What are you thinking, pretty girl, this ain’t summer camp!
Now, here’s the scoop on what you really want to know, but you’re too scared to ask about, lest anyone think you’re not there for the “right reasons.” I wasn’t there to impress anyone either, but I do love a good skincare regime, and you know I love my makeup.
Before I ramble too much, let me give you an idea of what I brought along.
Tweezers, nail clippers, and a couple of small sewing kits that I bought at the BX that were AF-specific.
Hairbrush, hair pick, bobby pins, hair pins, hair ties, and two Conair bun-makers.
A clear body wash that could double as a face wash, in an unmarked travel container.
Spray hair gel in an unmarked travel container and regular hair gel in an unmarked travel container.
Travel moisturizer (no SPF).
A small cosmetic bag with neutral, matte colors. You know me, I brought it all – foundation, concealer, setting powder, bronzer, highlighter, a 5-pan eyeshadow palette, mascara, an eyeliner, brow powder, and lipstick. Everything I selected was small and sleek, and I included 3-4 multi-purpose brushes in the case. [Not pictured since I packed these at the last minute.]
But wait, what happened when I strutted my bad self down to Lackland with all of this nonsense?
One of the first two days you’ll go through what’s known as “the shakedown.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You’ll dump the contents of your bag onto your bed and organize it into three piles. You’ll stand against the wall locker while a large group of MTIs, including Blue Ropes (Master MTIs), come through and inspect (and throw out) your unauthorized items. Of course, they’ll scrutinize and make fun of your content while they do it. Be prepared for it, know it’s coming. Unless you bring anything really stupid (condoms, a laptop, etc), you’ll be fine.
How did I fare? Did I make wise choices?
Tweezers, Clippers, and Sewing Kits – For the first three weeks, I don’t even remember looking in the mirror when I was in the bathroom. You just don’t have the time. You can imagine how crazy some eyebrows were looking… But, yes, bring tweezers! Ideally, the smaller Tweezerman travel ones are fantastic. Eventually, I was able to carve out some time to do some grooming, but it was typically after lights-out. Even if you’re not a plucker, you WILL use those tweezers. Uniforms can’t have any loose threads – if you can grab it with your nails, it’s too long. That being said, a great pair of tweezers come in handy to grab threads so you can snip them with the scissors from your sewing kit. You’ll also use those tweezers when you’re folding your clothes! Yes, folding your clothes. The clippers were handy as well when clipping threads on uniforms. Some folks chose to use those instead of scissors. As for the sewing kit, if you don’t buy one prior to BMT, you’ll get the opportunity to buy one when you’re down there. You’ll primarily use the foldable, compact scissors. Find these AF-specific kits at your base’s Clothing Sales store or at the BX.
Hair Stuff – I brought a travel-sized hairbrush and a pick for combing wet hair and they both served me well. Notice there’s no hairdryer on my list? Yeah, you won’t be needing that. You’ll be air drying your hair for the next 8.5 weeks. Even in tech, I borrowed a hairdryer, and that was only if we were going out for the night. Bring hair stuff (pins, bobby pins, hair ties) that matches your hair color. I can’t stress this enough. You WILL be yelled at if you’re a blond wearing a black hair tie. Some colors are harder to find at the mini-mall, so bring an entire pack in your shade. I highly recommend bringing two Conair Bun Makers. If you don’t, you’ll end up making one out of a sock, which works, but a mesh one just works so much better. Blonds, you’re screwed, since there’s only white and black socks down there. Buy a bun maker or a generic equivalent at a beauty supply shop and thank me later. I brought two because one wore out eventually. The plus side to mesh is that you can shove hair pins (not bobby pins) through them to secure larger, loose pieces of hair.
Body Wash – See how I mentioned above that they were in an unmarked container? Yeah, my body was promptly thrown away. Only bring a travel sized one with you. You’ll be making a mini-mall run with your flight, where you’ll be strongly encouraged to buy the same brand of body wash. Take it from me, buy something white or clear – no scrubbing beads, no colors. You’re going to be laying this thing down on a white towel in your drawer, and white is the way to go to prevent messes. May I recommend the Suave Coconut? You’ll go through body wash fairly quickly at BMT, since you’re using your hands and not a pouf.
