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Shopping for the best makeup bags and organizers seems like an easy thing to do…at first. Once you realize there are so many different types out there and features to consider, you may quickly feel overwhelmed. Between the sizes, shapes, materials, and options for keeping your products organized, there’s a lot to think about.
We’ll walk you through how to choose the makeup bag and/or organizer that is just what you need. We’ll talk about makeup pouches versus train cases, the top concerns you may need to consider, and more.
How to Find the Best Makeup Bags and Organizers for Your Needs
In a lot of cases, choosing the best makeup bags and organizers just boils down to what you like—as long as it’ll fit wherever it needs to go, whether that’s on a counter, in a drawer, in your purse, in a suitcase, or in your trunk next to your suitcase (who says you have to travel light?).
Consider the Size and Shape
If you’re already thinking about where you’ll keep or carry your makeup bag or organizer, great! Don’t forget to think about it from another angle, too: what fits inside.
Just how much do you want or need to fit in there? Do you plan to carry all of the makeup you’re wearing that day (or what you’ll add to it to take it from a daytime look to a nighttime look) in case you need to touch it up, or just a handful of things, like a lipstick, liner, and blush?
How long are the makeup brushes that have to fit? Will they be able to slip in without damaging the bristles and changing their shape? Sometimes makeup bags will come in cute shapes that won’t accommodate longer makeup brushes, but they’ll be fine for a few makeup items and a travel-sized brush.
Where Does It Need to Go?
Do you just need a way to organize your makeup collection at home, or do you want your makeup organizer of choice to travel with you? Or do you need one of each?
A bag you can toss all your daily essentials into as you’re on your way out the door has its place. So does a large acrylic organizer that sits on the counter. Which do you need? Or would you do best with a large acrylic organizer on your vanity and a pouch for your purse or backpack?
Separate Sections or a Simple Pouch?
Are you an “everything in its place” kind of person, or someone who just wants everything in one place, so it’s easy to see everything at one time?
Some makeup bags are pouches with just one pocket. Others are a bit larger and more complicated with that, designed to separate brushes and cosmetics in a way that makes makeup application as smooth as possible for you.
Do You Need a Clear Makeup Bag or Organizer?
It’s easier to find what you’re looking for in a clear makeup bag or organizer, but is it your style? Do you prefer function over aesthetics? Maybe you can compromise and get an organizer that’s both clear and a color that expresses your personality or works well in your bathroom or bedroom.
Should You Buy Two?
What if there’s no single perfect makeup bag or organizer out there for your collection? Could you buy a larger organizer to leave at home and a smaller pouch to go in your purse, backpack, or luggage?
That way, you can still have an organized, large collection of makeup but only choose the essentials for the day or week (if traveling).
How to Clean Your Makeup Bag
A makeup bag is going to get dirty eventually, no matter how much or how little you carry in it. Look for one that’s easy to wipe down (inside and out) or one that can be thrown in the washing machine.
If you carry your brushes in there, you’ll want to be especially conscientious about keeping it clean because tossing used brushes back in after you apply your makeup could introduce bacteria to the inside of the case. Even if you clean your brushes and sponges regularly, you could be unknowingly taking bacteria from the inside of the bag to your face.
Does It Need to Travel?
Is your makeup bag or organizer just a place to keep your products organized and contained at home, or will it be going places with you? If it’ll be traveling, where will you take it?
If you stick close to home and don’t often travel, a makeup bag that’s small enough to be tucked into a purse or tote bag will be fine. If you take longer trips, you may want a bigger bag to allow for more variety in looks, more tools that you wouldn’t need during an average day out at work or school.
If you need a bigger makeup bag or organizer, you may not want to sacrifice that amount of space to it in your luggage. In that case, a larger bag with a handle—maybe even one that unrolls to hang up, since you might not know the vanity and bathroom counter size and situation—may be a better choice. You can still use those larger bags and organizers to store your makeup at home, too.
The Main Differences Between Makeup Bags and Organizers
Makeup bags and organizers will keep your cosmetics together, clean, and contained in one area. There are some differences between makeup bags and organizers to keep in mind while you shop, though:
- Makeup bags can be unstructured, whereas organizers have structure and keep everything in its place.
- Makeup bags don’t make it especially easy to find what you’re looking for, whereas organizers keep everything separate, so it’s easy to find both the products and brushes you need, fast.
- Makeup bags are easy to stuff into your purse, tote, or suitcase, whereas organizers are harder to travel with and sometimes can’t travel at all.
- Makeup bags can be tucked away into a drawer, whereas organizers are often more at home on the countertop or vanity.
- Makeup bags can often be tossed in the washing machine, whereas organizers are often made of materials that can’t go in the washer but can be wiped down with a cloth.
Advantages of Makeup Bags and Organizers
So why do you need a makeup bag or organizer?
You Can Take Your Products on the Go
Depending on the size and style of makeup bag or organizer you choose, you can take as much or as little with you on the go as you’d like. Toss a small pouch with your lip products, blush, and eyeliner in your purse, or go all-out with a large train case if you’re planning a weekend or more away from home.
