Skin care at Burning Man
Parched doesn’t even begin to describe what happens to your skin with the playa dust. You’re going to be dusty, dry, parched. You must prepare to care for it under conditions your body has never before experienced. Oh, and the wind will be wicking moisture out of your skin faster than (and more than) you know.
For what it’s worth, this photo–a selfie taken by Montana of him and Not Dead Yet–is, hands down, my favorite photo from Burning Man. While the interwebs (and instagram in particular) are filled with fashionable people at Burning Man (people who usually look they just stepped out of some elusive and magical shower), this particular photo speaks to the potentiality of the Black Rock Desert.
Gold Bond lotion is a winner
The Gold Bond lotions were recommended by a pro and long-time burner, so I’m passin’ on the wisdom. I use it as my first layer for moisturizing my body at Burning Man, then I add the body oil. Brands aside, the main point here is you need to bring something beyond your normal definition of body lotion, something really rich that soaks into your skin.
If you never wear lotion (especially if you’re a guy), Burning Man is a great time to make an exception and add this product to this daily personal care.
Body oil as a second layer of moisturizer
No matter how much lotion I put on at Burning Man, I still like to drench my skin with a body oil on top of the lotion. After a full-body sponge bath, I usually do a double dose of moisturizing: first body oil then body lotion.
Bring sunscreen, if that’s your thing
I don’t like sunscreen and rarely use it, but some people are fans of it. If I feel I’m getting burned, or could get burned, I cover my skin with fabric (long-sleeved linen shirts work great). I’ve also been known to put a thick coat of playa dust on my skin to protect it. Do what you need to do here.
Bring a few cool-down towels
You may already have one or two of these magical cool-down towels in your stash of athletic gear. If you don’t know what they are or haven’t used one, they are some sort of special cloth that is wetted than keep you cool and helps lower your body temperature. They are a Godsend at the playa, though sometimes a bit cumbersome to keep around your neck for an extended period of time.
I definitely recommend that you have at least one on you, though you’ll probably find yourself gifting it temporarily to someone who is overheating. This $15-$20 purchase could save you or another person from heat stroke. I’ve literally seen this happen with a campmate who came back to camp one day during the hottest part of the day. He seemed almost deranged, and he looked a few short minutes away from changing from uncomfortably overheated to having a serious medical condition.
I grabbed one of my cool-down towels and got it around his neck while other campmates got him into the shade and got some water in him. In a matter of minutes, we witnessed his body temperature drop from a dangerous level back to a safe range, and his mental condition stabilized.
Consider keeping one of these towels in your camp’s medical kit, too, and make sure it’s pre-soaked and ready to use. Even if you don’t have an extreme situation where one is needed, they are just so darn awesome and cooling, especially in the high afternoon (4-6 p.m.) time.
Definitely write your name on your cool-down towels. You may see them again. You may not.
Vinegar neutralizes the playa alkalinity
Many people use vinegar to wipe down their skin and neutralize the alkaline (and burning) properties of playa dust. Cheap white vinegar is fine in this case. Some people put vinegar on their baby wipes and use it that way. I personally don’t use a lot of vinegar, as I favor a sponge bath with warm water, a fresh wash cloth and a dash of diluted Dr Bronner’s soap. I do use a light spritz of vinegar for my first round of cleansing.
Empty spritz bottle for applying the vinegar
While vinegar does help balance the alkaline burning of playa dust, lots of vinegar just smells like lots of vinegar. I like to spritz it on my skin or mix a little of it in with my sponge bath water (see above). Some people prefer lemon juice instead of vinegar. You don’t need a spritz bottle; it’s simply how I like to apply it.