Packing your toiletry bag, whether it’s for an overnight trip or a month-long adventure, is nothing short of an art form.
And while it’s important to note that store-bought travel-size toiletries are convenient, they’re not always the best option and can cause a lot of waste. Below, we created a comprehensive packing list for your toiletry bag and included items that are not only sustainable but zero-waste, too!
20 zero-waste items to include in your travel toiletry bag
Hairbrush & comb
Hair ties and bobby pins
Shampoo and conditioner
Homemade body lotion
Extra contacts, solution, and contact case
Nightly face serum
Tweezers and nail clipper
1. Toiletry Bag
I reused an old toiletry bag that I found in storage. I honestly can’t even remember where I got it, but what I like about it is that it’s durable, easy to wipe down and it can fit everything on this list.
For your toiletry bag, try upcycling one you already have. If you have to buy new, this waxed canvas wash bag from Etsy is another good option.
2. Hairbrush & Comb
Since I have really thick and curly hair, I use a boar bristle hairbrush. You can easily purchase a travel size one here if you’re tight on space. It also comes with a wooden comb. Win-win!
What I love about boar bristles is that they help spread your scalp’s natural oils (called sebum) when you use it, helping to strengthen your hair. They are also 100% natural and chemical-free.
3. Bamboo Toothbrush
Did you know the first toothbrush you ever used as a baby still exists? In fact, 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the United States. Manual toothbrushes like the ones you typically get after a visit from your Dentist are made from polypropylene plastic and nylon, which are sourced from non-renewable fossil fuels.
For the longest time, I used Quip (which I really liked!), but I wasn’t a fan of the removable plastic head and battery that was sent to me every couple of months. While this business model was super convenient for me, I didn’t like that I was creating so much waste and decided to make the switch to a bamboo toothbrush. You can get 4 for $5.99 from Amazon. I also have sensitive gums, so the soft charcoal bristles feel good on my gums and the brush itself is 100% biodegradable.
4. Bite toothpaste tablets
Okay, I seriously love this product. The company itself is changing the game in how it approaches sustainability and zero-waste living in a cool, sexy way. Simply wet your toothbrush, bite down on one of the tablets, and start brushing. It also comes in a glass bottle and is 100% plastic-free.
5. Dental floss
I used to use those plastic dental flossers you can get from CVS or Walgreens on the daily until I realized how much waste I was creating by using them. I found this biodegradable dental floss from Tree Bird that comes in a refillable glass holder. The floss itself is not as strong as normal plastic toothpaste, but it gets the job done and I like knowing that I’m not exposing myself to harmful chemicals that some plastic dental floss may contain.
6. Hair ties and bobby pins
Pretty simple. If I ever run out, I buy a pack at Target and recycle the cardboard that it comes wrapped in.
This is something I’m constantly experimenting with since everyone’s body is different and I’m still trying to find a recipe that works well for me. Since there are so many toxins in conventional deodorant and most come packaged in plastic containers, this is the one item I recommend focusing on creating a zero waste solution for.
Here is my favorite recipe for homemade deodorant that works for my body:
3 T coconut oil
3 T baking soda
2 T shea butter
4 drops lavender essential oil
8. Shampoo and conditioner
Time and time again, I’ve heard Dr. Bronner’s is an awesome product for not only hair care, but for face wash, laundry and more.
I personally use Lush Curly Wurly shampoo. They package their products in black containers that you can bring back and recycle at the store. I also use their Jungle conditioner bar and keep it in a reusable tin like this one.
9. Soap bar
This charcoal bar from Young Living is my absolute favorite. I not only use it as a body wash, but to clean my face as well. The charcoal helps remove toxins and the smell is fresh and clean. Like my conditioner bar, I simply pop it in one of my reusable tins when I’m traveling and I’m good to go.
