In the sixteen years that I’ve been visiting Thailand, my travel toiletries bag has totally transformed.
Other than *sob* needing wrinkle-protection now, the biggest change to my travel toiletries since first coming to Thailand in 2003 is my buying habits: (1) Products have to be natural and non-toxic, and, (2) if they’ve been within fifty miles of a testing bunny or beagle? Forget it.
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The best toiletries for Thailand
Yes – it’s all cruelty-free!
Cruelty-free and tested myself in crazy Thai heat: Just like the best makeup for Thailand, everything below boasts zero animal testing and is ‘best in class’ for being as green/eco/natural as possible. I’ve tested most of this stuff personally during insane heatwaves in Thailand, bought myself as a normal customer – no comps, perks, promos or freebies.
Green toiletries for tropical places?
When you add Thailand’s heat, humidity and UV strength, an insistence on natural and cruelty-free toiletries does complicate things. BUT. Good news: you can have it both ways. While it’s easier to find regular drugstore brand products to outlast any tropical storm, I’ve finally cracked the ‘green beauty’ conundrum and can now truly recommend the best toiletries for Thailand (or any hot and humid destination). Here’s what I think works best…
The best toiletries for your face in Thailand
1. Your face vs. Thailand’s heat and humidity
Inescapable truth: It’s really hot in Thailand and you’re going to do a lot more than ‘glow’. A recent trip to Koh Samui was the hottest weather I’ve known (and when locals are complaining it’s too hot – it’s reeeally hot). It was during such sticky weather that I tried out my new konjac sponge – a magic, totally natural sponge made from a Japanese vegetable – that very gently exfoliates your face and neck. I could almost feel my skin thanking me after each use – it felt much cooler and happier.
From now on, my konjac sponge is the first thing in my toiletries kit for Thailand. If you can start using yours a few weeks before you travel, even better. Given how much sunscreen you’ll be putting on your face (and how much you’ll sweat), I like to ‘win’ and get a headstart on happy skin.
Are you a lazy human? If you’re lazy and always prefer the mechanical option, I presume a travel-sized Foreo Luna would offer similar results in less time.
2. Daily face routine (tropical edition)
Face wash – Being on vacation indeed means lazy days – but “girl, wash your face”. After lightly exfoliating with my konjac sponge (morning and night unless jetlagged and dead to the worth), a quick face wash is nothing different than normal. I always go for something quite gentle – you’re asking a lot of your skin in Thailand’s heat, humidity and strong UV.
Travel tip: I always prefer bar soap when travelling as it’s one less thing to spill. The travel soap box (above) comes with a silicone band to seal it tightly shut (a major upgrade to the Ziplocks usually grabbed in a pre-departure panic!).
Light moisturiser – Your needs here will depend on your skin type but I find that Thailand’s humidity (and the amount of water you drink in the heat) means I need to use less than usual. If you like to tan or have a multi-prong wrinkle-avoidance plan, some argan oil drops are good inclusions.
3. Your face vs. Thailand’s UV strength
Other than the daily basics, described above, I try to put as little on my skin as possible – it’s busy enough keeping me cool. No primers, no this or that – just straight to sunscreen. A quality face sunscreen (SPF 30+) is a daily necessity in Thailand – it’s so close to the equator. If we’ve learned anything from JVN on Queer Eye – don’t forget your neck!
Tinted face sunscreen? I avoid anything tinted as it will likely sweat off in unseemly ways. If you’d rather take your chances for the extra coverage, I’ve used both the products above in “normal temperature countries” and like them very much.
Makeup? If you’d like to add makeup, do so a few minutes after applying your face sunscreen. (Taylor Swift Bathroom Dance Party in the interim). As it’s so hot, I favour minimal makeup in the tropics – ideally paired with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) sunhat. Sound good? See the best makeup for Thailand, below, or carry on with toiletry recommendations for the rest of your bod.
The best toiletries for your body in Thailand
1. Mosquito-repelling superpowers
Meet the main tools in your ongoing No Mosquito Bite campaign (that you can totally win). I’ve written a raving review of Incognito products (totally natural and DEET-free) and utterly rely on their loofah soap followed by a head-to-toe anti-mozzie spray application.
