets messy and it looks like you’ve seriously messed up the sink (you did!) but it gets the job done and that’s what matters.


5. Keep your cotton pads clean

Be annoyingly anal about this. Your cotton pads will be used for removing your makeup. Don’t make the situation worse by adding more gunk to your face. I keep mine in a ziplock bag, always.


6. Be prepared with a spare pillowcase

Or anything else that’s cleaner than your hostel sheets. Some hostels have made me raise an eyebrow or three when it comes to cleanliness. If you don’t have a spare pillowcase but desperately need one, use a clean shirt, towel or scarf.


7. Take those probiotics and vitamin E supplements

Like I said, listen to Caroline Hirons. She’s like the fairy godmother of skin that I will never have. I also found that vitamin E capsules were a great replacement for my moisturiser when I really needed that extra oomph.


8. Use a fast-drying anti-bacterial towel

I don’t know how much of that towel is just clever marketing and how much of it rings true, but travelling with a quick-dry towel is definitely a must. If you’re hopping from place to place, chances are that you’re not going to have a lot of time to dry out your towels and a damp towel shoved in a dark backpack is the perfect recipe for bacteria to grow. That’s just gross.

Do yourself a favour and get a quick-dry towel.


9. If you need to buy something, get stuff meant for “sensitive skin”

Forgot something or you’ve run out? Unless you find a brand that you’re used to, head to the nearest pharmacy and get them to point you to the aisle with all the stuff meant for sensitive skin. Why?

Because the chances of these products containing potential irritants in an unknown language is, well, slim. The usual suspects like fragrances and parabens are usually eliminated from these products, along with other ingredients I don’t really know about.


I once bought marijuana acne cream and nothing happened. It didn’t do anything for my skin. But at least I get to tell you I once bought marijuana… acne cream.

Make up

Here are a few rules I follow:

  1. If you’re sweating before your makeup is even on, forget it.
  2. But don’t forget the sunscreen!
  3. Keep makeup minimal, only use what you need.
  4. You’re on vacation, it really doesn’t matter what you look like. Everyone around you is a stranger anyway. No one cares.
  5. Pick one thing you can’t live without and forget the rest. I pick eyeliner.
  6. And a tinted lip balm.
  7. Remember to wash your brushes.
  8. Only allow yourself one luxury item. I go for fancy lipstick.
  9. Make sure you take it off every night.

Lastly, be yourself, babydoll.