You're out of town. Maybe TSA confiscated your full-sized bottle of Aēsop moisturizer. Or perhaps you thought you had packed effectively but, as you start your morning routine, you realize that you've forgotten a few grooming essentials. You may be tempted to overnight the MR PORTER Grooming Kit, but a smarter, more effective solution is to brave your local drugstore. This may sound tricky but rest assured: there are some gems in here, particularly for those on-the-go with little resources available.
A few ground rules though. We kept an eye on the budget, toward products around five dollars or less (with a few exceptions). We also prioritized travel-friendly items as to not buy something that wouldn't be reused or whose sizes were flying friendly. These items are ideal to leave in a dopp kit or suitcase, to be fetched when forgetfulness rears its head on a future trip.
The landscape of travel toothpastes at drugstores is definitely an area that leaves a lot to be desired as many mainstream toothpastes taste of metallic or have some sort of strange, anti-natural mouthfeel. The least of these evils is Sensodyne, a widely available travel size toothpaste whose ingredients are absolutely non-fussy and make for a pleasing brushing experience. The toothpaste also comes in a many travel sized varieties, ranging from fresh breath focusing pastes to those engineered for whitening.
Fresh Impact travel size tube,
$2.93 by Sensodyne
At better drugstores, you may be able to find a Marvis toothpaste you like. These products taste great, don't feel like a chemical burn and are very easy on the eyes. Plus, they come in travel-ready 1.3 oz tubes.
Aquatic Mint toothpaste,
$6 by Marvis
A bonafide classic, Murray's is a serious barber-friendly pomade that goes a long way. This is ideal for those who want a meticulous, controlled hold that carries a clean look all day. Murray's can be intimidating in that it comes out quite stiff but, after some massaging in the palms, you'll be set to style. Do note that a pea-size of Murray's is all you need, unless you're the kind of guy who likes to have perma-pomaded hair for days.
Superior Hair Dressing pomade,
$2.29 by Murray's
A few products on this list should be added into your rotation of regular grooming products. The Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant in Fresh is absolutely one of them. This deodorant lasts all day, has a pleasing, non-abrasive scent, and is very affordable and very much available at any store that carried deodorant. Moreover, this is a Valet. favorite as both this author, our editor and even Stephen Pulvirent of Hodinkee are regular users.
$3.29 by Arm & Hammer
Duke Cannon is an independent grooming brand that's been growing in popularity and can now be found in better drugstores and retailers like Target. This antiperspirant and deodorant is enriched with activated charcoal to effectively deodorize and keep you dry.
"Trench Warfare" antiperspirant,
$10 by Duke Cannon
One of the most surprising discoveries, Bag Balm is an old school lanolin moisturizer that is great for dry skin and can even be used as a post-shave balm. This ointment comes in a variety of sizes, the best being a one ounce tin that can easily fit into a pocket or bag. A little goes a long way, but it works as a killer night cream and keeps skin hydrated for hours while clearing up irritation too. Like the Arm & Hammer deodorant, I think this is a product you may want to include in your regular grooming routine.
Hand and body moisturizer,
$6.41 by Bag Balm
If you can't find Bag Balm, you'll no doubt be able to get your hands on its more mainstream, popular cousin. Aquaphor's version of skin moisturizer is just as nice but seems to lack a bit of the character you get with the aforementioned balm in terms of feel, scent and design.
Advanced Therapy healing ointment,
$6.99 by Aquaphor
A gentle face wash that fights breakouts, this is a light product that doesn't leave you feeling like you applied some sort of strange acid to your face. In truth, Burt's Bees is a safe bet for any travel alternative but the Gel Cleanser was a definite standout in a drugstore field that seems crowded by mainstream brands that fall short. Burt's Bees offers a sense of normalcy in the home-away-from-home face washing department.
Natural Acne Solutions gel cleanser,
$7.99 by Burt's Bees
If you don't want to buy a bottle of cleanser, look for these popular cleansing towelettes from La Roche-Posay. They wipe away oil and daily grime, plus they're formulated with exfoliating Lipo-Hydroxy Acid and oil-targeting Zinc Pidolate to keep skin smooth and clear. Not to mention, they're incredibly packable as well.
Effaclar Clarifying cleansing towelettes,
$9.99 by La Roche-Posay
Finding a suitable shaving cream that you can travel with while on the road is the one challenge that we felt most disappointed with. Drugstore shaving creams come from very specific brands that lean toward the overwhelmingly masculine and mainstream—the sorts of products that your dad and grandfather favored or that you found yourself trending toward because you were a teen who picked whatever neon gel was available. And in travel sizes? Good luck. The best of the lot was Barbasol, which offers a classic, simple shave that felt (and smelled) much better than the offerings you might grab, given the shaving muscle memory of your high school years.
Thick and Rich sensitive skin shave cream,
$1.79 by Barbasol
A heightened alternative that is just as readily available is Gillette's Pure Men's Soothing Shave Cream. It's nice and light without any cloying scents or unnecessary dyes—the addition of aloe makes it ideal for sensitive skin The only problem here is that the container is a bit large and will have to be left behind.
Soothing shave cream,
$5.99 by Pure by Gillette
For the lip moisturizing obsessives, Carmex is a baseline for balm. It's strong, long lasting, and classic, preventing lips from drying out for hours. The product is lightly mentholated and as an added bonus, has an embedded sun blocker as well. Thankfully, it's available almost anywhere and comes in sticks, tubes and jars, in varieties from the classic, medicated version to fruit-accent balms and something inspired by cupcakes. Take your pick and remove the label for a shot of minimalist style.
Classic lip balm,
$2.79 (for three) by Carmex
Let's be real: you've used Burt's Bees lip balm before and are probably using it now. Thankfully, this is readily available at most drugstores and is all natural but, we did find that the Carmex lasts a bit longer.
All-natural moisturizing lip balm,
$5.69 (for two) by Burt's Bees
The Silver Bullet Product
When traveling, the name of the game is efficiency, a less-is-more philosophy that can be difficult given our super specific grooming routines that we try to maintain while away. But Dr. Bronner's is a proven classic that works great for as a body wash, a shampoo, a face wash and even a shaving alternative. Using this product as soap leaves the body with a tingly, clean sensation thanks to very simple, very natural ingredients. While some may cringe at the thought of using soap to shave with, it's surprisingly light on the skin and the results are delightfully pleasant. The only catch with Dr. Bronner's is that it can be difficult to track down travel sizes. However, the large sizes are quite accessible at most drugstores and will last you months. If you're checking a bag, consider this—or go the extra mile to track down the travel size. It's worth it.
Peppermint pure-Castile soap,
$4.59 by Dr. Bronner's