Slip-Slap-Slop-Slide and other Bush Beauty Tips

This post is part of  Kalahari  Series II – 2011. The previous post in the series is Campfire story: The Last Outpost. Also see Kalahari Series I – 2009.

I know this is not the normal kind of thing I post on my blog, but let me explain. Bush beauty is all about surviving the Kalahari (and really any outdoor adventure) with the condition of your skin and hair intact – and with as little sun damage as possible. Those of you who have no interest in skin care or sun protection, are excused from reading further . . .

If you read Take your camera to the bathroom (and other Kalahari safari tips), you’ll know that the conditions in the Kalahari are harsh. I’ve also spoken previously about the harsh water (it is brackish i.e. has high salt content and is alkaline) in the Kalahari – particularly in the wilderness camps. Since it has taken me several Kalahari trips to sort out my skin and hair issues while in the bush, I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered. Not only general information, but I’m going to be naming some specific products which work for me. (Disclaimer: None of  the brands I mention are paying me to endorse their products. Unfortunately. I just took ages to find products which work for me – and I think they will work well for most people.). My strategy at home is: the milder and simpler your routine, the better . This works just as well in the bush. Also, I find the less expensive brands work just as well as the very expensive ones.

I’ve got sensitive, dry, normally pale skin which burns first and then tans. In the Kalahari, where the bathing water is very harsh on any skin, it absolutely strips my skin of its protective layer, and I usually struggle with dry, patchy, itchy skin. The first couple of Kalahari visits I would take along medicated soap (the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal variety) which just made things so much worse. My skin felt raw by the end of a trip. So after a lot of Internet research, and talking to my doctor and others with sensitive skin, I figured out a regime which works for me. I still have problems towards the end of the second week there, but now that I know how to treat my skin on my return home, it improves rapidly after the trip. Previously I’d struggled for months afterwards.

The “Slip-Slap-Slop-Slide” health campaign started in Australia, is the best bush beauty advice EVER.  Not only is it designed to protect you against skin cancer when you are out in the sun, it also prevents against long-term sun damage which is extremely ageing (for those of you worried about such things!). So what does it stand for?  Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade, slide on some sunnies (“Australian” for sunglasses!). In the Kalahari, a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must. Not only will your eyes thank you, but you will stop squinting and “enhancing” those wrinkles.

I can’t stress enough how important a good sunscreen is. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this is not the place to work on your tan. Do that before a trip to the Kalahari – or just fake it. You won’t be wandering around the bush in a swimsuit, so having an all-over tan isn’t that important. Although you may not want to look as pale as I usually do! This year, thanks to walking with Rosie and some photo-walks, I didn’t look quite as ghostly.

I use a combination of sunscreen products. For my body and face – the Everysun Aquasport range. Everysun make an “invisi-spray” which is a fine colourless spray in a 40 SPF with both UVA and UVB protection. I also use the Everysun Aquasport Stick which is a 50+ SPF. The stick is useful for swiping across your cheekbones and nose – both of which will catch the sun even if you are wearing a hat. Lips are another area that need protection from the sun. My first couple of visits to the Kalahari, I’d have blistered lips after the first two days. So I either use the Everysun stick or an Aloe Sun stick with a 50+ SPF. If you do get sunburned lips then Labello Med works wonders. And if, after all my great advice (!), you still get sunburned read this article by dermatologist Dr Cynthia Bailey on How to treat a sunburn.

Showering is done with a very mild soap – either an aqueous cream bar (which I prefer because it has no perfumes in it) or Dove soap work well. They are not going to lather well in the water, but they will get you clean without stripping your skin.

As a body lotion, I go for something with a natural oil (Almond, Jojoba) in it – like Nivea Body Lotion – or take along some tissue oil. I’ve found that other body lotions – which only provide a moisture barrier –  just don’t work. Because I’ve got dry skin I use the body lotion for very dry skin. Even though it feels oily at first, my skin just soaks it up in the dry Kalahari climate.

Face care is just what I do at home. A simple cleansing lotion and moisturizer routine. If your skin is really sensitive, take along some face cleanser tissues (whichever brand works for you at home) too, so you don’t need to cleanse your face with water. Something to avoid is using retinol based anti-aging skin creams. On several dermatological sites I’ve read that retinol can make your skin a lot more sun-sensitive, and actually increase sun damage.

Post-Kalahari skincare is kept as simple as possible with as few products as possible. If you do develop skin problems while in the bush, use perfume-free, colour-free products. My favourite range here is the E45 range. The idea is to treat your skin as gently as possible, and give it a chance to recover naturally.

Hair care is all about using products which nourish your hair. Mine gets very dry at the ends when I’m in the sun a lot, and from washing it in the Kalahari water. I’m using a damage reconstruction shampoo and conditioner at home, and used these successfully on our last Kalahari trip. The conditioner is essential. Included in the hair care and skin care is wearing a hat when you’re out in the sun.

