The Glampeur’s Guide to Backcountry Skin & Hair Care, Part 1
Easy Steps to Care for Your Skin & Hair
Text by Lizzy Sculy, Photos by Steve Fassbinder
On one of my early rock climbing expeditions to the middle of nowhere (the Garwhal Region of India), my climbing partner, Heidi, brought all kinds of tiny bottles and tins of creams, lotions and hair products. Though just a few years my senior at the time and in her early 30s, Heidi had already started to take good care of her skin and hair because she had embarked on the professional climber lifestyle. In fact, for that particular trip, she planned out exactly what she needed for a month in the backcountry.
“Well I don’t want my skin to look all leathery or covered in sun spots when I’m in my 40s!” She explained.
Now 46, Heidi still spends 75% of her time outdoors teaching workshops, guiding rock climbing, posing for ice or rock climbing photos or videos or going on expeditions with other famous climbers. And because of her routine, she still looks like she’s in her 30s!
It took me a few years to realize the wisdom of Heidi’s ways, and I’ve gathered my own skin and hair care tips and tricks over the years. This is part 1 of a two-part series on caring for your hair & skin while in the backcountry--whether car camping, backpacking, big wall rock climbing, etc.
Sunscreen & Moisturizer:
Despite the fact that I have pretty oily skin, I use pretty heavy duty, all natural oils. My mom always told me as a pimply teenager that I would appreciate my oily skin as I aged because it would keep me looking younger. She was right, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to help it along. My favorites moisturizers right now are the Do It Naturally Sensual Butter (it smells so good and has multiple uses!) and the Green Goo Skin Repair, which I typically use when I’m spending a lot of time outdoors. Standard coconut oil is also a favorite (and is the main ingredient of the Sensual Butter); it also has multiple uses—cooking, moisturizing and nighttime fun—among them. Plus, it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Depending on which skin type you have, you might want to go with something lighter.
This is perhaps the number one most important skincare item you should always have with you. There is nothing worse for your skin than sunburns. They cause long-lasting damage. In fact, sunburn yourself repeatedly, and you’ll have a substantially greater risk of getting skin cancer or aging prematurely. Apply your sunscreen regularly and liberally—at least two or three times throughout the day. Be especially diligent with using any natural sunscreen as they don’t last as long. On the other hand, I’d much rather use a natural product like Green Goo’s Solar Goo. I can actually taste the chemicals of regular sunscreen in my mouth after applying it to my skin or lips. Yuck!
I don’t typically wear makeup, except for occasional tinted lip balms. However, my mom recently introduced me to a tinted sunscreen, which I have used a couple times, including for this photo shoot Steve and I did at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. The first time I put it on, I was a bit shocked when I looked in the mirror. With all the sun spots and freckles, gone, my skin looked so smooth! Whoa. This might be a great option for people who just can’t leave home without some make up on.
I wash my face, neck, behind my ears and my hands every night, preferably with water and soap if I can, but if not, with baby wipes. I love the natural wipes with real essential oils—tea tree oil, a natural disinfectant, is my favorite. But when I don't have access to those, I go with cheap unscented ones. Also, any chance I get I splash water on my face from creeks, lakes or rivers in the vicinity (just don’t use soap directly in the water!) In fact, if it’s hot, I’ll dunk my entire head in the water or jump in naked if I’m far enough out in the backcountry. Not only is it refreshing on a hot day, but it helps keep the grime and sweat levels down.
If I’m camping in cold places (not freezing temps, but 40 degrees and up), such as the Karakoram or Greenland during summer months, I still suffer through “camp showers” at least every three days. I do this by heating up a big pot of boiling hot water, which I will then mix with cold water. I then pour cups of water over my body (and my hair if it’s early enough in the morning and the sun is out), soap up and rinse off. If it’s just too cold to clean the whole body, heating up water for a face and private parts wash can be done quickly. Find shelter behind a big rock, or make a shelter out of extra tarps or tents. Green Goo just came out with a huge variety of natural soaps. Cool!
In Part 2, I’ll go over some general tips and tricks that I’ve gleaned through Facebook research (i.e. asking my friends), along with how to care for your hair and the importance of sleep.
Do you have any tips and tricks for taking care of yourself in the backcountry? If so, share them on the Green Goo Facebook page!