Traveling with Acne: Prescriptions and Liquids

Jan 07, 2014

For those who don’t know me, I’ll tell you right now that I am high maintenance in the health department. What I mean by that is that I have a lot of health/physical issues that require a fair amount of toiletries. For instance, I am lactose intolerant, have adult acne and have a mane of wild, curly hair. This means that I need things like Lactase supplements, creams, lotions, and certain hair products. 

The adult acne is by far the biggest challenge when traveling. It's something I’ve been dealing with since grad school. Never really had any problem with acne growing up and then… bam! All of a sudden it started to look like I was going through a second fucking puberty. It can get pretty bad sometimes and it’s not just about how it looks, it hurts. Sometimes my face feels like it’s burning or bruised. And don’t get me started on the dry skin and sensitivity that comes along with it. It’s a real bummer but not much I can do about it other than treat it.

Currently, I have one face-specific soap, two prescription creams, a specific lotion and an occasional antibiotic, just for my face. And for my tummy-tums, I need to carry an absurd number of lactase supplement pills with me at all times in order to refrain from being in constant pain when unable to fully control what I'm eating.

This obviously causes some concerns in regards to long term travel. How the hell am I going to get all of that crap when I need it? And will I have to carry around an entire pharmacy's worth of stuff?

Well I won’t lie, it’s going to be a pain in the ass. That’s for sure. But it’s not something that is impossible to deal with either. This is my plan, at least in regards to the acne:

Stockpile Prescriptions

First and foremost, I am not a doctor, and I am by no means telling you to take/use medications in any way other than how they are prescribed. Having said that, when it comes to topical treatments, you do have some wiggle room with the amount you are using. It’s pretty simple…just use the creams/lotions even more sparingly than you normally would while still getting the problem areas. You will find you wind up using them up a lot slower.  If you keep filling your prescriptions like normal, even though you aren’t done with a tube, you will have a nice little stockpile on your hands. Pretty simple.          

Switch from Liquids to Bars Wherever You Can

Equally as simple, the less liquids/gels you are carrying, the better, whether you’re only traveling with carry-on or not. Bars last longer, they don’t explode in your bag, are easier to pack, and are generally cheaper. Even better, you won’t need to worry as much about the 3 oz rule (which is covered in more detail below).

If you’re anything like me though, you will need to do some experimenting to find a product that works for you instead of your beloved Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Foaming face soap. Make sure you leave yourself some time to test out the options though. You don’t want to confuse your body too much by switching back and forth one after the other right before departure.

The comparable bar versions of my soap that I will be trying out are the Neutrogena Naturals Face and Body Bar and the Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar. It’s just a matter or which won’t make me break out or look like a molting snake.

You can also do this for shampoos and conditioners if you’re not keen on just using whatever you can find along your way. The company Lush Cosmetics is a super ethical, all handmade using natural ingredients kind of company. They have a somewhat limited selection of bar options to choose from but each option seems like a nice one. The downside to Lush is that they don’t ship internationally, so you would have to bring a good supply with you or arrange for someone at home to ship some to you. They do have shops and online stores set up in several countries around the world though, so depending on where you are, you might be able to get some a little easier.

Just remember though, that people everywhere wash and condition their hair, so you will be able to pick products up along the way, as long as you’re okay with using what you can find.

Utilize Prescriptions and Help When You Need It

If you are in fact planning on bringing only a carry-on bag, the whole 3 oz rule can be a real bummer. And if you are dealing with any of the problems I mentioned above, then it’s an even bigger bummer. TSA rules state that you can bring one quart size bag full of as many 3 oz bottles of liquids and gels as can fit. Fill it till your hearts content! Only one problem. A quart sized bag is tiny! At least when attempting to pack all your face-saving products!

However, if you can show proof of prescription for some of the liquids, there is hope. At least a little.

According to the TSA, “Medically required liquids, such as baby formula and food, breast milk and medications are allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag. However, you must tell the Transportation Security Officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process. We recommend, but do not require, that medication be labeled to facilitate the security process.”

This means that my prescription creams are off the table and I am free to fill that tiny quart sized bag with the items that aren’t prescription, which is a huge help.

More to come once I actually have everything tested and packed!

Category: Resources

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