What’s the best makeup for tropical weather like Thailand?
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.
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#1. Diminishing ‘the glow’ in hot, tropical Thailand
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 ever hour.
#2. Waterproof mascara for tropical weather
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 raccoon-style in muggy heat. When tropical humidity combines with sweat – you absolutely need waterproof mascara. bareMinerals ‘Flawless Definition’ gets great reviews for use in hot climates (I haven’t tried it myself yet).
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. Again, 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.
#3. Lipstick for Thailand
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 Sun Bum SPF chapstick – remember that your lips are the thinnest skin on your body and need protecting.
#4. The best sunscreen underneath makeup
I’ve always hated wearing sunscreen on my face – it feels like it’s cooking me alive. I ‘discovered’ COOLA Suncare in a hotel gift shop and have never looked back: its 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, stick with the SPF primer as it has no tint.
#5. The best makeup for tropical weather
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 looks like you’ve been through The Color Run.
RMS Living Luminizer in hot weather? At home, this is my favourite bit in a very lazy makeup routine. It makes you look bright, glowy and rested. In Thailand, you’re glowy to start with – less is more. The benefit with this product, over a darker bronzer or blush, is that you won’t notice if it sweats off.
I love RMS “un” powder because it’s really 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). It does work really 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 (pictured) – it won’t stain your clothes if/when it decides to slide off your skin. Beauty experts caution against reapplying powder on top of powder too many times (“cakey”) – instead, try blotting paper. Or, give up and go for a swim.
#6. Foundation/cover-up makeup for Thailand
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 of Kjaer Weis 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. The best brow makeup for tropical weather?
A wax or a gel-based product will last better than powder in heat.
#8. Organize it all…
While many travel toiletry bags offer pockets and more pockets, we lazy people can rejoice where “shoving everything in one bag and pulling a drawstring shut” = master organisation.
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 …
Makeup in tropical weather:FAQs
#1. What products to leave at home?
Perfume! You’ll become a walking mosquito magnet.
#2. How to get your makeup to stick in Thailand?
Here’s the only way you’re going to win:
First, check the controls for your hotel room’s air-conditioning: does it have a dehumidifying option? (Often designated as a raindrop on the remote control). If so, turn it on when you go for a shower (or otherwise just turn on the A/C).
By the time you get to applying your makeup, you’ll have a nice, cool environment with skin happy to cooperate. If you can spare a further half hour in your room after you’re finished to read a book or look at Instagram, you’ll give your makeup time to sink in and blend into your skin. (The same trick applies to avoiding frizzy hair in the humidity).
Of course, I wouldn’t suggest spending your vacation inside for the sake of makeup but if you’re waiting for your other person or have a particularly special occasion – a cool room is your best bet. Otherwise, hat and sunglasses, what’s the problem?
#3. 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.
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 myself.
Recap: The best makeup for tropical weather
- #1. bamboo/charcoal blotting sheets
- #2. waterproof mascara
- #3. sunscreen lip balm (SPF 30)
- #4. SPF 30 mineral primer
- #5. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer
- #6. translucent powder
- #7. EcoBrow defining wax
- #8. drawstring travel makeup organizer
- #9. bamboo face wipes
- #10. long lasting eyeliner
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 Mrs. Robinson Crusoe with exactly zero mosquito bites:
*bareMinerals doesn’t test on animals, but its parent company (Shiseido) does (more details)