Burning Man Is Over and Your Skin Is a Wreck. Now What?

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Re-entry into the world of indoor plumbing, relative dustless-ness, and pants after Burning Man can take time, but one thing you can't afford to ignore right now is your skin. After days (or weeks) of harsh alkaline dust, your body needs some sweet, sweet, moisturized lovin'—and I'm not talking about the kind of "love" you found that one day in the Orgy Dome.


If you can't quite shake that dusty feeling, it's probably because you still have dust on your skin. White vinegar can help. It's cheap, it's available at every grocery store, and there's a decent chance you have it in your pantry. (Don't keep the stuff around the house? Get a giant bottle of it at your neighborhood grocery store or drug store. It will also come in handy when cleaning your clothes and gear.) Make a solution of water and vinegar—I like a 3-to-1 water to vinegar ratio—and use it like soap in the shower. You can also use white vinegar to wash the dust out of your hair—including color-treated hair.

Looking for something a little more pleasant-smelling than vinegar? Try Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap. (Fun fact: The Bronner's folks are behind the Transfoamation camp at Burning Man, though the decommodification principle prohibits them from labeling as such.)

There's also Bathing Culture, another local, eco-friendly brand. At first, I was skeptical about the brand's scent, called Cathedral Grove, after a review described the smell as "the Free Love movement... having an orgy in your nose." I'm happy to report that I've since met the Bathing Culture founders—who, like the Bronner's crew, are also Burners—and I've tried the product. (Full disclosure: They gave me a bottle when I met them at Renegade Craft Fair.) To me, it smells like lightly-fragrant flowers and woody tones after a spring rain. I use it all the time.

Once you're seriously clean, it's time to talk about...

Moisturizing Your Face

Just like your brain needs time to rebound from a relationship, your skin needs time to rebound from Burning Man. it also needs a helluva lot of moisturizer.

Your cheapest options for all-over hydration are petroleum jelly or coconut oil. I get the hesitation about petroleum jelly, most popularly sold as Vaseline. After all, it has the word petroleum in the name, and that doesn't sound like something your want to slather on your face. You have to do you, but I will say that I've been dealing with painfully dry skin lately, and Vaseline is a lifesaver when nothing else seems to work.

For a comparably cheap, natural option, go with coconut oil. You can turn to a brand that creates coconut oil-based products, (like Berkeley's Cocokind), or you can just use the stuff from Trader's Joe's—the very same coconut oil that's sitting on your kitchen counter right now! It's cheap. It's natural. It's super-hydrating. And it comes in an organic option.

Don't trust skincare products unless they cost a small fortune? Then consider Fresh's Crème Ancienne and GlamGlow's ThirstyMud. Crème Ancienne ($145) is a thick formula that can keep hydrating up to 28 hours. It actually feels heavy when you apply it, and it locks moisture into your skin. GlamGlow's ThirstyMud ($69) is some kind of sugar-scented sorcery. It's a hydrating mask, and you can either wear it for 10-20 minutes during the day before rinsing it off, or use it as an overnight mask. If you're not wearing this overnight, you're doing life wrong. I've found very few products that offer that fresh-from-a-facial glow, but this one delivers results every. damn. time.

Now that your face is covered, let's talk about...

Treating Your Hands and Feet

Hands and feet bear the brunt of your Black Rock City shenanigans, so they need extra attention at home. Once you've settled on a moisturizer—be it Vaseline, coconut oil, or a more traditional dry skin solution like Aquaphor or Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, commit to it with an extra level of skincare goodness: spa gloves or socks. The beauty of adding gloves or socks before you go to bed is they will keep the product against your skin, allowing it penetrate more deeply.

Alternatively, try the PediSpa Intensive Moisturizing Footmask by Look Beauty ($9.99 at Target, available in stores). Or, if you're ready to shed the icky, dry skin completely, go for a Baby Foot treatment. Both of these are pre-packaged booties filled with natural, foot-reforming concoctions. The instructions indicate that you shouldn't use these products if you have open wounds on your feet, so they won't be immediate remedies for Playa Foot. But, when your wounds have heeled and you want your feet to feel softer quickly, all-in-one booties are a foolproof solution for a foot makeover.

As you unpack, clean, and repack your Burning Man gear, your skin can get dry and dusty again. If you want to hit up a spa for a post-Playa skin treatment, wait until all the cleaning is done before sinking money into professional pampering. For now, there are lots of home options to help your skin look and feel better without spending a fortune. 

Have another home remedy you want to share? Or a favorite post-Burn spa treatment? Share it in the comments below.