how to be a happy acne-safe camper (plus tips for burning man)

so you wanna be an acne-safe camper, eh? you’ve come to the right place! camping season is well under way here in the bay area. with burning man just around the corner, it’s time for an updated guide to experiencing the wilderness in an acne-safe fashion. i just got back from a week-long camping and backpacking adventure in the glorious yosemite backcountry, where i didn’t let my acne-safe lifestyle ruin my fun. experiencing the bountiful nature that california has to offer is one of the many privileges of living in the bay area, but there’s no need to derail all of the hard work you’ve put into achieving clear skin just for a few days off the grid. here are some essential acne-safe camping tips from a pro backpacker!

camping in the summer heat is a perfect excuse to ice your face. it’s cool, it’s refreshing and once others see how much fun you’re having, they’ll want to join right in. since it’s not always practical to travel with your sS ice pop, we recommend bringing plenty of clean ziplock bags, putting fresh ice directly inside and then placing them in your cooler. when you’re ready to ice, pop out some clean ice cubes and go to town, inflammation be damned!

plan your meals. seriously. just do it. here is a sample meal plan from my last camping trip. planning your meals ahead of time ensures that you bring exactly enough food for the number of days you’ll be camping so you won’t go hungry and you won’t have an excuse to eat a ton of dairy and soy. bring acne-safe packaged foods that don’t need a ton of preparation – epic bars for protein, trail mix for good fat, hard boiled eggs, low-sugar fruit and cans of sardines (truly). and yes, you can enjoy some soy-free smores around the campfire at night, too.

greet the day with some fresh herbal or black tea. revel in your body’s chance to reset its circadian rhythms to match the cycles of the sun and moon.

bathe in the refreshing waters of nearby lakes and streams. this is a great way to reset if you’re feeling like your hygiene game is suffering. you can rinse away any dirt or dust and follow up your dip with a swipe of some sS hydrating toner and sunscreen.

and don’t forgot your product essentials. pick ’em up from the sS clinic before you begin your camping adventures:

  1. for sun protection, along with layers and a hat, we recommend amping up your spf by using sS safeguard spf40 for your face and goddess garden sunscreen for your body. their sport line is water resistant up to 80 minutes and is completely biodegradable so you can splash around in some cool alpine lakes with nary a worry. don’t forget to protect those luscious lips with our lip balm and reapply as needed. always seek shade when possible and get yourself a good pair of sunglasses.
  2. if you’ve been out hiking all day and anticipate sore muscles the next morning, pop a magnesium pill or two before bed. this will ease any bodily tension and help you sleep peacefully.
  3. if you’re worried about mosquitoes, grab some greener ways bug spray, an organic and safe alternative to deet and picaridin.
  4. if you won’t have access to clean water for bathing, bring along our hydrating or sterilizing toners and some toner pads to freshen up throughout the day. if you’re on the road and don’t have access to these products, yes to cucumbers face wipes will work in a pinch.
  5. feeling like your hair is melting into a colossal oil slick? bring along a homemade arrowroot starch dry shampoo in a small jar to apply as often as necessary. combine 1/4 cup arrowroot starch with 5 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender, cedarwood, etc) and store in an airtight jar for the duration of your trip. for dark hair, combine 2 tablespoons arrowroot plus 2 tablespoons cacao powder with the essential oils. experiment and find what works for you!1

 

but what about burning man? the dusty environment of “la playa” is an entirely different ballpark from heading out onto the foggy, fragrant trails of marin with a few friends. so here are some burning man-specific tips and tricks to stay acne safe.

