Thursday, May 21, 2015

Camping & Your Skin: The Essentials

When I go camping with my husband, we backpack and therefore I don’t have much room to bring my cosmetics with me. Do you have any “bare minimum” suggestions for products I can take camping that wouldn’t take up too much room in my pack?

Through the years, I have had many clients and friends ask me how to go about taking care of their skin while under unusual circumstances. One friend was on her way to Washington state to summit Mount Rainier, while several clients have gone on no-frills safaris in the wilds of Africa. Whether you are scaling a mountain, on safari, or you’re just a weekend camper, you will want to take only the essentials to save room yet save your face at the same time.

When I go camping, it is usually the no-frills kind. No bathrooms, no water other than a (very) cold stream near the campsite, and sometimes not even that. If there is no stream, I am left with water from a canteen to brush my teeth and wash my face. Needless to say, this limits my routine to the bare bones. And admittedly, although I usually do my morning routine, the evening routine doesn’t always get accomplished. After sitting around the campfire in the deep darkness of night, sometimes just climbing into the tent to go to sleep is my top priority.

I’m telling you this to say don’t worry about skipping your routine if your circumstances dictate it. I don’t go camping very often, and I certainly take exceptional care of my skin every day of my life otherwise. So if you find yourself unable (or maybe just unwilling) to do all the right things, don’t worry about it. Just know that you will have some catching up to do once you get home, and your skin may show the signs of improper care, which may include congestion (more blackheads than you normally have) and flakiness from lack of exfoliation.

My skin usually goes through a minor breakout during a camping trip, but frankly I’m more focused on the environmental beauty I am surrounded by and not on how I look. Fortunately, there are no mirrors out in the woods, so out of sight, out of mind!

If possible, get a facial after your trip. This will ensure that your neglected skin will get all the attention it needs. If you can get a facial before you go, do—before to prepare, after to repair. A good clay mask done right after returning from a camping trip will do wonders to immediately perk up your skin as well as clean out your pores.

Travel companions. The first order of business is getting any products you plan to take with you in travel sizes. If these smaller versions aren’t available, make your own. You can find small plastic containers at almost any drug or grocery store. If your products are housed in glass or metal, they probably need to remain in containers made out of those materials, rather than plastic.

If the product line you use offers sample sizes, get hold of some (you may have to purchase them, or sometimes they are given away) and take these with you instead of your travel-size products. Saving space is always the name of the game. If you end up bringing samples, be sure to take a few self-sealing plastic bags with you to use as “trash cans” for your used sample containers. When you go camping, especially backpacking, you always take out whatever you bring in, and this includes trash.

The following are the most important ingredients in your basic travel kit:
  • Cleanser (To cleanse day and night.)
  • Sunscreen (Used amply and frequently.)
  • Moisturizer (Used at night, and even under your sunscreen if you need the extra moisture, and as your eye cream if you can’t take a separate product.)
  • Lip balm (Your lips will thank you for this one!)
  • Toner in a spray bottle (If room allows.)

Keeping your skin clean and protected from the sun are the top two concerns to focus on. With that said, you have the added challenge of limited space in your pack and limited time to stick to a routine. The following suggestions are based on special, limited circumstances and are in no way recommendations for normal, daily skin care at home. When I have gone camping, if I was able to brush my teeth morning and night, it was an accomplishment!

The first ingredient in your camping travel kit is a non-alkaline cleanser. If water is limited, I recommend a change from how you are cleansing at home. First, spend a few more seconds applying the cleanser to your face. Next, only if water is limited, wipe the cleanser off with a towel; then rinse with water from your canteen or, if available, a stream. If stream water is your only option, you won’t want to splash too much of that ice cold water on your face. It’s damaging to your capillaries. Toweling or wiping off cleanser is not a practice I recommend if you are at home—there you want to splash-rinse with water. But in these limited circumstances, this wiping off procedure will require less water in order to get the cleanser off your face.

In the morning, after you have removed the cleanser as thoroughly as possible and rinsed with water, pour on the sunscreen! And be sure to take some with you when you go hiking. Sunscreens work on a temporary basis only, and one application in the morning will not last throughout the day. It should be waterproof (or water-resistant) so you won’t sweat it off. Please, don’t go on any excursion, especially camping, without lots of sunscreen!

At night, cleanse and use your night treatment cream. If you can take your eye cream, great. But if space is limited, use your night cream around your eyes. Again, this is less than ideal, but it is practical. When in doubt, improvise.

Don’t forget lip balm. Carry it around wherever you go and use it often throughout the day and at night before you go to sleep. Lip balm will help save your lips from becoming dry and chapped. This is especially important if you are in high altitudes or in a desert climate. Try to find a non-petroleum lip balm and be sure to get one with SPF. Lips need protection from the sun’s rays just as much as your skin does.

This is super small—perfect!
If space allows, I highly recommend taking your toner in a travel-size spray bottle. This step adds hydration (water) to your face as well as other soothing ingredients to help balance your skin. (Do I need to include that I am not talking about toners with SD or isopropyl alcohol in them?) Because toners are liquids, I recommend putting the bottle in a self-sealing plastic bag—just in case. You don’t want any surprises when you open your pack.

If you are camping but have access to a bathroom, then you will be able to follow your regular at-home routine much more easily. You may not want to bring every skin care product you normally use at home, but you certainly can bring more than what I have mentioned. The previous recommendations are based on having very limited space and resources, yet allow you to keep your skin in pretty good shape during your time away from home.

Whatever your trip involves, have a great time, wear plenty of sunscreen, and do what you can to keep to some sort of routine, pared down as it might be. Remember—life is short so do what you can skin care-wise and otherwise enjoy your outdoor experience. Happy trails!

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