It Forces You to Consider What You Have in Your Collection and What to Carry
Unless you want to keep upgrading to larger and larger organizers, you’ll be forced to go through your collection every now and then to decide what you need, what you can/should toss, and what you no longer want to keep around.
This can keep you on top of expiration dates and help keep you in check if you tend to buy makeup products on a whim. If you don’t have any room to store them, it may make you pause and assess before you buy (having a makeup drawer or countertop may not have the same effect).
They Protect Your Brushes from Bacteria and Keep the Bristles Nice
Keeping your brushes in their place, even completely covered in some cases, will help keep them clean. It will also keep the bristles nice, so you get more use out of your brushes before they need to be replaced.
Be sure your brushes are dry before tucking them into a bag, though, and don’t stand them up to dry in a countertop organizer. They need to dry on their sides to protect the glue that holds the ferrules to the handles.
They Can Be Pretty on Display
If you don’t need to travel with your makeup, you can buy a makeup organizer that almost looks like a work of art (usually acrylic) on your counter or vanity. These are particularly good about housing and organizing large collections, palettes, and more, so you always have an easy time finding exactly what you’re looking for.
They Can Help You Save Time
No matter which type of makeup bag or organizer you choose, you’ll probably cut down on the time it takes you to get ready in the mornings because everything will be in one place, either pared down to a small everyday collection or on display so you can see everything at once.
No more digging through random drawers, scanning your whole bathroom counter or rustling around in the depths of your purse each time you need a product or tool.
Disadvantages of Makeup Bags and Organizers
Though having a makeup bag and/or organizer is a good thing, there are some disadvantages to consider.
You May Outgrow Them
If you’re just getting started with an interest in makeup, you may be surprised to see how quickly your collection can grow. The makeup bag or organizer you choose now may not be big enough a few months from now. Choose one that has a little growing room, just in case.
They Take Up Space
The bulk of a makeup bag in your purse, or other types of bags, will take up more room than your products would on their own. That will (hopefully) be balanced out by the convenience of having your makeup and brushes all in one place and easily accessible, plus the peace of mind you’ll get from knowing there’s no uncapped lipstick rolling around, destroying everything in your bag, or an eyeshadow palette being crushed to powder that will coat everything else in your suitcase.
Makeup organizers will also take up space on your counter, vanity, or wherever else you choose to store it.
It Can Be Hard to Find What You Need
A large, pouch-style makeup bag may keep all your things in one place, but if it’s too full, it can be difficult to find what you need without other products spilling over the top as you search for the one thing you need. In this way, makeup bags are barely any better than tossing all your lipsticks, pencils, etc., into a purse or tote.
If this is the case, only taking a few items you need each day (instead of taking a variety of lipstick shades, for example) may be the best bet. Another option is to shop for a makeup bag with different compartments for different types of products.
They Will Need to Be Cleaned
There are a lot of things that make life easier but then add another slight inconvenience: they’re one more thing to clean. This isn’t a huge issue with a makeup bag or organizer, though. Just buy one you can throw in the washing machine or wipe down every now and then.
Tips for Buying and Using Makeup Bags and Organizers
Here are a few of my top tips for choosing the best makeup bag or organizer for you:
- Buy the one that excites you. Does the pattern or picture on the bag fit perfectly with your aesthetic or seem to be made just for you, based on an inside joke you have with a couple of friends? Is there one in your favorite color, or one that brings up happy childhood memories for you every time you look at it? Get that one. Think about how you need a bag to perform, but don’t overthink yourself out of getting a small burst of joy every time you need to apply your makeup.
- Buy a little bigger than you think you need right now unless space in your bag or on your counter is especially limited.
- Get something that’s easy to clean, whether it’s in the washing machine or with a cloth.
- Decide early whether you are the type of person who appreciates all the little compartments that fit specific makeup items, or if you just want a place where you can toss everything in together.
- Consider how often you travel. Do you need a countertop organizer, like the large acrylic setups with drawers and cubbies, or would a train case with a handle—or even a bag that houses several plastic pouches and unrolls and hangs up—be better for you?
- If you have the budget, consider more than one option. Maybe you need a big organizer for the counter but want a small pouch to keep a few items in for touch-ups throughout the day (or more, if you like options and your purse is big enough). Do what works for you.
My Top Recommendations
Here are some of my favorite makeup bags and organizers on the market:
L.L. Bean Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag
You need this L.L. Bean option if you travel a lot or have limited space at home to store your makeup. It folds up, so it’s easy to stuff in your luggage or carry separately by the handle. It has a hook, so you can hang it up when it’s unrolled.
- Tons of compartments to keep your makeup, brushes, and toiletries organized
- Variety of colors and patterns to choose from
- Can be monogrammed
- You’ll most likely have to order it online
- Pricier than some other options
Caboodles On-the-Go Girl™ Forever Fun
What good is a best-of list of makeup organizers without a classic Caboodle? Unless you’re very tight on space or looking for something that’ll fit in your purse or suitcase, this Caboodle is worth a look.
