How To Look Good In The Great Outdoors
From hands to hair, face to feet – take care of yourself as you brave the elements.
Few things challenge a man’s looks quite like the great outdoors. From biting winds that leave skin dry and ruddy to hat hair caused by winter woollens, hostile weather can wreak havoc with your appearance – especially if you’re keen on a spot of hilltop walking. And while it might seem odd to be filling your backpack with lotions, potions and styling aids, they belong there just as much as a map, compass and packets of Reese’s Pieces.
But don’t take our word for it – heed the words of explorer, photographer and best-selling author Mr Levison Wood. “A few basic grooming products aren’t a luxury if you’re heading out into the wilds – they’re essential,” says the man known as much for his Mr Darcy-esqe good looks as for his treks across some of the world’s most challenging terrains. “Looking after your skin when you’re outdoors in all weathers isn’t about vanity either,” he says. “You need it to function well if you are to function well. Trust me, you only suffer from badly chapped lips once when you’re high up a mountain. It’s not a mistake you make again.”
So whether you’re hiking through the Himalayas like Mr Wood or just taking the dog for a walk on a cold autumnal evening, here are a few tips to ensure that every part of you – from the top of your head to the tip of your walking-booted toes – survives all a hostile environment can throw at you.
Skin’s primary function is to act as a water-resistant defence shield, keeping good stuff (moisture, nutrients) in and bad stuff (pollution, UV rays) out. “Cold weather and biting winds effectively blow holes in that shield leaving it vulnerable to moisture loss, inflammation and dryness, and allowing the sun’s rays to penetrate deeper into the skin where they can damage DNA,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Rachael Eckel. “We also know that skin conditions such as rosacea are made worse by extremes in temperature, so closing the holes in this shield is essential if you’re outdoors.”
The solution is to bolster your skin’s natural barrier with a rich, hydrating moisturiser such as Aesop’s Elemental Barrier Cream or Perricone MD’s Nourishing Moisturiser. Or, for extra protection, go for one with a built-in broad-spectrum sunscreen such as Lab Series’ Daily Moisture Defense Lotion SPF15. “The sun’s UVA rays – which penetrate more deeply than UVB ones and are the main cause of wrinkles – are constant all year round, even on cloudy days in winter, so protection is crucial,” says Dr Eckel. Apply before you leave the house and pop in your coat pocket or bag for regular top-ups.
Facial hair might offer some much-needed insulation in cold climates, but it also wicks moisture away from the surface of the skin, leaving it dry, tight and flaky. So if you want to avoid the dreaded “beardruff”, apply a beard oil such as Tom Ford Beauty’sOud Wood Conditioning Beard Oil, which not only prevents hair from drying out and becoming brittle but helps moisturise the skin beneath your crumb catcher, too.
“For maximum effect apply immediately after a shower to lock in moisture. Massage in with your fingertips or distribute with a beard comb to ensure it gets right under the beard,” says Mr Tommy Cunliffe, barber manager at Ruffians in Shoreditch, London. “You can be quite firm when applying as this will make the hairs taut and ensure the product comes into contact with every shaft.”
Comprising some of the thinnest skin on the body and with no oil glands to keep them lubricated, it’s little wonder lips chap easily when faced with low humidity and freezing winds. “Lips are one of the first parts of your body to show signs of exposure to the elements, so I always carry a lip balm with me on expeditions,” says Mr Wood. “That comes from being in the army where we weren’t allowed to go out without lip balm and sunscreen.”
To ensure your lips are always supple make sure you’re packing a minimally fragranced balm such as Tom Ford’s Hydrating Lip Balm (strong flavours just encourage you to lick your lips, which encourages moisture evaporation), and since the edges of the lips often chap first, make sure you apply just outside the “vermilion border” of the lips, too.
“Changes in humidity and strong winds often make hair unruly and frizzy in winter – something that’s particularly frustrating for men with short, wavy hair that is already difficult to tame,” says Ms Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley, who recommends using a conditioner after your morning shampoo if you’re likely to be out in all weathers. “This will smooth down the cuticles on the hair and reduce the likelihood of tangles forming throughout the day.” A product designed to hold hair in place – such as Bumble and bumble’s Sumotech moulding compound – will also prove invaluable in windy conditions.
Since scalp problems, such as flaking, itching and oiliness, are also more common in the winter she also recommends using an anti-microbial or anti-dandruff shampoo. “We’ve found that cheese and white wine can also exacerbate flaking, so try to reduce your consumption of these if you are experiencing a bout of dandruff,” she says.
And though a beanie might be an outdoorsman’s best friend, every time you slip one on you run the risk of hat hair. To avoid messing up your style and minimise the risk of tramlines forming, award-winning hairdresser Mr Jamie Stevens suggests laying off styling products until necessary, popping your favourite gel or clay into your bag and waiting till the hat comes off to style your hair. “If you use products beforehand, it’ll just set any lines and make it harder to remove them later on,” he says. “If they do form, however, the best trick is to run a brush or comb through some water and work it through your hair until they drop out.”
Hands and feet
Hands and feet are often treated like the face’s poor relations when it comes to skincare, which is ironic given that they’re parts of the body that often need the most TLC in colder weather – especially if you’re hiking or mountaineering. Gloves will help minimise dryness, but since sweat can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier (yes, it’s a delicate thing, that natural defence shield), you’ll still need to protect it with a hand cream such as Aesop’s Resurrection Hand Balm. It’s non-greasy, quickly absorbed and can also be used on the thick skin found on the feet.
And, speaking of feet, here’s a good tip for helping to prevent blisters if you’re hiking or breaking in new pair of walking boots: spray them with an antiperspirant. According to a US Military Academy study, it helps prevent blisters forming because drying the foot reduces the friction that causes them. Keeps them smelling sweet, too.
Illustrations by Mr Nick Hardcastle