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Have Skin, Will Travel: The Travel-Size Products Worth Flying For

birchboxTrial-size beauty products are the tapas of the product world. For we skincare swingers, they make it so that each day is a surprise. Neon lipstick? Luxury cleavage oil? Eye-squint-eliminating adhesive mask? Check, check and check.
They’re a way to keep things new, fresh and full of excitement. Even better, they’re a way to overcome the conundrum of the three-ounce TSA restriction.
For years, I would buy miniature bottles at the drug store, then gingerly squeeze favorite shampoos into them, hoping more made it into the bottle than dribbled down the outside. Heaven help me if I didn’t label the bottles — there was no telling what lurked inside the opaque fuchsia squeeze tubes.
But then I discovered the wonderland of luxury samples, mostly procured in gift-with-purchase bags. And suddenly, I’m excited to pack my cosmetics kit with things I’d never buy myself, like in-flight face spritzes and brightening eye cream.
Happily, now is the time of year when upscale beauty counters offer super-deluxe gift-with-purchase bags of top-tier products. It’s tough to participate in all of them, especially when buy-ins reach $200 and $250, but there are communities online where people go in on orders together, then split the spoils. Barneys and Space NK are two cult favorites, and they’re both in process — there’s even a dedicated forum on Sephora for fans of the Barneys promotion.
BarneysFor years, Barneys has lifted, brightened, cleared and dazzled me with its bags, which can include samples from Sunday Riley, La Mer, Revive, Nars, Lancer, Hourglass, 3Lab, Kevyn Aucoin, Lipstick Queen, Deborah Lippman and beyond. I haven’t committed to an eye cream in a decade, knowing that I’ll find one in the next bag installment. To reach the $200 minimum, loyalists often wait to stock up on high-cost items — perfume, eye cream and serums — to earn a bag. The promotion officially starts in early March (the picture is from last fall), but most sales associates will count purchases made now as a pre-order toward the promotion — call or ask in-person.
Space NK GWPSpace NK has a promotion through tomorrow. For a (startlingly high) $250 buy-in, the code Spring19 will nab you a bag holding about $400 of skincare, makeup and travel essentials. Some that caught my eye include a full-size Lipstick Queen liquid lipstick, Eve Lom cleanser, a small Diptyque candle, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes and Mila Moursi’s Revitalizing & Beautifying Oil.
Reason told me no, but I took the plunge, picking up a long-coveted hair curler, along with ultra-sensible conditioner and deodorant, which worked out to $250 on the dot. And now I can look forward to packing for my next trip with a bevy of dermatological delights.
And, if you prefer to bypass the buy-in and just get straight to the samples, Birchbox is a product junkie’s dream. The monthly subscription service is packaged in boxes pretty enough to use as décor, with finds like lip balm, dry shampoo and face masks.
TL;DR: This is a TSA PSA. Trial-size beauty products are a jet-setting product fiend’s face-cream fantasy.

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