Renée’s Foolproof Guide to Camping Skincare

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know how much I love outdoor adventures. Whether it’s camping, hiking, biking, bridge diving or swimming, nothing brings me more peace and joy than getting out into Mother Nature. 

In the past two years, I’ve participated in the Babes Ride Out motorcycle camping trip, did the El Camino Trek in Spain, and hiked the Grand Canyon. During all these adventures, I learned a thing or two about perfecting my on-the-go skincare routine with limited resources. Keeping in mind that everyone’s skincare needs will vary, I thought I’d share my own camping skincare routine. These tips and tricks can also be applied any time you find yourself needing to do skincare with limited resources, whether it’s road trips, a day at the beach, music festivals, or anything in between. Let’s dive in!

Camping Skincare Essentials

First thing’s first. These are the skincare essentials you’ll always find in my camping kit:

  • My DIY eye makeup remover wipes
  • Face cleanser
  • Bottled water (if you won’t have access to clean water)
  • Baby washcloth
  • Clips (to hang the washcloth to dry)
  • Antibacterial Toner (optional, best for those who are breakouts-prone)
  • Nighttime moisturizer
  • Water-resistant facial sunscreen (one chemical and one physical)
  • Mineral powder
  • Water-resistant spray body sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • After Bite
  • Band-Aids

Items for camping skincare routine laid out on grass

The Best Skincare Routine for Camping

When you’re camping, I suggest a simple, abbreviated routine. There’s no need for eye creams, masks, serums, or active ingredients like exfoliating acids and retinol (which may make your skin more sensitive to sun anyways). In the daytime, your goal should 100 percent be about protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. In the evening, your goal should be to remove oil, sweat, dirt, and sunscreen from the skin as thoroughly as possible while keeping it hydrated and balanced.

Nighttime Routine

Items you’ll need: eye makeup remover wipes (if you’ll be wearing mascara), cleanser, bottled water, baby washcloth, clips, antibacterial toner, moisturizer

1. Use an Eye Makeup Remover Wipe

I don’t normally recommend skincare wipes, but when you’re on the go and need to keep it simple, they’re the most convenient option. If you’re wearing any kind of eye makeup, use these wipes to remove makeup as your first step. I personally like to get my eyelashes tinted before an outdoor trip so I don’t have to worry about mascara—there’s nothing worse than waking up and your eyes being crusty from it! 

Be sure to go easy on the delicate skin around your eyes. Close your eye then hold the wipe on it for fifteen to thirty seconds to melt makeup without rubbing, then gently sweep the wipe across your eye.

2. Apply Cleanser Using a Baby Washcloth

The reason I prefer baby washcloths over regular washcloths is that they’re softer and therefore gentler on the skin. They also tend to be thinner, which means you can hang them up to dry in the sunlight. Many microbes are sensitive to UV light, and it can actually be used as a disinfectant

Wet your baby washcloth (using bottled water if you don’t have access to a sink or clean water), apply a dollop of cleanser to the cloth, and gently massage it into your skin in small, circular motions. This wiping action is what will lift off leftover dirt, oil, and sunscreen. Once you’re finished massaging the cleanser in, rinse your washcloth with water and wipe it gently over your face again to remove the cleanser. 

3. Apply an Antibacterial Toner

This step is optional, but one I recommend if you’re acne-prone. As I mentioned, you’ll want to forego active products like serums or retinol during a camping trip, so quickly swiping a toner over the skin is a good way to keep pores clear. My favorite product for this is Rapid Response Detox Toner

If you don’t want to bring a whole bottle of toner, check out my tip for conveniently packing liquid skincare products.

4. Apply Moisturizer

For this, you can just use your regular nighttime moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated, healthy, and balanced.

Confession Time: During my Babes Ride Out Motorcycle trip, we camped out overnight and it was SO cold that I couldn’t bear the thought of washing my face. I went to bed without doing a nighttime routine and instead washed my face in the morning once it was warmer. When you’re out having an adventure, it’s okay to be a little lax about your routine for a couple days! I say, shoot for cleansing your skin at least every twelve hours. If you don’t get to your routine at night, do it in the morning. The main goal is to have a relatively clean canvas when you apply your sunscreen. This will allow it to adhere to the skin better and be more effective.