My top products

1. Nivea Body Cream/lotion  and/or E45 Endless Moisture body lotion.

2. Tissue Oil – I’m using the one by Johnson & Johnson.

2. A friend used Aloe gel successfully after a trip to the Kalahari to sooth her dry, itchy skin.

3. Dove soap or aqueous cream soap.

4. Sunscreen & day cream with high SPF and UVA/UVB protection.  I use products in the Everysun Aquasport and Nivea ranges.

5. Simply Aloe Sun Stick (may only be available in South Africa – I always get mine at the pharmacy in Upington!) and Labello Med (lip balm) for soothing sun-stressed lips.

6. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Lotion – if it’s good enough for Scandinavian fishermen**, it’s good enough for me! During the day use sunscreen on the backs of your hands. These also get a lot of sun if you’re clutching a steering wheel – or a camera all day.

7. Facial cleansing tissues – I use any brand that has a version for sensitive skin. Usually either Nivea or Johnson & Johnson.

[**  From Allure Magazine via Mis Tified: “Faced with some of the harshest weather on earth, the [Norwegian] fishermen swore by a glycerin-based formula developed by a local chemist for preventing dryness and chapping…[it] became a staple for men working in the region and was still being used two decades later in the 1960s when the Norwegian company who owned the patent sent it to Neutrogena.“]

The Kalahari 2011 Series:


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Categories: Health/Healthcare, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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22 Comments on “Slip-Slap-Slop-Slide and other Bush Beauty Tips”

  1. September 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    EXCELLENT tips, Lisa. I found myself nodding my head all the way.

    Whenever we go up to Windhoek, which is usually over Christmas, so during the summer season, we always end up with extremely dry skin, particularly on the legs, arms and face, all the places that are exposed to the sun. The water up there also seems to make my hair and skin far more dry.

    I very rarely use any lotions or beauty products (apart from soap, where I also prefer Dove or any unperfumed soap, and shampoo, where I go for the most natural, organic, and perfume-free I can find – such as Earthsap’s Lavender and Sugarbeet shampoo).

    But when we’re in Namibia, I can feel my skin cryyyyying out for extra moisture.

    Family from Namibia recently introduced us to a new range of beauty products that is made specifically for Namibian conditions ( – their hand and body cream is amazingly soothing for dry skin. Next time we venture into the hot and dry areas, we’re taking this along!

    That lip balm is absolutely essential… man, once the lips get dry and cracked, you really need extra help! Otherwise you’ll find yourself licking your lips constantly, which only makes things worse.

    For sun protection, we use either Nivea’s Baby Sun Lotion with very high SPF (50+) (weirdly, we haven’t been able to find a replacement of this anywhere), or Vichy’s Capital Soleil Face and Body Milk (also 50+ SPF) for children. (I have sensitive skin so I try to go for as little irritation-causing gunk as possible.

    Love your tips, Lisa! 😀

    • September 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

      Wow Reggie! I’d barely published the post and there was a long reply from you. So glad that you liked it. I wasn’t sure whether to write this post, since it’s so different from my usual topics. Thanks for such great feedback!

      Must get hold of some of the !Nara oil products if we visit Namibia.

      Interesting that both Lu and you mention Vichy sunscreens – maybe I should give them a try?

  2. September 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Aww… I wish these products paid you. 🙂 Great tips! Many of these work for me too, though the equatorial weather here in south Asia is somewhat different from Kalahari.

    • September 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      Yes, I’m doing such a good marketing job I deserve some reward, don’t I? 😉 Is it very humid where you are?

      Thanks for leaving a comment! 🙂

  3. Lu
    September 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Dove soap – check, Neutrogena Norwegian hand cream – check, Labello med – check, Nivea Cream (original blue tub!) – check…

    Seems I’ve got pretty much the same list as you 🙂

    I vary on the UVA/UVB – but often plump for Vichy, it seems to sit on my skin better (also super-pale, ghostly white – nay, transparent skin!!)

    Great tips, as always…

    • September 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

      Wow, it’s really interesting that you have come up with the same list as I have. I can imagine that with you travelling so much you’d want a simple regime with as few products as possible, and also products easily available worldwide.

      Reggie and you both mention Vichy, which means it would probably work for me too.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      • Lu
        September 16, 2011 at 9:46 am #

        Simplest is most definitely best… I “suffer” from Psoriasis, so prefer products that don’t cause flare-ups and further irritation. (I say “suffer” in inverted commas – ‘cos I’m not really suffering as such – it’s just there)
        My favourite Vichy product is the Capitol Soleil sunblock spray. It’s a +30 SPF, which I prefer to re-apply more regularly than fall into the trap of applying a +50 SPF once and assume it’s got me covered all day! It’s a light milky lotion that is easily absorbed and isn’t greasy. I’ve noticed that the thicker creams tend to get “grainy” with time…(or maybe I just don’t use them up quickly enough and have 5 year old bottles stashed somewhere at the back of a cupboard – long forgotten about!!)

      • September 17, 2011 at 9:03 am #

        I can’t imagine what Psoriasis must be like – I suffer from just “ordinary” sensitive skin and it can drive me nuts at times.

