I Went on a 5-City Book Tour: Here Are the Products That Kept My Skin Perfect

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Amanda Montell

Planning which skincare products to bring on a trip already presents quite the pickle. Consider the TSA travel-size rule alone, and what? Are we supposed to buy all our favorite serums and cleansers in travel size? The indignity! But the task of planning what to bring when you’re going to five different cities in a row with varying climates all the while dealing with the dryness of air travel, your period (because it always insists on coming at the most inconvenient times), and the stress of being on a book tour makes strategizing your skincare routine even more challenging.

Indeed, I spent the entire month of June on tour promoting my first book, Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language. (I guess you could consider me a beauty editor by day and a linguist by night.) I went to D.C., New York, New Orleans, L.A., and San Francisco—five environments that call for rather different skincare necessities. Looking glowy, breakout-free, and photo-ready for my book events was super important to me, so I pretty much packed my entire life into my skincare bag. Better to be prepared for anything, I figured! But at the end of it all, I wound up using 13 choice products along the way (which of course varied from city to city). Curious how I kept my skin in check throughout my book-tour adventures? Keep scrolling to check out the skin-saving travel products I relied on.

New York and Washington, D.C.

The second I exited Dulles Airport in humid Washington, D.C., basically all of my pores became instantaneously clogged. That's only half hyperbole. Suddenly, I had to reconfigure my entire skincare routine, which was catered to L.A.'s dry climate—not D.C.'s and New York's blemish-inducing ones. Luckily, I was prepared (as any obsessed skincare enthusiast would be).

Part of that involved swapping my hydrating cream cleanser for this gel formula by Versed (which I loaded into a tiny, leftover supplement bottle to make it travel-friendly—yay reusing!). The very simple, no-frills product has a refreshing, rose water– and mint-infused formula with a splash of lactic acid for gentle exfoliation. Perfect for sweaty East Coast weather.

Speaking of clogged pores, I definitely got my money's worth out of this convenient little tube of acne-fighting magic. Salicylic acid, rosemary, and tea tree oil make up the simple but effective formula, which I dotted onto each greasy breakout twice or three times a day like it was my job to keep the bad bacteria at bay.

The irony of summer on the East Coast is that it's a prime season for both sunburn and breakouts; but since many sunscreens are pore-clogging, you often have to choose the lesser of two evils. My holy-grail solution to this problem comes in the form this Japanese-made drugstore sunscreen, which I talk about on the internet so much only because it's that good. The formula is so watery and lightweight it's hard to believe there's broad-spectrum SPF 50 in there. I couldn't live without this ish. The Japanese really have it figured out. 

New Orleans

If the humidity in D.C. and New York was bad, going to New Orleans was basically like bathing in a vat of pimple juice (too much?). NOLA is one of my soul's favorite places in the world—I have a ton of kooky Southern family there—but it's not my skin's favorite. The Deep South called for the big guns: a one-two punch of skin-clearing treatments from celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau.

The first is Rouleau's Triple Berry peel, a beauty-editor secret weapon for eradicating breakouts and clogged pores and fading post-breakout red marks thanks to a formula of a five fruit-derived AHAs, BHAs, and enzymes, plus antioxidant-rich berries. (The peel smells like jam, but don't taste it. That sounds like a stupid warning, but trust me, once it's on your face, you'll be tempted.)

At Rouleau's firsthand instruction, I always follow the peel with her antibacterial detox mask. The shimmery gold product has a gel-like texture that feels super refreshing and cooling on the skin (great for calming redness in the hot south), and bacteria-dissolving ingredients like tea tree and salicylic acid complement the berry peel by fighting acne from a whole different angle. 

L.A. & San Francisco

California is my comfort zone, so I had a slightly better idea of how to keep my skin happy here. K-beauty brand Belif's travel-size cream cleanser is my go-to in slightly drier, less oppressively hot climates. The cream-to-foam formula contains vitamin C and detoxifying plant ingredients to keep your skin bright and hydrated yet breakout-free.  

My favorite hydrating mask comes from nontoxic, L.A.-made brand Youth to the People. It's an overnight mask, so you leave it on while you sleep, but it absorbs super quickly so your face isn't greasy for hours and hours. Vitamin C, antioxidants, squalene, and hyaluronic acid are the main goodies in this formula, which has become a holy-grail product for me, simply because every time I use it, I wake up with skin that's very noticeably more glowing and dewier.

When breakouts aren’t as much of an issue, I try to stick with physical sunscreens, especially under L.A.’s unrelenting rays. Drunk Elephant’s formula is lightweight and non-irritating, doesn’t stink to high heaven or leave a white cast, and is formulated with beneficial antioxidants to protect and glow up your skin at the same time.

Everywhere

Sunday Riley recently launched a subscription box service, and its summer one was travel themed, so perfect for me! At $95, this thing was a scarily good deal. There is almost $400 worth of products in here including a travel pillow with a silk case, a Harry Josh hairbrush, and a ton of Sunday Riley’s best products in cute little travel sizes. I used the glow-inducing Good Genes serum, refreshing Water Cream moisturizer, and wrinkle-preventing Autocorrect Eye Cream every night of my tour. 

No matter what is going on with my skin or routine, one thing always remains constant: I use Koh Gen Do’s micellar water and Renée Rouleau’s toning cloths to take off my makeup. It’s really simple; there’s no better product for gently but effectively taking off makeup than this nourishing Japanese formula, which comes in a bunch of different sizes. I have a mini one for when I travel and a big one with a convenient pump top for home.

And ever since discovering Rouleau’s thin cloths, which don’t absorb/waste all your precious micellar water or deposit icky fabric strings all over your face, I will never use cotton pads again.

Gotta have a hydrating, rejuvenating face mist for those drying plane rides! Ayurvedic brand Ranavat’s luxurious and 100% natural elixir is packed with brightening hydrating jasmine, smells like heaven, and is a TSA-friendly size. 

Grown Alchemist’s lip balm is never not in my purse. The delicious antioxidant-rich formula moisturizes the lips like no other, so they stay smooth all day long, even when you’re talking nonstop at book events, which as it turns out, can really parch your mouth! The product even has a slight plumping effect. Oh, and it’s also a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow’s.

Buy my book! :)