  1. stay hydrated internally and externally. bring at least a gallon of water per person per day and hydrate your skin frequently with sS hydrating cream to combat the dusty dry landscape. bring along some rosewater hydrosol and spritz your face all throughout the day. and don’t forget to ice your face!
  2. stay sun-safe. bring several hats – you don’t want to be caught in the desert without one! reapply safeguard spf40 sunscreen and sS lip balm often and bring some acne-safe aloe just in case you burn.
  3. deal with the dust. bring sunflower oil in a tiny jar to dab in your nostrils and to moisturize your feet at night – you can avoid “playa foot” by keeping all nooks and crannies of your skin moisturized constantly. wear gloves and goggles to avoid getting too dusty and dirty, and bring a few bandanas as protection when the wind picks up.
  4. stay clean. since you probably won’t have access to a shower (unless you have a very kind neighbor with a solar shower), bring an extra tub to fill with water for makeshift “showers” and foot baths. bring some sS hydrating toner with toner pads to freshen up throughout the day.
  5. plan out your meals ahead of time so you only bring what you need. bring snacks and food that need little preparation and pack your cooler full of acne-safe food so you aren’t tempted to snag a bite of your friend’s dairy-filled lunch.
  6. sleep well. if you’re a light sleeper, pack some ear plugs to drown out the rowdy campers. pack extra pillow cases to switch out over the course of the week and bring layers for the nighttime temperature drop
  7. most importantly, relax, enjoy the festivities, and have a good time! plan to come in for a treatment 7-10 days after you get back so your skin has a chance to heal from the sun exposure.

how do you enjoy nature while staying acne-safe? 

footnotes

1. dry shampoo recipe adapted from mommypotamus

drugstore survival guide

it happens: we travel and forget to pack hydrating cream or our container leaks (explodes) all over our suitcase; we wait just a little too long to re-up on our charcoal cleanser and, of course, the day we run out we can’t make it to sS; we leave our products at a friend’s house or on the BART or whoknowswhere. when we’re suddenly left stranded without our tried and true sS products, and forced to find a drugstore solution, what are we to do? is anything safe (or at least safe enough to get through a few days)?

luckily, there are few drugstore bandaids out there that, at least on paper, look safe. we’ve combed through countless ingredients lists, and have found a few rare products that pass the sS test. (keep in mind though, none of these products have gone through sS’s rigorous 6-month test phase, so we can’t be totally sure how your skin will react.)

while we checked a lot of products, this list is not exhaustive; you can always put on your skin-savvy detective hat, whip out your list of comedogenic ingredients, and get to reading if you want to check out other products. if you find anything that looks safe, let us know!

we’ve included the ingredients that were published for each product at the time of this post, but remember: formulations change, so always double-check the ingredients before you let it touch your skin. also, while you may notice that nearly all the products are neutrogena, this doesn’t mean all neutrogena products are safe!

we have highlighted any questionable and potentially comedogenic ingredients in bold in the ingredient lists below. most of these are 1’s and 2’s on the comedogenicity scale. this scale goes from 0-5 (zero being safe and 5 being extremely cloggy even in non-acne prone folks). most acne prone people can tolerate some 1’s and 2’s in small amounts short term.

so, just to be clear: 

  1. we haven’t tested these products, so we cannot guarantee they will not clog. these are meant to be temporary options when you are unable to use your sS-approved products.
  2. formulations change, so cloggers can and do get added to formerly benign-seeming products – so always beware!
  3. these products shouldn’t make your acne worse, but none of them are “active” products, so they won’t actively work towards clearing your skin.
  4. no drugstore brand is completely safe – always, always, always check ingredients.

that said, if you’re in a pinch, these products are the best we’ve found in drugstores:

CLEANSERS

 

neutrogena rapid clear oil-eliminating foaming cleanser: if you’re on the oilier side, and find yourself without your sS cleanser, this product should be your go-to. as with the deep clean facial cleanser, though, it may be more drying than you are used to, so using moisturizer is extra important.

ingredients: water, potassium stearate, glycerin, peg-8, propylene glycol, potassium myristate, potassium laurate, stearic acid, beeswax, glyceryl stearate, peg-100 stearate, fragrance

 

neutrogena acne proofing whipped foam cleanser: this cleanser contains salicylic acid which is an ingredient that should be avoided during pregnancy. if you are pregnant you should choose another cleanser from this list. also because salicylic acid is an active ingredient it can be drying or irritating to sensitive skins.