Travel Hairspray – A wise purchase, I used it to tame flyaways in a pinch. Eventually, we all ended up using Pump It Up (regardless of ethnicity or hair type), since it was in plentiful supply amongst our flight members, it locked your hair into place, and it smelled good.
Spray Hair Gel – Again, an unmarked container got this confiscated. Luckily, I got Trinnie to send me a bottle. Bring this stuff! She sent me this one in particular, and it was a nice large bottle that lasted almost the entire time. Spray gel is fantastic for dousing your hair while you’re putting it up into a sock bun, and of course for flyaways. My hair could last through PT after all of the product that I put in it. If you don’t have access to a Sally Beauty, grab the Herbal Essences one. It’s not as strong, but it still works well. Don’t buy a curling spray gel, for obvious reasons.
Travel Moisturizer – Didn’t use it, honestly. Didn’t have time and with the humidity during the summer, I wasn’t particularly dry. Pass.
Deodorant – Again, when you’re maintaining your security drawer, you’ll be wiping off the tops of all of your products. Fine a mess-free deodorant, such as a clear gel. I opted for a clinical strength (Texas summer, hello!) and just kept it clean. I believe Secret even makes a bonus sized one. You won’t be able to get clinical deodorants at the mini-mall, so have family send you a second one if you’re about to run out.
Razor – Bring it, but know that you won’t be using it anytime soon. We didn’t shave until the 6th week of training, in time for BEAST. Shaving (for women) is considered a privilege, and I’m not just talking legs. When you finally do shave, you can imagine how ridiculous the scene is in the latrine. Women frantically getting all of their parts clean, your head inches away from someone shaving their pubic hair while you’re working on your calves. You’ll get used to making jokes about being able to sock bun your armpit hair. Nair is a no-no, so don’t even think about it, as are aerosol cans (shaving cream included).
Makeup – I brought makeup because my recruiter suggested that I may have the opportunity to put on makeup for picture day. Hee hee. Your makeup will stay locked up in the civilian luggage closet, in your suitcase. Expect a number of comments during the shakedown if you bring makeup. Picture day was filled with drama for us, with my MTI threatening not to be in our photo because of issues earlier in the day. Most of us made a pact not to put on makeup that day, as a sign of our commitment to him and the process. We were not allowed to wear makeup on Thursday for retreat, when you see your family for the first time, but we were allowed to wear makeup on Friday for parade. Keep in mind that you’re going to be doing a very minimal look here, and pack accordingly. I still feel like it was beneficial to bring makeup, as I didn’t have to settle for the limited selection of makeup (most of which was Rimmel) at the mini-mall when the time came, nor did I have to borrow from others. If you have sensitive skin, or a skin color that’s hard to match, definitely bring your own (travel-sized) face products, or prepare to go without. Plus, I brought all of that makeup with me to tech school, where you’re allowed to wear makeup on a daily basis. It saved me from having to buy all new stuff at tech, which you can appreciate if you’re not a strictly-drugstore gal. I ended up choosing not to wear makeup on most days, because we were getting up early enough as it was (0330), but I know plenty of people who did.
Bottom line, for the first three weeks you won’t have time to do anything skincare-related. Forget about moisturizing, forget about washing your face, unless it’s during your super fast shower. You’re showering (with a body wash and shampoo only), putting on deodorant, and brushing teeth. That’s it. Eventually, as you acquire a little bit more time in your later weeks of training, you can do a bit more. I ended up buying a daily moisturizer with a high level of SPF because the San Antonio heat was brutal on my skin. Sunscreen is available for your use in the linen closet, but I’m picky about what sunscreens I put on my face. You tend to share most of your products with other members of your flight. If one girl had a face wash in the bathroom, the rest of us were sharing. You are allowed to bring chapstick, to keep in your satchel. Pick one with SPF in it, for obvious reasons.
If you have any other questions or concerns that I haven’t mentioned, please don’t hesitate to ask. There’s so much to cover in terms of beauty, so it’s easy for me to miss something.
[I will not be compensated if you click on any of the above product links. They are there for your reference and are based on my real experience.]
I’m a 31 year old Navy sister, Army wife - Air Force wife to a prior service Marine/Soldier, and an Air Force Reservist. I am a happy wife and mother. My husband switched branches and joined me in the Air Force Reserve. We look forward to a future of dual military service!