The 3 Best Apply-En-Route Makeup Kits For The Perpetually Tardy

There IS a way to do everything with one small, lightweight kit that fits not only into the inner pocket of my purse, but also into my budget.
Publish date:
December 12, 2014
makeup, public transportation, Laura Mercier, sephora, e.l.f., palettes

It never fails. I’m out and about in casual clothes (and heels, of course) with nothing more than moisturizer on my face, when I get invited to drinks or an event where I’d want to look a little more put-together. More often, I fail to get myself together in time to do my makeup (bronzer, blush, liner, mascara, illuminator, lip) before leaving the house, so I have to grab what I need and do it all en route.

As a result, I keep an “emergency kit” in my wallet comprised of various mini products.

I’ve found two major issues with my system. The first: when I have to do my makeup on the train, I’m always worried about losing an item -- whether one of the full-sized products I grabbed on my way out the door or one of my beloved minis -- by dropping it into my behemoth bag or onto the point-of-no-return floor. The second: there’s no room for eyeshadow, and I’ve recently decided that I want to start wearing it again. Plus, what about blush? And what about the days when I can only carry a clutch but still need to do makeup on the go (for whatever reason)?

I figured there must be a solution. There had to be a way to do everything with one small, lightweight kit that fits not only into the inner pocket of my purse, but also into my budget.

Without having to do much searching, I came upon the Laura Mercier Portable Color Palette for Eyes, Cheeks & Lips ($55), the E.L.F. Studio 22 Piece On-The-Go Palette ($10) and Sephora’s All Access Glam Palette ($15). All three kits fit the size requirement, but which would win a permanent spot in my purse? Time for a face kit face-off.

E.L.F. Studio 22 Piece On-The-Go Palette

It contains 10 eyeshadows, 5 lip colors, 3 blushes, mascara and brushes. Looks promising.

Its test run took place on the subway en route to a cocktail event. Since there’s no bronzer or highlighter, I got a little creative with the blushes. (Confession: I used my own travel set of brushes for my eyes and face instead of what came with the kit.) I also used one of the darker shadows as a liner.

According to celebrity makeup artist Merrell Hollis, mascara is THE most important thing to do if you have to do your makeup in a rush, and this kit has a pretty good one. Yay.

Pros: I could do my entire face with this kit in a pinch, and I didn’t have to fumble around in my bag for any other products. There are a variety of colors, so there are various options for what looks can be created, from natural and easygoing to something more dramatic.

Cons: The eye colors aren’t very high-impact, and the blushes are a bit chalky on my complexion, depending on the lighting (probably not an issue for everyone). Also, the mirror isn’t visible when accessing the lip colors or blushes, and there’s no red lip option.

Sephora All Access Glam Palette

This next challenger includes 8 eyeshadows, 4 blushes and 1 luminizer.

It got its test run as I headed to a local freelancer networking party in the back of an Uber car, and because I only had about five minutes to get it done, I went for a natural look with a bright lip.

Pros: The large mirror made it possible to see my whole face, and the colors offer lots of versatility. The eyeshadows also have lots of impact and blend nicely. If you have the time, this kit creates a good smoky eye, as well. Plus, the price is great.

Cons: There are no brushes, mascara or lip colors included, so you have to carry additional products. If you look on the bright side, though, this allows lots of variation. I used a Sephora Glossy Lip Pencil in this instance.

Laura Mercier Portable Color Palette for Eyes, Cheeks & Lips

The last contestant was the Laura Mercier Portable palette: 3 eye colors, a liner, 2 blushes and a gloss. I put this kit to the test on the PATH train as I hurried from a workout event to the Global Citizens event at the Creeds Collective Pop-up Shop. This kit offers a muted look.

Pros: The Lip Glace is extremely emollient and moisturizes while adding an almost-nude pink shine. The colors work well on my skin and seem like they’ll be just as great on a variety of complexions. The mirror is visible regardless of which product I have to access.

Cons: I can basically only create one look with the kit. Plus, I still have to add my own mascara, bronzer and highlighter.

My favorite? The E.L.F. set. It has almost everything I need in a jam, so it’ll be great to keep in my bag during the holiday season, when I never know what may pop up. However, the Sephora kit is perfect for keeping in a desk drawer and glamming up before happy hour. I like the Laura Mercier set for easy everyday looks, though, especially when traveling.

BONUS TIP: If you’re going to do your makeup on the train, please be considerate of other passengers. Keep your elbows tucked. Also, try not to apply any product with your fingers. Lastly, you should always keep a makeup wipe handy in case a sudden move causes an eyeliner or mascara mess-up.

What's your favorite on-the-go makeup kit for when you have last minute plans (or you just woke up late)?