ingredients: water, glycerin, cocamidopropyl betaine, isobutane, methyl gluceth-20, decyl glucoside, sodium chloride, potassium acrylates copolymer, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, panthenol, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, menthol, disodium edta

 

 

neutrogena naturals purifying facial cleanser is a foaming cleanser that removes dirt and oils without exposing your skin to many of the harsh chemicals found in many drugstore skin care products.

ingredients: water ,cocamidopropyl betaine,decyl glucoside glycerin,cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine ,sodium lauryl sulfoacetate salix alba (willow) bark extract, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, sodium benzoate, fragrance

 

 

 

neutrogena naturals fresh cleansing and makeup remover, like all neutrogena naturals products is free of sulfates, paraben, petrolatum, dyes and phthalates. this product cleanses and removes make up all in one step and it’s gentle on the sensitive eye area.

ingredients: water, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, cocamidopropyl betaine, glycerin, coco-glucoside, glyceryl oleate, acrylates copolymer, glycol distearate, benzyl alcohol, citric acid (ph adjuster), potassium sorbate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, caprylyl glycol, sodium hydroxide (ph adjuster), hydrolyzed caesalpinia spinosa gum, caesalpinia spinosa gum, fragrance

 

neutrogena ultra gentle daily cleanser is a gentle foaming cleanser for sensitive skin.

ingredients: water, glycerin, cocamidopropyl betaine, lauryl glucoside, potassium acrylates copolymer, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, disodium lauroamphodiacetate, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, ethylhexylglycerin, caprylyl glycol, potassium sorbate, fragrance

 

 

 

 

neutrogena fresh foaming cleanser: for drier skins, this is probably your best bet in a pinch. and, bonus, it removes makeup.

ingredients: water, glycerin, lauryl glucoside, decyl glucoside, cocamidopropyl betaine, glycereth-7, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, glycol stearate, cocamide mea, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, tetrasodium edta, dmdm hydantoin, fragrance

 

 

shikai borage therapy facial cleanser: an extra mild & effective natural cleanser. Leaves skin soft, smooth, hydrated. we’ve had a couple clients use this cleanser and the results were good.

ingredients: aloe vera gel (aloe barbadensis), water, sodium cocopolyglucose tartrate, cocoamidopropylbetaine, TEA cocoylglutamate, cocoamide DEA, diazolidinyl urea, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, fragrance.

 

 

 

aveeno clear complexion foaming cleanser is another gentle foaming cleanser that looks pretty safe. fragrance is listed higher on the ingredients list which is always something to be a little wary of.

ingredients: butylene glycol, citric acid,cocamidopropyl betaine, disodium edta, disodium lauroamphodiacetate, fragrance, glycerin, glycine soja (soybean) protein, peg-16 soy sterol, peg-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, polysorbate 20, sodium benzoate, sodium c14-c16 olefin sulfonate, sorbitol, water, xanthan gum.

 

MOISTURIZERS & SPF

 

neutrogena oil-free moisture with spf 15: this day cream will work best on oilier skins. if you’re used to using tizo or sS’s safeguard day cream though, be aware of your sun exposure since this has a lower spf.

ingredients: active ingredients: octinoxate (7.5%), octisalate (5%), oxybenzone (3%)
inactive ingredients: water, octyldodecyl neopentanoate, glycerin, emulsifying wax, glyceryl stearate, peg 100 stearate, dimethicone, triethanolamine, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, carbomer.

