Body care starting at the top: head and hair care

hair care in the desert

You’ve seen the pictures. There’s this thing that happens to people’s hair when they’re at Burning Man. It, it, it … it gets wild. It gets wild in a sexy, awesome way that looks good on every single person! If you have long-ish hair, you probably won’t be able to get a comb through it by the second or third day. Personally, I say ride it. Let it be. You’ll look Burning Man sexy, like everyone else.

Bring your favorite hair cleanser or shampoo, if nothing else, for post-playa pampering

Washing your hair on the playa (unless you have access to a significant amount of water… which is rare) often creates mud-hair that then dries more cakey than before you washed it. It can be kind of gross. If you have a chance to take a shower and wash your hair on playa—and assuming you have hair of any length—it’s probably best to manage your expectations about the results you’ll get.

Do bring your favorite hair cleanser to use at the Reno hotel (or wherever you land next) when you’ve returned from your epic adventure to Black Rock City. That first decent shower you take in over a week will be heavenly and while washing with hotel shampoo is certainly fine, you may be wanting some more luxury and your favorite personal care products.

As the Burning Man community has eschewed (finally) the myth the evap ponds work for grey water management, and as more camps arrange for grey-water pumping on playa, that also means more camps do offer showers. Most will probably limit you to one or two gallons per shower. Check. Ask. Find out. (If you’re in a camp or with a group, don’t assume you can bring your own shower because your shower 1) uses water and 2) creates grey water.)

Coconut oil is a fantastic playa-hair detangler

I’ve yet to have what I would consider a very satisfactory experience using coconut oil as a body oil; it seems to float on my skin. Others like it and use it regularly.

However, I do bring a small jar of coconut oil because I find that it works great for detangling hair (mostly used post-playa at the hotel). If the knots in your hair are freaking you out, drench your hair in coconut oil and comb out the knots before washing it. Start with a wide-tooth comb and go to a smaller-tooth comb once you remove the majority of the tangles.

There’s much to be said for playa hair. It really does look crazy sexy on everyone! However, in the event that you desperately want to wash your hair, you’ll probably also want to comb it, and if you want to comb it without stressing your hair too much and pulling on it to detangle it, I recommend you detangle your hair first with generous amounts of coconut oil before washing it.

Do make sure that lid jar is on tight with any oils, and you might want to double/triple wrap your coconut oil in ziplocks to keep the oil from getting on other items. I once had a glass jar of coconut oil melt and then break. No fun. As coconut oil has become quite popular in recent years, you can find it at most any grocery store in Reno, though definitely at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

A wide-toothed comb is the only way to go with playa hair

To reiterate: you need to adjust all your thinking about hair care on the playa. Don’t even think about getting a regular comb through your hair…unless of course, you’re using coconut oil. Still. And a brush? Forget about it! A wide-toothed comb is the way to go.


Lots of people (mostly women) get their hair braided or have braid extensions added before Burning Man. The intent, I believe, is to protect their hair from getting so knotted. I’ve never met a knot I couldn’t get out with coconut oil (including knots on others’ heads), so I don’t see this as a problem. Make the choice that works for you.

A hat? Make sure it won’t blow off!

I no longer bring a day hat, but you should absolutely bring one as a virgin. Make sure it stays on your head well. Think about the conditions you’ll be in when selecting a hat, for day or night. Wind gusts, sustained winds and dust tornadoes, to name a few of the circumstances. Then there’s riding your bike.

A hat is cool, but it’s only functional if it stays on your head. It becomes MOOP if it blows off your head, or a gift for someone else. Think about how your hat will perform in the wind (including any cute accessories or decorations you want to attach to it.) It isn’t windy every day or all the time, but it’s windy enough, and it comes on when it comes on, so you need to be prepared.

If you choose not to bring a hat in future years, then it’s an informed choice, but I’d definitely encourage you to have one for your first year.

Release stories of how your hair is supposed to be at Burning Man. Playa hair looks sexy on everyone.

Taking care of your hair at Burning Man



Bald Photo by Ahmed Carter on Unsplash

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