With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, many people (myself included) will be heading outdoors for the first camping trip of the summer season. While it’s wonderful to have some time away to relax in the outdoors, the sun, dirt and changes in your routine put you at higher risk for damaging your skin. Here are tips on how to protect your skin both inside and out on your camping adventures.
1. Sun Protection
While camping, your skin is getting extra sun exposure since you’re remaining outdoors for the whole vacation. Be sure to protect your skin (especially your face) from excess sun exposure. When possible, limit or avoid being out in the sun during the peak damaging hours (10 am to 2 pm). Those hours are a great time to enjoy activities in the shade of trees or a pop-up canopy.
When you’re out in the sun, put on a hat and other sun-protecting apparel and wear a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide. Don’t go easy on the sunscreen because, for proper protection, you should be using about 2 tablespoons to cover your entire face and body. Learn more tips on sun protection in my article on 10 Ways to Protect Your Skin This Summer.
2. Don’t Forget Your Skin Care Routine
The biggest problem with skin care while camping is the lack of tap water and excess dirt. Don’t skip your skin care routine just because you’re camping. Your skin needs it more than ever! You can still use products like the Daily Essentials. All you need is a facial sponge or washcloth, add a little water and Step 1 Clear is both cleansing and hydrating. I wouldn’t leave home to camp without it! You can follow it up with the protection and hydration of Steps 2, 3 and 4.
What about face wipes? They are super convenient to clean up quickly when you are out in the wild, but only if you are using the right ones! Face wipes help remove the dirt and perspiration, but be sure to take a look at the ingredients. Avoid those containing fragrance and parabens (such as, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben and Butylparaben). There are concerns with these ingredients being linked to hormone disrupting effects. Also, watch out for Phenoxyethanol and Propylene Glycol, especially if you tend to have sensitive skin or allergies. Instead, look fragrance-free natural wipes with hydrating and nourishing ingredients, like Cranberry Seed Oil, Raspberry Seed Oil, Aloe Vera and Chamomilla.
3. Barbecue Less Meat and More Veggies
Often, camping involves cooking over a fire or barbecuing, depending on how elaborate you like to camp. Here’s the problem: When we heat meat on a grill at a high temperature, it causes changes in the animal protein that can actually make it carcinogenic and also cause glycation and oxidative damage issues that speed up the aging process.
So, here are some tips: Try not to overcook your meat and limit how many meals you eat that include grilled meat. And, minimize the damage caused by grilling meat by adding some healthy vegetables to the barbecue. You can add sliced grilled zucchini and Portabello mushrooms. Grilling veggies does not cause the same glycation issues nor the carcinogenic properties as meat. As long as you’re not blackening them, they’re still going to contain a lot of their beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants. This may even help counterbalance some of the downsides of getting the meat on the barbecue.
4. Limit the S’mores and Other Sugary Treats
I hear you… “it’s just not camping without the s’mores!” It’s true. Most of us have grown up with the melted chocolate marshmallow graham cracker gooeyness by the campfire. So, to avoid the “skinflammation” impact of sugar, try this combo as a healthier alternative: Dark Chocolate (80% or higher) sweetened with stevia, Gluten-Free Graham Crackers and Home-Made Marshmallows. This helps you avoid artificial and harmful ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and cuts back on the amount of sugar. Plus, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and actually good for you (if you avoid the sugar).
And, instead of sugary snacks, pack healthy skin foods to munch on such as antioxidant-rich colorful fruits and veggies. Nuts and seeds are another great addition since they’re easy for snacking and high in zinc, which is an essential nutrient for healthy skin. Keep your snacks and meals simple and nutritious with whole foods.
5. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate
Being outdoors and active in the sun can quickly dehydrate you. Both your body (including your skin) needs at least 6 to 8 glasses of purified water every day. And, you’ll need even more when you’re spending so much time outdoors. Be sure to pack plenty of filtered water, and if you’re concerned about access to drinking water, you may want to bring an on-the-go filter with you. Don’t be tempted to drink from fresh looking springs and rivers. You can easily pick up giardia and other parasites from these places. Spring water is amazing, but only if it’s been fully tested for cleanliness and is free of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that you can’t see or smell.
Also, consider bringing coconut water and electrolyte packets with you, particularly if it’s hot and you’re perspiring excessively. Preventing dehydration involves more than just drinking water. We need electrolytes too! But, check the ingredients. There are natural options that don’t contain added sugar.
6. Soothe Skin Naturally
A first aid kit should always be on your packing list for camping. In addition to the band-aids, wound cleansing wipes and other essentials, include some natural skin soothers. For mild burns, Aloe Vera gel is soothing and healing. For minor cuts and scrapes, salves with Calendula, Comfrey and Vitamin E are my favorites.
In some places, the soil has a higher pH (is more alkaline) than what your skin may be use to. If that’s the case, you might want to prepare a diluted vinegar wash to rinse your feet after a hike or at the end of the day. Then, follow up with skin care products that help protect your skin’s natural acid mantle.
7. Breathe in Nature
Stress is one of the big triggers for worsening skin issues. So, now is your chance to unwind and embrace the healing powers found in nature. While you’re in the outdoors, enjoy some deep breaths and fresh air. Being in nature is therapeutic on many levels. Take time to look around and take in the beauty of nature around you.
If you can avoid lighter fluids and charcoals with added chemicals, your air will be much fresher. They’re not only harmful for you but also for the environment. Instead, find or bring firewood and minimize synthetic fire starters. It might be a great time to hone in your fire-building skills!
In the morning when you first wake up is the perfect time for breath work and meditation. Take 5 minutes (longer if you can) to close your eyes and take deep breaths while allowing your belly to expand. While your eyes are closed, be aware of your senses. What do you hear? Leaves moving in the wind, birds and other other animals? How does your skin feel? Do you feel a cool breeze or the warmth of the sun? What do you smell? Maybe you catch a scent of a campfire or the smell of damp earth? Enjoy your senses. Smile. Breathe.
8. Thank Mother Nature
Remember, you’re in nature so try to match your environment and leave little trace that you were there. We often forget how much damage we can create. Be sure to be mindful of staying on trails, taking out what you brought in and cleaning up before you head home.
Gratitude is a powerful practice. It helps relieve stress and shift our moods to a more positive state. Camping is the perfect time to thank Mother Earth for all that she provides. What else are you grateful for? The beautiful sunrise, the moon on the horizon, the birds flying across the sky, the glow of the sunlight through the trees. Take it in now so you can close your eyes and recall this special place when you’re back home.
Most of all, enjoy your camping trip! When you’re happy, your skin glows and your natural beauty shines.