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Putting Non-Liquid Toiletries to the Test

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Photo: Index Open
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on January 27, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, backpacking, Christine Sarkis, packing, security.

Looking to travel light without going without? With 3-1-1 liquid restrictions still in place at airports, finding alternatives to liquid toiletries is a key part of packing a carry-on with all the face, hair, and body products you need on vacation.

Our intrepid testers put four alternatives to liquid toiletries to the test to see how easy they are to use and what results these products deliver. From solid shampoo to sheets of soap that dissolve with water, carrying on toiletries that bypass liquid restrictions has never been so easy, or smelled so good.

The Results

Lush

Uses: Shampoo and conditioner

If there was a favorite in the bunch, the Lush Karma Komba solid shampoo was it. Every tester loved the scent. One said, "The smell of the shampoo in particular is truly amazing. Not only did my hair smell and feel exceptionally clean, but I kept imagining that I was in a rainforest." Other points in its favor were the "excellent foaming and clean rinse" and "not a lot of buildup." Hair was "soft and shiny even on the second day." The shampoo worked for a variety of hair types, as well. Testers said, "Left my super-curly hair shiny," and "I am a black woman with a relaxer, so there are a lot of products that I do not use because of the texture of my hair. But I was impressed with this product because I used it on my hair at a time when I needed a touch-up and it left my hair feeling really clean, and it did not dry my hair out either."

Opinions were more divided about the solid Jungle Conditioner though. Some testers were pleasantly surprised: "At first I thought the conditioner would make my hair greasy, but it didn't," and "I have very curly hair, so I wasn't sure the jungle conditioner would be enough to detangle, but once I figured out how to use it, it worked great."

However, the majority of testers found the solid conditioner more difficult to use than their usual product: "I felt that the conditioner was not very effective. It broke off into clumps in my hair and made it feel tangled and knotted. The conditioner required a lot of time to rinse out and make sure that it was completely gone," "there was a lack of moisture in the conditioner," "conditioner took longer to rinse out," and "had to dry my hands on a towel before handling the conditioner, as it's prone to losing its shape/dissolving."

All testers said they would travel with the shampoo, and many said they'd take the conditioner along as well. In addition to it performing well, testers cited the scent as a boon for travel: "It would make my carry-on smell super good and may even neutralize any dirty-clothes smell on the return trip," "I liked the way the scent lingered all day, so I think I would make a good impression on anyone I meet!" and "I travel regularly with the Lush solid shampoo, so when I use it at home, I find the smells evoke my most recent vacation, which is a great bonus."

Where to Buy: Lush.com or Lush stores. Karma Komba solid shampoo costs $9.25 per bar, and Jungle Conditioner is sold by weight.


Travelon

Uses: Shampoo, conditioner, body wash

Testers were uniform in their likes and dislikes of the Travelon shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

Testers loved the idea behind the Travelon products, saying "I like the size of these products," "extremely compact size and not a liquid," "very packable," and "lots of sheets for multiple uses." Several testers also noted the pleasant but mild scent of the products, and that the shampoo lathered well.

However, the leaf format created some practical issues: Testers noted that, in the shower, removing the sheets from the case with a dry hand was "pretty impossible to pull off." Some testers noted problems dissolving the leaves or getting the right consistency, noting, "conditioner was more of a paste than a creamy rinse," and "tricky to dissolve enough of the shampoo and conditioner in my hand to use on my hair." One tester reported: "I dried my hands first before handling this product and it flew and got stuck to my thigh. I tried rubbing it in my body puff and it just dissolved."

Beyond the shower, testers said the shampoo and conditioner didn't produce the same results as their regular products: "left my hair heavy and lackluster," "ended up with little knots of undissolved conditioner in my hair," and "my hair needs much more moisture than the product provides."

So would they use the product again? Though a few testers said they wouldn't vacation with Travelon, the majority of testers responded that they would use some or all of the products again in situations where packing light was paramount. Because, as one tester noted, "The three items together are lighter than my toothbrush!"

Where to Buy: Various retailers. Packets cost $3 and up.


Dr. Bronner's

Uses: 18-in-one, including shampoo, body wash, and shaving cream

Dr. Bronner's All-One Baby Mild Organic Bar Soap was lauded for its flexibility and packability. Testers cited strengths including "very good lather in the hands," "no perfumes—as someone with sensitive skin, I always appreciate fragrance-free products," and "easy to toss in a small suitcase."

Summing up the appeal of its many uses, one tester called it a "one-stop shop, which can be great for travel." Testers tried out uses beyond shampoo: "I was very happy with this product even as a shaving 'cream' it was good. I even used it with my body puff and it lathered up really well," and "I also decided to try it as laundry soap and used it to wash two pairs of tights (delicates) in my bathroom sink. It lathered up pretty well and rinsed clean."

But some testers found all that flexibility affected performance. Testers lamented, "Hair felt increasingly limp as the day progressed," "This product dried out my hair," and "I didn't like the residue it left. Although my hair didn't feel greasy, it didn't feel exactly clean, either."

So was Dr. Bronner's too much of a trade-off to use for travel? Most testers said they would use the bar soap for vacations, weekend trips, or camping, and one tester said she would definitely travel with the Dr. Bronner's liquid version over the bar soap. And another tester said, "Dr. Bronner's got me through three months of backpacking in my early 20s, so I know it can be relied on."

Where to Buy: Drbronner.com, various retailers, and some pharmacies, health food stores, and grocery stores. Bars cost $3.50 and up.


Kaia

Uses: Facial cleanser, makeup remover, moisturizer

Most, but not all, testers had good experiences with the Kaia Naturals Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloths. Testers said, "I liked the softness of the sheets and all the chemical-free and natural qualities. I have very sensitive skin and didn't break out at all. After using the sheets, my face felt gently cleansed and very soft. I even used a little less moisturizer than normal," "My skin felt tingly and refreshed after using. It wasn't harsh or abrasive. I loved that the cloths are biodegradable, leading to less waste," and "It works really well as an eye make-up remover."

Criticisms focused on the performance of the cloths. One tester said "I didn't feel like they cleaned my face as well as they could have. I could also smell the honey in them, so it was a bit disconcerting to wipe something smelling like honey on my face," another wrote," I didn't like the fact that they didn't work. Also, the packaging was pretty bulky for travelers trying to use only a carry-on," and a third tester declared that, "this product does not cleanse my face."

Even with its shortcomings, most of the testers said they would travel with the Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloths, though one tester specified that she would use them mostly as an "on-the-go option on warm days or as a quick clean-up before going into a restaurant."

Where to Buy: Various retailers. Packets of 30 sheets cost $13 and up.


The Bottom Line

If you're looking for alternatives to liquid toiletries, you've definitely got options. Whether your most pressing need is to travel light, to tame wild locks, or to find the simplest solution, you can do it without sacrificing precious space in your one quart-sized bag allowed through airport security.

Do you have a favorite travel toiletry? Share your recommendations and reasons in the comments section below!


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