Emergency Beauty Hacks for Serious Low Maintenance Living

Greetings readers! It's been a while. Reality has finally caught up with me. I've finally returned from my time at Standing Rock and my postop leave in the USA. Eventually, it had to happen; I had to come back to life and work and all of its trappings. As you might imagine, I have a ton of posts to shoot for this blog, and as per standard operating procedure, the Scottish weather has been appalling, and I have not been able get outside to do it.

However, that's not to say that we've got nothing to talk about. There's nothing like an extended trip to somewhere where you are living with the bare minimum (particularly in subzero weather) to really make you realise that you possess and use far too much stuff.  Upon my return, I immediately set about gutting my closet and cosmetic drawers, tossing or donating anything and everything that had either been sitting there a while, or just no longer felt "right". It's very cathartic, and I usually do this a few times a year anyway, but this time, it felt more like a commitment to consuming less than it did a move to simply make room for more stuff. Time will tell if my resolve sticks on this matter. It's my distinct intention that it does.

As I stated previously, there's nothing like a little time living in a tent or tipi in subzero weather with no access to running water to really make you realise how luxurious our normal everyday lives really are. However, I am disinclined to believe that living more simplistically has to mean that you must eschew all things beauty-related. Sometimes I think that when you are trying to pare down, these simple things take on even more meaning when you use them more mindfully. After all, there's nothing that says the revolution can't be glamorous.

During my time at the camp, I zoned-in on a few products that managed to tick more than one box, did what they said on the tin, and yes, still made me feel a bit girly, which is important when you are spending your days wearing six layers of clothing under an insulated Carhartt workman's onesie - the height of subzero camp fashion and a challenge of agility when the time comes to go to the outhouse. But I digress. Here are a few of my favourite low-maintenance living beauty products, in no particular order. 

The day I was driving away from camp after the first snow, I caught a glance of myself in the rearview mirror and nearly died laughing. Weeks of constant exposure to campfires and cowboy coffee brewed with free-floating grounds in an iron pot over a fire had turned all the silver bits of the front of my hair yellow, and against the backdrop of all that white snow, my teeth looked no better. Basically, I looked (and probably smelled) like an old gold prospector, minus the beard (thankfully).

This toothpaste functions as sort of the "blue shampoo" of the toothpaste world. Most tooth whitening products contain peroxide, which ultimately is very corrosive to the enamel of the teeth and while effective in whitening, can cause sensitivity and greater porosity of the enamel which can in turn cause staining to become even more of a problem. While this blue toothpaste is not as fast-acting as a peroxide-based product, it does work. Also they get points for giving you three small tubes instead of one big one, which is great for travel. I got mine at Walgreens in the USA, but it is available worldwide.

Added bonus: the name. If you're going to up sticks and move out to a peaceful demonstration camp for a few months, there is no other product whose name is so mission-appropriate as this one.

What do we want!?
When do we want it!?

Recommending something that comes in the form of a "wipe" actually gives me pause, because from an eco-friendliness standpoint, wipes, towelettes…whatever you want to call them, they are not our friends. Sewer systems all over the universe are clogged with these things -  particularly baby wipes. Many, if not most brands do not biodegrade, and it is just too easy to chuck one of these down the nearest toilet when you are in a rush. So this recommendation comes with the instruction that you are not, under any circumstances, to chuck a wipe of any description down any type of toilet. Not even a compost toilet. Okay? Good. 

That said, it is not always possible to bathe regularly when you are in an extreme environment. While personally, when at all possible, I like to keep a supply of water in my tent and to a "bucket bath" in front of my propane heater (oh the glamour!), this is simply not a possibility in extreme temperatures. That's where these puppies come in. Keep them (along with anything else you don't want to freeze like your iPhone and water bottle) in your sleeping bag at night, and when you wake up in the morning, you can have a….I'm not going to say "warm" here….but a refreshing...unfrozen "bath". I used this particular towelette on my whole body, not just my face. I find that most brands of wipes, especially baby wipes, smell terrible, are really irritating, and leave a film on my skin that prompts me to want to wash my face afterwards, sort of negating the point of the exercise. These did not leave a film (although I still would try to wash my face with water at least once a day anyway). If anything, they were maybe a bit drying. Nothing a little moisturiser wouldn't fix.  They also don't leave any lingering scent, so you can add your own, if you want to get all fancy about it.

A Good Solid State Moisturiser

One thing that always happens when you are spending a lot of time outside (even if you're not "roughing it") is that your regular moisturising products may cease to provide the same level of oomph that they do in your regular environment. Add to that some extreme temperatures, and this is true tenfold.  

Solid-state oils like pure coconut oil, or perhaps a blended balm in a beeswax, cocoa butter, or shea butter base are great because they don't leak. Because of this they're easy to travel with, last forever, and heat up to a liquid sate quickly with just the heat of your hands. While at the camp, I was given a big jar of a natural beeswax-based calendula balm (like the kind they use for nursing moms and diaper rash and whatnot), and it literally saved my skin. I went from initially using it sparingly on my hands and postoperative scars to actually schmearing it all over my face at night when the temperatures dipped well below zero. My skin looked terrific, and I was thrilled to only be using one simple product every night. 

This is something that I have carried-through now that I am back home again. While I have re-introduced some of my other products into the rotation, I still grab a handful of coconut oil and put it in my hair once a week (for an hour or two before I shower), or use the calendula balm (the same jar no less) when I need some serious moisture.

I am always looking for a lip balm that will give just a little hint of color, a big whack of moisture, and that I can put on as absentmindedly as you might do with a tube of chap stick. Most "light" lipsticks I've tried either are too drying or don't have the staying power that you want to get through your day. 

Maybelline's Baby Lips look like something you might find in your junior high school locker circa 1896 (they do resemble those old Bonne Bell lip glosses, don't they?), but the formula is more sophisticated, and the color is sheer, natural, and without any ridiculous teenaged scent additives like bubblegum or watermelon. I found that in a pinch, I could also use just a touch on the apples of my cheeks as a blusher, and it would impart a sheer, dewy look that negated the need for any further products. 


  1. aww, I bet Fergus is so happy you are back. What exactly did you do at Standing Rock? Were you a camp nurse? I find it all so interesting, and I know you have written about it a couple of times, but I always enjoy reading about it. Thanks for fighting the fight.

    1. Mostly I worked in medical, but it's one of those paces where there is always something that needs done, so when I wasn't nursing, I was builder of tipis, carrier of firewood, supply run driver…you name it. Great experience and I hope to get back in the spring if it is still up and running

  2. I so admire your stay at Standing Rock. I know I could never have done it, especially post surgery. I've spent some time working in refugee camps (very hot and humid), and I like these suggestions. It may seem silly to be worried about your skin when people are in terrible trouble, but a couple of items to help feel clean are a godsend. Thank you so much.

  3. I would love to read another post about life at camp, the cultural nuances you may have learned more about, and what it was like to sleep in a tent and tipi in the winter. Also, what was it like driving there? I'd love to read any details about the whole experience you'd like to share! It's all fascinating.

    1. Ditto. I would also love to have some insight from you as to how people cope mentally in such a harsh environment, how resilient they are to their life circumstances. Do they suffer from depression or anxiety? And, if not, why?

  4. I'd like to echo all of the above and would love to have an in depth insight into the day to day living under such harsh conditions. How does everyone keep the morale up when up against the big boys?
    And yes, so impressive of you to be on leave to recover from your op and yet to take this on instead of chilling at home. Amazing.

    Anna x


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