- Nostalgic choice for a lot of people
- Structured well, and allows for more organization than the average makeup pouch
- Lots of room
- Mirror included
- It May be too big
- Because of all of the structure inside, it may not be the best fit for everyone’s makeup and/or brush collection
Sorbus Cosmetic Makeup and Jewelry Storage Case Display
This Sorbus option has plenty of room to organize your cosmetics.
- There’s a lot of room to organize all your cosmetics, brushes, and more
- Clear, so you can find what you’re looking for, no problem
- Lots of small and large compartments to keep your makeup items organized
- You can’t travel with it
- It may be too big for some vanities and countertops
Tartan + Twine Professionista Deluxe Makeup Weekender
There may not be a more perfect makeup bag or organizer for people who love makeup and travel a lot than this Tartan + Twine option. It’s sleek and simple, but you can fit so much in there.
- Tons of space for everything—even palettes
- Clear pockets that allow you to easily see what’s in each one and find what you’re looking for
- Six removable pods so you don’t have to take everything with you every time
Contents: My Face Carry-All Pouch
This is a cute option from Society6, perfect if you only want to take a few things with you.
- Fits in a purse
- Cute, quirky design on the outside
- Machine washable
- It May be too small for some users
- Might not be enough for travel (but perfect for daily items you’ll need for touch-ups)
Relavel Travel Makeup Train Case
This Relavel case somehow manages to be relatively compact and keep your cosmetics organized simultaneously.
- Organizes everything, even brushes
- Comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns
- Has a handle and a shoulder strap
- Too big for a purse
Lay-n-Go COSMO Cosmetic Bag
This Lay-n-Go bag is an interesting design that lets you see everything you brought with you at once.
- Opens all the way and lays flat so you can see everything you brought at one time—no more digging around to find the item you’re looking for
- Comes in a few patterns
- Machine washable
- You’ll need space to open it up, which you may not always have if you’re out and about
Question: What is the best professional makeup case?
Answer: A train case will be the best bet, especially if you travel a lot to apply makeup for events. It’ll be sturdy, large, and have plenty of room for different face makeup shades. You’ll be prepared for anything. If you need something especially large, you could try the Pylle Hill Cosmetic Professional Makeup Train Case. If something smaller is fine for the job, consider this one from Joligrace.
Question: What is a makeup bag?
Answer: It’s like a toiletry bag (they can be interchangeable). A makeup bag will keep your brushes and cosmetics separate from each other (if you want separate compartments), safe, and clean. They can protect other items in your purse or suitcase from getting eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, etc. on them.
Question: What is the best travel toiletry bag?
Answer: Look for one with separate plastic compartments that rolls up while you’re on the go and then unrolls and hangs up when you’re at your destination. It’ll save counter space that you may or may not have wherever you’re going.
Question: Can you travel with a makeup bag?
Answer: You can, but you’ll still need to follow TSA guidelines when it comes to liquids, gels, and creams if you want your makeup bag in your carry-on. Any of these products will need to be 3.4 oz or less, housed together in a clear, quart-sized zip-top bag.
Question: What does every girl need in her makeup bag?
Answer: It depends on where you’re going and how many days you’ll be there. For day-to-day, lipstick and liner colors of the day may be enough. Maybe blush for a touch-up.
On a larger scale, a your-lips-but-better (nude) shade of lipstick, a bold shade of lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, blush, concealer, powder (if you use it), spoolie for your brows, and possibly an eyelash curler should cover it.
Optional: eyeshadow palette, foundation, and sponge (or other tools) to apply foundation with. Be sure to include any brushes you need for application of any products you include, too,
Question: How do I keep my makeup bag clean?
Answer: If it can go in the washing machine, that’s the easiest way to do it. You may need to put it in a lingerie bag to keep it in the best shape possible. If it’s not machine washable, you can wipe down the inside and outside with a warm, soapy washcloth, rinse, and lay it flat or hang it to dry.
Question: What should I look for in a makeup bag?
Answer: Look for compartments to keep your makeup and brushes separated unless you prefer a simple pouch style. Get a size that’s a little bigger than you currently need (as long as your bag or countertop allows). Make sure it’s easy to clean—machine washable, preferably, to keep it easy. If you plan to travel with it, padding is a good idea, too.
Question: What is a makeup train case?
Answer: A makeup train case is a large, structured makeup and makeup brush organizer with compartments and a handle that makes traveling with it easy. Some are small enough to carry in one hand, like a purse. Others are larger, like rolling luggage (great for professionals).
Question: How often should you replace your makeup bag?
Answer: As long as you buy one that’s easy to clean, you can keep the same makeup bag until it’s worn out or your makeup collection (or the part of it you want to take with you) outgrows it.
Question: Why do you need a makeup bag?
Answer: It can keep your makeup and brushes organized, make it easier to find what you’re looking for in your purse or other bags, keep your brushes cleaner, and prevent makeup from spilling onto other items in your bag,
Question: Can you put your makeup bag in the washing machine?
Answer: Some bags can go in the washing machine (we highly recommend choosing one that can!), but don’t assume it can. Check the label before tossing it in.