2. Travel-sized shower stuff
When it’s extra hot in Thailand, as it was during my ‘guinea pig’ official test phase, three showers a day become a quick habit. Nothing fancy or fussy in this basic daily shower routine – you’ve got a vacation to enjoy.
3. This is awkward (but you’ll thank me later)
Let’s just say it’s really hot and really humid in Thailand and leave it at that. Come prepared.
4. Tanning and touch-ups
If you’d like some colour without the UV, these tanning towelettes are indeed cruelty-free and work in two to four hours’ time. As for the face wipes, anything in the “quick touch-up” “emergency restoration from sweaty-sweat-pig to human being” are always happy discoveries in your purse or pockets. Have we mentioned it’s hot in Thailand?
5. The best sunscreen for Thailand
Here’s something else I’ve mastered in the past sixteen years: I never get sunburned. I’m borderline paranoid about Thai sunshine but rely much more on (A) clever cover-ups, (B) big sun-hats, and (C) staying in the shade than I do on sunscreen. Of course, this is a fringe approach and most of you are dreaming of endless sunshine by the pool.
Need your sunscreen to be natural? I’ve put dozens of brands of green sunscreen to the ‘Thailand Test’ in recent years and some went straight in the bin after the first use (the ‘unspreadable chalky white putty’ varieties thrown with particular force). After more trial-and-error than any other toiletry category, here’s what I love:
Avoiding prickly heat? Another vote for natural sunscreen in tropical climates? Using regular drugstore brand sunscreen, I used to get terrible prickly heat in Thailand. Without fail, my skin would scream its unhappiness every day of the entire trip. Since switching to green/natural sunscreens (and wearing a lot of linen) I’ve never experienced prickly heat since – no matter how hot and humid. Granted, these findings use a sample size of one (me), but if you’re prone to being pathetic, sensitive or incident-prone… it might be worth considering.
After-sun? As for after-sun products, while bright green aloe products are readily available in Thailand’s tourist towns, I pack my own products simply because I can read the (English) label and know exactly what’s in it.
The haircare products for a tropical climate
1. Hair products for Thailand
As for your hair, Thailand’s heat, plus your vacation routine of pool/beach/repeat, mean you’ll wash your hair much more often than at home. Though it will be squeaky clean, you’re about to face a frizz-battle, especially as hotel hair dryers have less operable power than a Tickle-Me-Elmo.
Easy solution: Give up before you start – who wants hair against your neck when it’s this hot? After more than twelve hours in Thailand, it’s braids, buns and ponytails for the duration of the trip – shoved with increasing urgency under hats.
Dedicated solution: Bring anti-frizz preparation and use this tip when you’re going to use a hairdryer. If it all goes sideways (or you have a special occasion), it’s very easy to find hairdressers in Thailand happy to take walk-in clients for a quick wash-and-dry, or styling.
As for this random inclusion, a reader tipped me off to the strangest spot you’d never think to store cash or valuables while travelling. If you’ll be staying in places unlikely to have an in-room safe, I could see its appeal. An Amazon reviewer (of whom there are many) suggests using it a few times for added authenticity.
5. ‘On-the-go’ toiletries for Thailand
My dedication to hand sanitiser is subject to constant ridicule but, as the only member of my family with firsthand knowledge of amoebic dysentery (thanks Cuba), I’ll do my thing and they can do theirs. The truly dedicated green shoppers will know there’s some controversy over name-brand hand sanitiser – a question of whether it’s safe for us and our ecosystem.
Truthfully, I missed the debate entirely – once I found the coconut + lemon stuff I switched to this natural product for its smell alone. As for the face wipes, I use them on the plane like a total crazy person.
Recap: The 10 best toiletries for Thailand
Today, packing my toiletries for Thailand is a streamlined operation with plenty of humid hindsight (noting that, yes, sometimes it’s better just to let the tropics win without a struggle). To recap my favourites:
- #1. Incognito Natural Anti-Mozzie spray
- #2. Incognito Anti-Mosquito Loofah
- #3. Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip Balm
- #4. Coola SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray
- #5. Konjac sponge
- #6. Coconut + lemon hand sanitiser
- #7. After-sun cream/moisturiser
- #8. Anti-frizz hair serum (SLS/paraben-free)
- #9. Citronella deodorant
- #10. Face wipes (for extra-hot days)
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