 

simple water boost hydrating booster is touted to help dehydrated or dry skin.
the formula is lightweight, and supposedly long lasting. the product directions say to apply a layer before your regular moisturizer. this might be beneficial for dry skin using a drying moisturizer like the oil free neutrogena one.

ingredients: water ,glycerin, pentylene glycol ,butylene glycol, dimethicone, peg-8, saccharide isomerate, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/beheneth-25 methacrylate crosspolymer, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, peg-40 hydrogenated castor oil, trideceth-9, carbomer ,polyvinyl alcohol, bht, benzophenone-4, glyceryl acrylate/acrylic acid copolymer, pvm/ma copolymer, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium lactate, t-butyl alcohol, lactic acid, sodium benzoate

 

 

neutrogena healthy skin face lotion with sunscreen spf 15: a day cream for drier or aging skins. same word of warning as its oil-free compatriot: be careful with the sun, especially if you’re used to a higher spf.

ingredients: active ingredients: octyl methoxycinnamate (7. 5%), benzophenone-3 (5%). inactive ingredients: purified water, glycolic acid, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, dicaprylyl maleate, cetyl alcohol, glycerin, stearic acid, glyceryl stearate, peg-100 stearate, sodium glycolate, tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, ascorbic acid polypeptide, panthenol, bisabolol, tetrasodium edta, xanthan gum, methylparaben, propylparaben, diazolidinyl urea, fragrance

 

neutrogena oil-free moisture – combination skin: a night cream that will do in a pinch for most acneic skin types. if your skin is on the drier side, you really want to make sure to get back to using your sS cream asap, to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

ingredients: water, cyclomethicone, cetyl caprylate, glycerin, cetyl ricinoleate, stearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, peg-100 stearate, acrylates copolymer, lysine carboxymethyl cysteinate, lysine thiazolidine carboxylate, tocopherol, silica, xanthan gum, methylparaben, propylparaben, diazolidinyl urea, benzalkonium chloride

 

derma e natural mineral sunscreen broad spectrum SPF 30 oil-free face: it’s tough to find natural sunscreens that aren’t loaded with cloggy ingredients. this one looks good but should only be used in an emergency since we can’t fully vouch for it’s acne safety-ness .

ingredients: purified water, coco-caprylate (coconut derived), dicaprylyl carbonate, lauryl glucoside (plant derived), polyglyceryl-2 dipolyhydroxystearate, glycerin (vegetable derived), microcrystalline cellulose (plant derived), cellulose gum (plant derived), organic camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract*, panthenol (provitamin b5), sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin c),tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), phytic acid, triethoxycaprylylsilane, polyhydroxystearic acid, xanthan gum, benzyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, tocopherol.

 

 

aveeno baby continuous protection sensitive skin lotion spf 50: this product has a high amount of dimethicone which is an ingredient that you should AVOID if your skin is extremely acne-prone; most acne-prone skins can tolerate this ingredient which is most commonly found in physical block SPF’s and makeup primers, but those very sensitive will break out. this would be something that would be best on the body rather than the face.

ingredients: water,C12-15 alkyl benzoate,styrene/acrylates copolymer,octyldodecyl citrate crosspolymer,phenyl trimethicone,cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, dimethicone,polyhydroxystearic acid,glycerin,ethyl methicone,cetyl dimethicone,silica,phenethyl alcohol,colloidal oatmeal,chrysanthemum parthenium flower/leaf/stem juice,caprylyl glycol,glyceryl behenate,sodium chloride,acrylates/dimethicone copolymer,cetyl dimethicone/bis-vinyldimethicone cross polymer,chlorphenesin,phenoxyethanol.

 

neutrogena pure & free baby sunscreen spf 50: this is another one with lots of dimethicone so same thing applies here as to the one above. this would be something that would be best on the body rather than the face.

ingredients: zinc oxide 21.6% (sunscreen)Inactive Ingredients: Water, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, styrene/acrylates copolymer, octyldodecyl citrate crosspolymer, phenyl trimethicone, cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, dimethicone, polyhydroxystearic acid, glycerin, ethyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone, silica, chrysanthemum parthenium (feverfew) flower/leaf/stem juice, glyceryl behenate, phenethyl alcohol, caprylyl glycol, cetyl dimethicone/bis-vinyldimethicone crosspolymer, acrylates/dimethicone copolymer, sodium chloride, phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin

