October 2, 2023

What’s the best makeup for Thailand?

Taking "less is more" as your perpetual adage for makeup in tropical weather, here are my best tips, one product at a time

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What's the best makeup for tropical weather?

I wrote myself some ‘guinea pig’ notes on a recent 38°C scorcher in Thailand (100.4°F) and had this to say about blush: “Hahahahaha. My entire face is blush.” On such a hot day, it’s not worth trying with makeup: just give up and melt as gracefully as possible. Taking "less is more" as your perpetual adage for makeup in tropical weather, here are my best tips, one product at a time.

Cruelty-free, totally natural & tested myself

As in the best toiletries for Thailand, every product below is 100% cruelty-free (no animal testing). I’ve tried them nearly all of them personally, bought myself as a normal customer – no freebies – during the hottest weather I’ve ever known on Koh Samui.

1. Start with sunscreen

I pack: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

I've always hated wearing sunscreen on my face – it feels like it's cooking me alive. I 'discovered' two favourite brands – SuperGoop! and COOLA Suncare in a hotel gift shop and have never looked back: their products keep my skin happy (and delight my crazy dog lady animal conscience: no animal testing!). For Thailand, or anywhere in the tropics, you're so close to the equator you really want to use a high SPF – I don't go below SPF 30. If it's extra hot and you'll likely be sweating, avoid anything with a tint.

2. Don't forget your lips

I pack: Jack Black SPF Lip Balm

Sticking with "less is more", I typically just pack a tinted lip-gloss and then lose it at the bottom of my carry-on before I arrive. Worth more of a hunt when MIA is my Jack Black SPF Lip Balm – remember that your lips are the thinnest skin on your body and need protecting. Jack Black offers products in various flavours – I like the mint one best.

3. Lip and cheek colour

I pack: RMS Beauty Signature Set

In Thailand, you’re glowy to start with – less is more. The benefit of some subtle cream products, over a darker bronzer or blush, is that you won't notice if it sweats off. Excepting exceptionally hot days, for most of the year in Thailand (and particularly at night) I find these RMS products perform beautifully in hot weather and really suit a tan. Cream makeup products like these are your only chance of a happy result – powder blush plus high humidity looks like you've tried to turn yourself into paste.

How does RMS Beauty makeup work in hot, tropical weather?

I Googled this myself before visiting Thailand as a newly minted RMS Beauty Fanatic. Its main ingredient is coconut oil and I dreaded a liquid disaster. As it turns out, the RMS makeup pots are absolutely fine in hot weather. Certainly, they’re a little softer, but I prefer this as they’re easier to blend. Proof? I accidentally left them in full Thai sun, at noon, and I can confirm: they don’t melt and they don’t turn into liquid. Can't say the same for me.

4. Mascara and eye makeup

I pack: Avocado Waterproof Mascara

As for actual makeup, let's start with waterproof mascara as it's your best chance for 100% success at any tropical temperature. I've tried many natural mascaras that fail in spectacular racoon-style in the muggy heat. When tropical humidity combines with sweat – you absolutely need waterproof mascara.

For eyeliner, a smudge-proof kohl eye pencil mostly stays put on a typically humid Thai day. No surprise that semi-permanent eyeliner and eyebrow tattoos are popular with some beauty-conscious Thai women. BareMinerals seems to be the answer with a natural, but long-lasting eyeliner. I haven't tried it yet but will be interested in how it compares to the likes of Ilia Beauty eyeliner in tropical weather (mega fail). Another option? Sunglasses or face-down for a Thai massage.

5. Brow makeup

I pack: KUSH Fiber Brow Gel

Wax or gel-based products will last better than powder in heat – but use a light touch. You might prefer a clear product that, as with sunscreen, won't show if it starts to slide.

6. Foundation and cover-up makeup

I pack: “Un” Cover-Up Concealer

Drinking as much water (and coconut water) as Thailand's tropical climate requires, likely, your skin will be its happiest anyway. As such, I never feel much makeup coverage is necessary in Thailand. Certainly, full-face foundation will become your own Shroud of Turin in no time. Starting with a clean, moisturised face in a cool room, I just use a few dabs of RMS “un” cover-up on Jetlag Zombie days or a slightly fuller coverage for a dressier destination requiring actual effort. At night, when it’s a little cooler, you might have better luck with the same makeup application you'd use at home – but my guess is you'll try it once and then not bother for the rest of your trip.

7. Diminishing ‘the glow’

I pack: Bamboo Charcoal Blotting Paper

On a typical day in a hot and tropical place like Thailand, foundation will slide/sweat off your face in exactly three seconds out the door. Rather than adding makeup, first, focus on subtracting your "OMG I'm melting" glow. For this: blotting sheets, on the hour every hour. (Remember to reapply sunscreen as you go).

8. Fresh face wipes

I pack: Essential Face Wipes

In the same vein, these natural face wipes serve various functions on a tropical vacation – use them while flying, when you're jet-lagged and can't be bothered to wash your face, when you realise it's really, really hot here ...

9. Powder (not paste)

I pack: RMS Beauty “Un” Powder

Can't be parted from powder? I love RMS "Un" Powder because it’s breathable in hot and humid tropical weather. Of course, it doesn't last long when you find yourself in strong sun (but I take that as a healthy cue to seek shade and a cold drink). However, it does work well at night when it's slightly cooler. If you're dressing up for dinner or to go out, expect its near-full cooperation. You’ll want untinted, translucent powder – it won't stain your clothes if/when it decides to slide off your skin.

Tip: Beauty experts caution against reapplying powder on top of powder too many times (“cakey”) – instead, try blotting paper (metioned above). Or, give up and go for a swim.

Recap: The best makeup for Thailand

Of course, you’re coming to Thailand to relax. Maybe messing with makeup holds no relaxation for you whatsoever. If so, here’s how to happily play Robinson Crusoe with exactly zero mosquito bites.