10. Homemade body lotion
This was a fun one to make. Simply take ¾ tablespoon cocoa butter and ¼ tablespoon safflower oil and melt in a double boiler. Once it’s melted, place in the freezer for 30 min. Once it has cooled, remove and using a hand mixer to whip it together until it has a light and fluffy texture. You can then store this in a small glass mason jar or in a reusable tin.
11. Face lotion
I recently bought the Yay for Earth face lotion from the Zero Waste store and only have the best things to say about it. The texture is sort of like a balm, so you have to loosen it up with your finger a little bit before putting on your face, but overall, it’s been a great solution and worked well on my skin.
12. Cotton rounds
This is a fun zero-waste project that you can do in less than 30 minutes. Take an old cotton t-shirt and use a round yogurt lid (or something similar) to trace out several circles. Cut out the circles and pin 3 together. Either sew them together using a sewing machine or hand-stitch them. It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means and they will help to reduce a lot of waste. I love using these both for removing makeup in the evening and as a q-tip.
13. Menstrual cup
Ladies...ladies. If you haven’t made the switch to a menstrual cup yet, it’s time. What I love most about my Diva Cup is that you can leave them in for 12 hours without having to empty it. You also cut out all trash -- no more waste from pads, tampons, applicators, plastic and paper packaging.
Not only is it an amazing zero-waste solution, it has also saved me so much money. From not buying a box of tampons every month, I save about $170/year.
14. Extra contacts, solution, and contact case
Okay, this one has me stumped. I haven’t been able to figure out a zero-waste solution for contacts and contact solution. (If you know of one, please let me know!). However, I try to create as little waste as possible by using contacts that can be worn for a month, instead of daily or 2-week contacts. I also make sure to recycle the thin line of plastic at the top of a solution bottle at my local supermarket and recycle the actual bottle once I’ve finished using it.
Self-explanatory. Warby Parker all the way. ✌
16. Prescription medication
I learned this one the hard way. Make sure you keep your medication in the label/script so that you can refill if needed. If you take them out and put them into a smaller container to save room, you’ll likely be questioned by TSA.
17. Albatross safety razor
I used to fly through plastic razors before I made the switch to zero-waste living. I recently purchased the Albatross safety razor and was surprised at how much of a better shave I get. I also love that it comes in a biodegradable hemp razor bag -- it’s so cute and stylish!
Instead of using tissues that are typically wrapped in plastic (if you get the small travel size), simply pack 1-2 handkerchiefs. I use my grandma’s old ones and it’s insane how durable they are. They’re also super cute and remind me of her every time I whip it out. If you can’t find one around your house, pick one up at a local estate sale.
19. Nightly face serum
I’ve been a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen lately and this nightly face recipe has been my favorite concoction yet. Simply add jojoba oil, 10 drops Frankincense essential oil and 3 drops Blue Tansy essential oil into a rollerball. Apply this to your face in the evening.
The Frankincense helps disinfect and tighten pores and stimulates the growth of new cells. The Blue Tansy smells amazing, and is found in most high-end facial products. It’s loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help calm inflammation and reduce redness.
20. Tweezers and nail clipper
I would forget these two about 70% of the time when I traveled and would always regret it - so don’t forget ‘em!
Travel Toiletry Bag FAQs
How do you keep your liquids from leaking?
Keeping lids secure and tightened can usually do the trick. But once you’re up in the air, the pressure may cause certain containers to loosen or even explode. In that case, I always put my liquid containers into a separate shower bag that I keep within my toiletry bag. It keeps it separate from the other items, just in case anything were to leak.
What size liquids can you bring in a carry-on?
Liquids containers brought in a carry-on can’t be over 3.4 ounces or 100ml. Everything listed in this toiletries checklist (minus the safety razor) can be brought onto a plane without being checked. If you opt for other products, just make sure each item is under 3.4 ounces, otherwise, you’ll have to check it.
Can you bring razors in your carry-on?
Disposable razors are fine to bring in your carry-on. However, safety razors, like the one I listed above, can only be brought in a carry-on if the blade is removed and placed in your checked baggage.