→ Part 1: The best natural toiletries for Thailand (follows below)
→ Part 2: The best makeup for Thailand + tips to beat the heat
Natural makeup and toiletries for Thailand? In the 14 years I’ve been visiting Thailand, my makeup/toiletry bag has totally transformed (as – thankfully – have the clothes packed). I’ve played “panda eye mascara” trial-and-error through every month of Koh Samui’s tropical climate. Yet the biggest change to my Thailand toiletries since 2003 is my own buying habits: everything has to be natural and non-toxic. Most of all, if it’s been within 50 miles of a lab rat, bunny or beagle? Forget it.
This does complicate things but 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 for makeup and toiletries for Thailand. Today, packing my makeup bag 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). Here’s what I think works best…
NOTE: Every product that follows is:
#1. Cruelty-free (zero animal testing – not the sneaky ‘buried in the small print’ admission that they “don’t want to test on animals but China says they have to, so…” #sorrynotsorry).
#2. ‘Best in class’ for being as green/eco/natural as possible.
#3. I’ve tried almost all of them personally (through insane heat waves in Thailand), bought myself as a normal customer – no comps, perks, promos or freebies.
Part 1: The best toiletries for Thailand
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 piece of the Korean seascape – 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, konjac is the first thing in my toiletries kit for Thailand. Other than that, I try to put as little on my skin as possible – it’s busy enough keeping me cool.
#2. Basic toiletries for your body + insect repellent
When it’s extra hot in Thailand, as it has been recently, three showers a day become a quick habit. Nothing fancy or fussy in this basic daily shower routine, just an ongoing No Mosquito Bite campaign (that I’m totally winning). We’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. While bright green aloe products are readily available in Thailand’s tourist towns, I pack my own moisturiser simply because I can read the (English) label and know exactly what’s in it.
#3. The best sunscreen for Thailand
Here’s something else I’ve mastered in the past 13 years: I never get sunburned. I’m borderline paranoid about Thai sunshine, but rely much more on big sun-hats, clever cover-ups and 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? We’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 like:
1. For faces: Coola Face SPF 30 (or Matte Tint) + Sun Bum Face Stick SPF 30
2. For body: Coola SPF 30 Spray + Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
3. For water-resistance: TruKid Sunny Days Sport SPF 30 + Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport + Coola Eco-Lux Sport SPF 50 spray + Sun Bum Continuous Spray
4. For lips: Coola Lip Balm SPF 30 (+ with tint) + Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip Balm
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 the pathetic/sensitive/incident-prone one … it might be worth considering.
#4. 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 ≥ 12 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 hair dryer. 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.
#5. Miscellaneous 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 wet wipes, I use them on the plane like a total crazy person.
Recap: My top 10 toiletries for Thailand
1. Konjac sponge
2. Light or tinted moisturiser
3. Incognito Anti-Mosquito Loofah
4. Incognito Natural Anti-Mozzie spray
5. Citronella deodorant
6. Aloe after-sun moisturiser
7. Coola SPF 30 Spray
8. Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip Balm
9. Anti-frizz hair serum (SLS/paraben-free)
10. Coconut + lemon hand sanitiser
Onwards! Part 2: The best makeup for Thailand + tips to beat the heat