        I know that dermatologists aren’t keen on having sun products labelled anything above 50+ SPF. They say it makes people more complacent about re-applying sunscreen throughout the day.

        You should definitely be throwing away those 5 year old bottles! 😉 Or “donating” them to somebody else before they get too old. If I’m not going to be going out in the sun much for a while, I pass on my sunscreen to Willie who goes through bottles of the stuff due to all his outdoor activities.

  4. September 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Lisa! I’m sure they’re work in other arid regions as well. I know I’ll be looking into some of these products to see if they help out here in our Georgia clime. This summer was very, very dry, which made me very, very dry!

    • September 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

      I’m glad that you found the tips useful. Hope you get some relief for your dry skin. I always thought that Georgia was quite humid?

      • September 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

        Oddly, it’s not this year. We’re having a drought. All our ponds (unless spring fed) are looking like smaller and smaller puddles. Our hay farmers have only gotten in one cutting instead of the usual 3-4, so hay prices are skyrocketing. And what’s the most amusing is that Georgia really isn’t too humid most days. Well, not compared to say, Oregon or Washington. It only seems humid on the few days we’ve been able to see water vapor hanging in the air at the tree line. I’m sure that is only happening because it’s above 90F and we’d had recent thunderstorms to bring a sprinkling of rain.

        The weather here has been infinitely bearable. HOTlanta has only lived up to her name 3 days this summer.

        An interesting aside for you, Georgia gets more inches of rain per year, than say Seattle or Portland. Our Pacific Northwest is known for gray, rainy days. However, Georgia gets more precipitation, but in a much shorter time frame. Two inches of rain in 10 minutes isn’t uncommon. Whereas it can rain all day in Seattle and still amount to less than an inch!

      • September 16, 2011 at 6:46 am #

        Interesting to hear that Georgia gets more rain than the Pacific Northwest! Sounds like the climate is changing in a lot of places. We live in what was one of the higher rainfall areas in South Africa, but went through a terrible drought for several years. It got so bad that local dairy farmers had to truck in hay from elsewhere. My heart really goes out to the farmers when there’s a drought. Not just because it is their livelihood, but farmers are usually very attached to their land and their animals and it affects them on a personal level too.

  5. September 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    I love this post, Lisa! So helpful and fun. I may never make it to the bush, but I still enjoy reading about what I’ll need to maintain my blinding beauty, were I to grace the place with my eye-dropping presence. Ha, Ha. I know, I shouldn’t underestimate my looks so!
    Cracking up (almost literally, unfortunately),

    • September 16, 2011 at 6:51 am #

      Ha ha, Kathy! Thanks for the funny comment! Yes, you shouldn’t underestimate your looks. Also from what I’ve read/seen on your blog, I think you do take care of your appearance. You may never go into the bush, but these tips would work well in most conditions if your skin is irritated and itchy.

  6. Sarita Botha
    September 16, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    We’ve spoken about this so often over the years, it is nice to see that you found the things that work and can now help others with the same problems. Well done!

    • September 16, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      Yeah, poor you had to listen to me talking for hours about my skin problems – sorry about that! 🙂 It makes so much difference knowing what products to use and what the best strategy is. So if I can help somebody else find the solution quickly, I’ll be happy. I still have skin problems from time-to-time, but immediately go into “skin emergency” mode and sort the problem out fast.

  7. September 16, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Great tips! Our Australian sun is very harsh and we have become used to wearing sunscreen. When I grew up at the beach many years ago we didn’t have sunscreen. We used to put coconut oil on our skin to speed up tanning!!! I know this is hard to believe. It is amazing that I have any skin left. I used to sit in school and peel layers of skin off my nose and cheeks. Times have changed and I would dream of going to the beach without sunscreen and a hat.
    Dove soap is also great in very cold weather when my skin is inclined to get dry and itchy. As long as I use Dove is isn’t too bad.
    We sound a bit like advertisments don’t we?

    • September 17, 2011 at 9:06 am #

      Ah yes, the “good old days” of getting as tanned as possible . . . I do think though that Australians and South Africans are more aware of sun damage than e.g. Europeans are. When we were in the Kalahari, there was a British couple staying next to us who would lie out in the hot sun, trying to get a tan.

      We are beginning to sound like adverts, but you know these products DO work.

  8. September 18, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Growing up in Oz, the ‘slip-slop-slap’ routine is second nature – even more so because I have very fair skin that doesn’t ever tan, no matter how burnt I get!

    This is all good advice, and I’ll keep these products in mind when I eventually get to travel to the Kalahari.

    • September 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      As I said in the post I think the “slip-slop-slap” routine is the best thing ever if you’re in the sun a lot.

      These products will work if you’re ever in a very dry climate where your skin is taking a beating.

  9. September 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Sounds really rough out there! I hope all these products also taste bad to the potential animals that want to eat you while your enjoying the bush.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:55 am #

      If our dog is any to judge by – she tries to lick the lotion off me – then I don’t think it’s going to deter any wild animals. Unfortunately.

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