Beauty and the BMT

Air force female Beauty? 

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.

photo air force female

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 were AF-specific.
  • Hairbrush, hair pick, bobby pins, hairpins, hair ties, and two Conair bun-makers.
  • A clear body wash that could double as a face wash, in an unmarked travel container.
  • Travel hairspray.
  • Spray hair gel in an unmarked travel container and regular hair gel in an unmarked travel container.
  • Travel moisturizer (no SPF).
  • Deodorant.
  • A razor.
  • 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.  
photo air force female makeup
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 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 to 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 are 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 hairpins (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 your 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 get 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).

photo air force female makeup

  • 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 the 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 a 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.]


  • Mrs Duhsaid

    If I had a nickel for every condom my husband found in a trainee's luggage, I'd be a rich woman! (Male trainees, of course).My husband has also said that the females are WAY faster and better about getting ready in the morning than the males… which was the opposite of how I would have pictured it. My DH has always preferred female flights to the males. He thinks females are better listeners, better performers, and not as "filthy and stinky" as the males. : )

  • Erinsaid

    @Mrs. Duh – Isn't that ridiculous? You barely have time for personal hygiene, let alone have sex at BMT. The general consensus is that many female flights respond better to male MTIs and vice versa, although male/male works too. Females tend to assign their male MTI the "daddy" role, and are eager to please.

  • Nicollesaid

    How long do you typically get to shower? I've read it's only 2 minutes. :\ Would I be able to being my face wash in lieu of body wash since it can be used for both but doesn't say body wash? Also, I moisturize with an SPF face moisturizer after. (otherwise my face dries out) Can I bring that?

  • Erinsaid

    @Nicolle – Minimal time, definitely. We eventually cycled in 15 minute shifts for approximately 15 girls each shift. You could bring face wash and wash your whole body with that, but remember that your liquids have to follow the 3oz limitation of the TSA when you're flying to Lackland. Bring your moisturizer, but know that in the first few weeks you'll have minimal time to do ANYTHING. I have a huge skincare routine as well, and for the first three weeks I didn't even have time to look in the mirror. Eventually I ended up wearing a facial sunscreen on a daily basis.

  • Vanessa Amundsonsaid

    I have a question! When you are packing your liquids, like hair gel, hair spray, and body wash, are you only allowed to pack 3 oz max because you only have a carry on at the airport? Or can I pack a full bottle? If I need more, do I need to have it mailed to me? For instance, say I buy that Ion Gel you recommended… it was an 11 oz bottle. Can I pack that? I just want to clarify so I don't get stuff thrown away. Also, can you have a shampoo/conditioner combination? You said you suggested Suave. I guess this is another one that falls under my first question. Can I pack Suave shampoo? or shampoo/conditioner in a regular size bottle? Or do I have to have that mailed? Or do I buy it there? I keep reading different recommendations. One more thing, you said you had stuff in unmarked containers. I assumed that would be a good idea so you didn't have brands of all sorts. It was more generic that way. But you were saying this is a bad idea? Because the airport didn't know what it was? Just clarifying… but I really like your information… I appreciate your help. I hope my questions made sense. PS, I'll probably be back with more questions 🙂

  • Vanessa Amundsonsaid

    I thought of another one. Are you forced to shower with everyone? Or is there the option of showering on your own or in a stall?

  • Erinsaid

    @Vanessa Amundson – Nope, you need to take 3oz sizes and adhere to FAA regulations. You can buy more products down there or have them sent to you. Shampoo/conditioner combos are the way to go, as you won't have time for separate products – same, you'll need to take a travel one there and buy a bigger one when you get there, or have one sent. Not sure I follow you on the brands. I took unmarked bottles (filled with my own products) and the MTIs threw them out. Go with marked bottles (such as a travel sized Herbal Essences or Dove or whatever). Not sure about the new "super squadrons," but yes, you do shower with everyone. There are no stalls and showering alone is not an option. You'll get over that modesty really quickly. 🙂

  • Emily Ksaid

    I am so tempted to bring just some sort of foundation to bmt. Do the MTIs really make a big deal about it?

  • Erinsaid

    @Emily K. – They will during the shakedown and you're definitely not allowed to wear it until graduation or so, when you're given the green light.

  • Ashley Smithsaid

    Okay so how did most girls shave their 'down there' hair for basic?? I don't wanna be the one to stand out lol

  • Erinsaid

    @Ashley Smith – Either way, you wouldn't stand out. By the time we finally got permission to shave, many folks went straight for it. Keep in mind that we didn't get until the end of week five, so if that's going to bother you, you might want to take care of it before you go.

  • Vanessa Ayalasaid

    This information is so useful, thank you, but I had a question about clothes, do we bring extra pair of civilian clothes to wear until we get issues our uniforms ? And what exactly do we sleep in after lights out ?

  • Erinsaid

    @Vanessa Ayala – You'll want to bring a few sets of civilian clothes until you get your uniforms, yes. In the beginning, I just slept in a sports bra and underwear, but you can bring pajamas if you care to do so. Once you get uniforms, you'll sleep in PT gear.

  • Elizabethsaid

    Hi Erin, your information is super helpful. I do have a question about shaving, i can care less about legs and down there, my concern is facial shaving. Can i shave my upper lip and chin during showers or morning? I can shave that in 5 secs if allowed.

  • Erinsaid

    @Elizabeth – Not until your MTI gives you authorization to shave. Your best bet would be to wax before going, and take tweezers to grab strays.@Reyonna Stone – We had two a day – one after PT and one at night.

  • AssertedBearsaid

    Which would be better, tampons or pads? Is the pt portion really difficult? I'm kinda nervous/anxious about going. How long is tech school?

  • Unknownsaid

    @AssertedBear – Tampons or some other form of "internal" protection. The environment is too physical for pads, IMHO. The PT is challenging as you're on limited sleep and you're stressed out. Tech school's duration depends on your AFSC. Deep breath – you got this!

  • Jodisaid

    Hi Erin, I am so excited to have found your blog and all the information you've included! Question about lip balm – are you allowed to keep it with you at all times? I need to use lip balm so often throughout the day I can't even count and I'm terrified of not being able to use it.

  • Erinsaid

    @Jodi – You can. We had several folks who kept it in their satchels or on their person. @HulaEagle – The cheap $1 flip flops in solid black, ideally with no logo. Check Old Navy if you don't have base access yet.

  • Erinsaid

    @Unknown – Nothing. You'll be wearing the low quarters you're issued for graduation.@Gina – Gym bag is fine. That's what I took. A big backpack is another good option as well.

  • Ginasaid

    Txns Erin for your feedback. It looks like I have questions anytime I read sometime lol. Can I bring a sponge to shower?

  • Erinsaid

    @Gina – No problem! Yes, you can, but it ends up staying in your security drawer, in an open baggie, so it may get kind of gross in there if the air flow isn't sufficient.

  • Carla Altmansaid

    Hey! This article was very helpful but I just want to clarify… Absolutely no containers more than 3oz? Where do I get the hair gel spray you recommended in a 3oz container, if so?

  • Alexandra

    Hi! Thanks for all this info! Question- are any piercings allowed? I have a few earrings as well as a belly button piercing. Thanks!