How to Take Care of Your Skin When You Spend a Ton of Time Outside, According to an Environmental Scientist

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Skin-care routines are easy(ish) to nail down when you spend the majority of your 9-5 life behind a desk—but what about the people whose lives require them to spend more time outdoors than a once-a-day walk around the block?

If you're anything like Summer Rayne Oakes, environmental scientist and author of How to Make a Plant Love Youwhose plant obsession pushes her outside most days (with her pet chicken), you know dirt, sweat, and sun exposure come with the territory of living that #outdoorlife. But Oakes' trick for cleaning up (and not ending up with skin that looks like a sun-baked farmer's) is simpler than you might think.

"I work outside and with my hands a lot, so it’s those exposed parts that need a little more TLC," she says. "But I don’t always wear protective gloves when I work, as I like to feel my hands in the dirt."

Why not wear gloves in the name of avoiding chapped hands? Because it turns out dirt can actually help enhance your skin's glow, not take away from it (yes, really).

It turns out dirt can actually help enhance your skin's glow, not take away from it.

"We share the earth and our own bodies with many good bacteria that help keep us in tip-top shape," Oakes says. "It’s part of the reason why we’re encouraged not to [...] obsessively use anti-bacterial soaps to wash ourselves (it helps build our immune system and skin health)."

Oakes doubles down on the skin-boosting powers of bacteria by using Mother Dirt's probiotic skin-care products (she's been a fan since college, when she learned how harmful other personal care products can be to our health and the environment) that use the skin's natural bacteria to balance it.

"If I have to wash my hands, I often just use natural soap," she says. "Mother Dirt has taught me that we have to take care of the good bacteria—not just on the earth and in our bodies—but on our bodies too."

Scroll down Oakes' advice on working with nature (not against it) to take great care of your skin.

skin care tips

Keep it simple

If you need inspo on how to tone down your personal-care routine, Oakes has a super-simple approach that'll cut down on time spent in the bathroom—which really means more time to play outside.

"I usually wash with water, but if I am wearing makeup or sunscreen, I’ll remove it with the Mother Dirt body cleanser, which is supremely gentle to the skin," she says. "After showering it’s easy for me to use the Mother Dirt AO+ mist, which is like a cool little refreshment for the face, and before I go to bed, I’ll do a gentle wash with warm or cool water, and then just apply a light oil or their light moisturizer."

Oakes' goal for using Mother Dirt products isn't just to see instant results (though they do help clear and balance your skin after four weeks of use), but also to prevent any future skin issues from her time spent outside, a la that sun-baked farmer.

"Oftentimes the stress of your skin doesn’t show up until later in life, so it’s important to have a healthy, preventative, and proactive routine when it comes to you skin-care regime," she adds.

skin care tips

Think before you apply

The moral of the story? Work on building up your skin's natural bacteria, not stripping it away. "I think the most important step is what you wash with (or don’t wash with)," Oakes says. "You can really strip your face and even hair from its natural oils or harm your skin by using too many products." Keep that in mind during your morning and nighttime routines, before you scrub all the good stuff off.

"There has been substantial research out there that we’ve 'over-sanitized' ourselves, mainly for the fear of bacteria and germs," Oakes adds. "But as we’ve found out from research outdoors and even in our own guts, we need the good bacteria to function properly." So put down the antibacterial soap, and get back to playing in the dirt (your skin is loving it).

In partnership with Mother Dirt

Photos: Summer Rayne Oakes

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