Daytime Routine

Items you’ll need: water-resistant facial sunscreen (one chemical, one physical), mineral powder, water-resistant spray body sunscreen, hat, bandana, sunglasses

1. Wash Your Face

If you can, use a little cleanser to remove off residue from the night before. This will create a clean canvas so your sunscreen products are as effective as possible. That said, if you don’t have time or aren’t able to wash your face in the morning, a camping trip is the one time I’d say not to sweat it too much.

2. Layer Up With Sunscreen

I wear a moisturizer with SPF every day no matter what, but when I’m camping, I take a slightly different (and more involved) approach due to increased sun exposure. I like to layer a physical sunscreen over-top a chemical sunscreen to give my skin protection from the inside out. It’s important to note that doubling up on sunscreen does NOT give you double the SPF, it just means your sunscreen will hold up longer and that the coverage will be more comprehensive.

I like to start with the La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid. It’s water-resistant and uses chemical sunscreen filters. I try to use water-resistant sunscreen as much as possible since I’m usually sweating or swimming quite a bit, but I will say it’s a bit notorious for clogging pores. If that’s a big concern for you, you may want to use a non-water-resistant chemical sunscreen as your base instead. Examples of chemical sunscreen filters include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and octinoxate.

Next, I like to apply a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen from Elta MD. It’s also water-resistant and since physical sunscreen filters sit on top of the skin rather than soaking in, I recommend everyone use a water-resistant sunscreen for this step. The physical filters most commonly used in sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

You can read more about this layering technique for sweat-resistant sunscreen as well as the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen filters.

For my body, I also use a water-resistant sunscreen. I prefer it in spray form because it’s easier to re-apply throughout the day. 

3. Touch Up Using a Mineral Powder

Even with all this layering, sunscreen will wear off eventually. When you’re out and about during the day, I recommend touching up on sun protection by dusting on a mineral powder. These almost always contain titanium dioxide, which means they’ll offer UV protection even if they aren’t indicated as a sunscreen product. I use my Revlon Colorstay Pressed Powder, but Jane Iredale and ColoreScience also make water-resistant sunscreen powders that are very good.

4. Use Clothing as Sun Protection

Sunscreen should never be your only defense against the sun. When I go camping, I always bring a hat to shield my face from UV rays as well as a bandana to wear around the delicate skin on my neck. (Not shown in the picture of me above.) I also always recommend wearing sunglasses — not only is it important to protect your eyes but squinting because of bright light can lead to premature wrinkling around the eye area. I sometimes even wear UV-protective clothing so I don’t have to worry about constantly reapplying sunscreen to my body and getting sticky. Learn more about why clothing should actually be your first line of defense when it comes to sun protection. If, despite your diligence, you do end up getting a sunburn, here’s what you can do to soothe it.

Fun Fact: Did you know aspen trees produce a substance that can be used as a “natural” sunscreen? Of course, I don’t ever recommend using this over actual sunscreen, but if you’re ever out in the woods and need additional sun protection, look for an aspen tree!

How to Prevent Scarring From Bug Bites

Items you’ll need: bug spray, After Bite, Band-Aids

Bug bites are a common problem when camping, and I consider them a skincare concern because of the post-inflammatory marks (discolored scars) they often leave on the skin. The goal of course is to get as few bug bites as possible, so make sure you protect yourself with bug spray.

If you do get a bug bite, apply something like After Bite, which uses sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to soothe itching. I also suggest putting a Band-Aid over your bug bite at night while you sleep, the reason being that you’re less likely to scratch the skin this way. A bug bite is already a form of injury on the skin and if you’re scratching at it, you’re further triggering pigmentation and discoloration.

Bottom Line

When you’re putting together a camping skincare routine, just focus on the basics. Make sure you have all your sun-protection essentials for the daytime and do your best to remove everything at night. Worst case scenario, if you neglect your skincare routine a little during a camping trip, it’s not the end of the world. The main thing is to keep yourself protected from UV damage, the rest you can correct once you get home. Remember — clogged pores and breakouts can be corrected, cellular damage from UV exposure cannot.

When you get home, the best way to reset and decongest your skin is by doing an exfoliating acid peel followed by a mask for your skin type. My go-to is the Triple Berry Peel/Rapid Response Duo. I always do this after a trip or when I’ve been on a plane to give my skin a clean slate.

I hope you found these tips helpful — happy camping and happy summer!

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