 

cerave sunscreen face lotion spf 50: we have found that many products from this brand are super cloggy but this one looks like it would be ok short term. this is a brand that many dermatologists tend to recommend for their acne patients. unfortunately, t

ingredients: water, butyloctyl salicylate, cetyl dimethicone, dimethicone, styrene/acrylates copolymer, trimethylsiloxysilicate, dimethicone peg-8 laurate, isohexadecane, butylene glycol, polysorbate 60, trisiloxane, arachidyl alcohol, polyhydroxystearic acid, hydrated silica, ceramide 3, ceramide 6 ii, ceramide 1, niacinamide, cholesterol, phytosphingosine, peg-100 stearate, glyceryl stearate, ascorbic acid, avena sativa (oat) kernel extract, arachidyl glucoside, beeswax, behenyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, stearic acid, bisabolol, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, ehtylhexylglycerin, glycerin, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, pantothenic acid/yeast polypeptide, peg-8, xanthan gum, polyaminopropyl biguanide, polymethyl methacrylate, alumina, potassium sorbate, retinyl palmitate, sodium lauroyl lactylate, carbomer, tocopheryl acetate, bht, disodium edta, methicone, methylisothiazolinone, triethoxycaprylylsilane.

 

neutrogena clear face liquid lotion sunscreen for acne-prone skin, broad spectrum spf 30: if your skin tends to be on the dry side this spf may be too drying to wear alone. you can apply a layer of your acne safe moisturizer under this spf to protect your skin’s moisture level.

ingredients: avobenzone 2.5% (sunscreen)homosalate 5% (sunscreen)octisalate 4% (sunscreen)octocrylene 3% (sunscreen)oxybenzone 4% (sunscreen)inactive ingredients: acrylates/dimethicone copolymer, bht, bisabolol, butylene glycol, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, capryloyl glycine, caprylyl glycol, cedrus atlantica bark extract, cetyl dimethicone, chlorphenesin, cinnamomum zeylanicum bark extract, diethylhexyl 2,6-naphthalate, dimethicone, disodium edta, ethylhexyl stearate, ethylhexylglycerin, mannan, neopentyl glycol diheptanoate, phenoxyethanol, polyester-7, portulaca oleracea extract, propylene glycol, sarcosine, silica, sodium polyacrylate, steareth-100, steareth-2, styrene/acrylates copolymer, trideceth-6, xanthan gum, water.

 

EMERGENCY SPOT CAMOUFLAGE

almay smart shade concealer: we know it’s going to be tempting to abuse this, but this really should only be for emergency coverage. mineral makeup is always best, and with an ingredient list as long as this has, you really have to be careful. that said, if a something pops up and you really need a quick cover-up solution from the drugstore, this appears to be safe.

ingredients: active ingredients: titanium dioxide (4.0%), zinc oxide (2.0%)
inactive ingredients: aqua/water/eau (water, eau), cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, trimethylsiloxysilicate, butylene glycol, trisiloxane, cetyl/peg/ppg 10/1 dimethicone, alcohol denatured, phenyltrimethicone, nylon 12, tribehenin, hdi/trimethylol hexyllactone crosspolymer, sodium chloride, cyclohexasiloxane, peg/ppg 18/18 dimethicone, alumina, boron nitrate, galactoarabinan, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), aloe vera (aloe barbadensis) extract, sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), vitis vinifera (grape) seed extract (grape), centaurea cyanus (cornflower) extract, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, ginseng (panax ginseng) root extract, ginkgo biloba leaf extract, hydrolyzed glycosaminoglycans, disteardimonium hectorite, silica, methicone, triethoxycaprylylsilane, sorbitan sesquioleate, ammonium polyacrylatedimethyl tauramide, cycloheptasiloxane, acrylonitrile/methacrylonitrile/methyl methacrylate copolymer, polysorbate 20, polysorbate 80, talc, tetrasodium edta, phenoxyethanol, propylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, mica, iron oxides (ci 77491, 77492, 77499)