While living in a van has its complications, my beauty routine is honestly pretty dang simple. When it comes to beauty products, I’m passionate about informed consent– knowing what we’re putting in and on our bodies is crucial!
There are so many potentially dangerous chemicals thrown into conventional beauty products. Finding cruelty free products with eco friendly cosmetic packaging is my constant mission.
And, my biggest beauty travel hack of all is straightforward: Less is more! We’re constantly being told we need more, more, MORE stuff to be beautiful and happy. I’ve found that is simply not true. Choosing a very small number of high-quality products with non-toxic ingredients is all you need to look your best.
My Non-Toxic, Low-Waste Van Life Beauty Routine
I am extremely passionate about using non-toxic skin, beauty, and household products whenever possible. I also try to support smaller businesses with those same values. Companies that respect consumers and are transparent in their business practices are key!
Disclaimer: This van life beauty routine post supports non-toxic, low-waste, eco-friendly companies (many of which are women-owned!). I feature them in my Vacay Vans Amazon Storefront (always at the same price as you’d find these products anywhere), where I get affiliate commission that I use to sustain this blog. I believe supporting ethical companies is one way we can vote with our dollars.
Finding Showers on the Road
As a woman living in a van, my morning routine isn’t exactly what you might call normal. From showering with baby wipes to (TMI alert!) peeing with a female urinal, a girl has got to get creative on the road. Here’s the inside scoop of my personal van life beauty routine.
Even though I live in a van, I like to do my hair and makeup and feel cute (whenever possible). This requires semi-frequent showering, which can be a bit unpredictable on the road (as you probably know if you read my experience of hitting up Bumble for a shower). That’s why one of the biggest travel beauty hacks in van life is gym memberships! During my first year living in a van, I had a Planet Fitness membership. It runs $35/month or so for access to all their locations. I liked the convenience even though I never actually worked out there (though it would be a handy way to exercise while traveling).
For the past two years, I’ve been buying a 20-class pass to CorePower yoga, which I love! It such a good way to stay fit while traveling and I leave feeling clean. They have locations practically everywhere and their showers are very nice. Plus it’s a killer workout!
As far as gyms to use while traveling, CorePower is less convenient than Planet Fitness. At PF, you can show up anytime and shower whenever. If you’re working out at CorePower, you can only use their showers after attending a yoga class. Some of the smaller locations lock their doors 30 minutes after class. This means if want longer than that to shower and blow dry your hair, you might get kicked out.
CorePower is my current pick because I mainly only shower after working out. Plus the whole system gives me motivation to stay fit while traveling. You can’t just pop in for a shower without doing the hard work! I really want to force myself to go to workout classes more often and this makes it happen.
Showing and van life is a tricky topic and one you’ll hear a lot of diverging opinions on. I own a 5-gallon solar shower with a sprayer that was super affordable on Amazon. To be honest, though, I’ve never used it. I’m glad I have it and will likely give it a go sometime this summer, but I typically just swim in a river or wait until I’m at a gym or yoga class to get my next shower in. One of my top travel beauty hacks- natural springs are amazing for your skin and hair!
Eco Friendly Cosmetics & Low Waste Toiletries
My Morning Routine
An essential part of my van life beauty routine is washing my face and body with homemade charcoal soap that I purchase from local Farmer’s Markets I find on the road. I keep in it in this Ethique Plastic-Free soap container. You couldn’t ask for a more eco friendly cosmetic packaging than an unpacked soap straight from the source.
Charcoal won’t clog your pores, so it’s my top travel skincare pick if you tend to get acne or oily skin. Plus I love supporting local artisans. Farmer’s Markets are the BEST, and I’d highly recommend exploring them every chance you get. They are such a good source of vegan beauty products and eco friendly cosmetics.
For moisturizer, I use a small amount of Vitamin E oil on my face. This eliminates the search for low waste and eco friendly cosmetic packaging as each drop goes a long way. Using a single, effective item rather than buying a pre-packaged cocktail of skincare ingredients keeps things simple as well. I know it’s cruelty-free skincare and there are no mystery chemicals on my face.
I floss and then brush my teeth with Hello Oral Care flouride-free toothpaste. The effects of too much fluoride are worrying so I opt to limit my exposure.
I’m all about non-toxic products from head to toe really. I opt for aluminum-free deodorant. I’m a big fan of Nubian Heritage Hemp Deodorant. I know some people have issues finding a natural deodorant that works, but Nubian Heritage is free of scary chemicals and gets the job done for me!
If I’m lucky enough to be showering, I’ll either wash my body with charcoal soap or Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap, which I store in a glass container mixed with water.
I use coconut oil as a moisturizer and for shaving. It gets a little messy to shave with coconut oil, but it keeps my skin so soft that I think it’s worth it. This is definitely only if I’m in a real shower, where there hot water isn’t limited.
When it’s time to flow.
I’ve recently been turned onto OrganiCup, a reusable menstrual cup. Cleaning a “period cup” is easier than you might think (they’re actually quite tidy!). I just wipe it clean with Organiwipes. This was such an amazing thing to have when traveling around Asia, since tampons are nowhere to be found.
BONUS– I’ve partnered with Organicup to offer a 20% discount for Vacay Vans readers using the code “vacay20“!
On top of availability, conventional tampons are made from cotton crops that have been heavily treated with pesticides including glyphosate, dioxin, and chorine. If you choose to use tampons, try to find 100% organic ones that aren’t doused in chemicals. There’s no reason to put that inside your body!
That signature Vacay Vans hair
Van Life Beauty Routine
I get DM’s about my hair daily! People are shocked that I can keep such a vibrant color while living in a van and to be honest, so am I. As I write this, it’s been 6 months since I’ve gone to a professional salon. SIX MONTHS!! The is awesome because professionally bleaching and dying your hair is super expensive and time consuming.
I go to a professional salon about twice a year, where I get the works– bleach and dye with purple and pink Pulp Riot hair dye. About twice a month, I use oVertone colored conditioners to keep my color bright. This is a little time-intensive but mainly because I love going for the ombre look. BUT it’s easy!
Here’s How to Use oVertone for Ombre Hair
Wearing gloves, I separate my dry hair hair into segments. I usually only dye the top half of my head because you can’t see the bottom half anyway. I use oVertone Extreme Purple on my roots– I cover all of my dark brown roots and about four inches down all of my hair. Then I come back and cover the rest of my hair with oVertone Extreme Magenta. Sometimes I use Rose Gold and sometimes I’ll skip the magenta and just do the purple. Leave it on for about 30-45 minutes, rinse, and viola! You hair will be soft, bright, and colorful all over again! It’s definitely magic.
Another cool perk is that oVertone starts washing out as soon as you stop using it. That means that you can go for any color that catches your eye without having to make a long-term commitment. And just cause I love y’all (and this women-owned, sustainably focused, vegan beauty company)– Click HERE for $10 off products!
My go-to shampoo and conditioner is DevaCurl, which is really awesome if you have curly hair. I highly recommend Devacurl’s Light Defining Hair Gel— it’s amazing if you want thick, frizz-free curly locks.
I also love big barrel curls with a Farrah Fawcett 70’s vibe, so I use a 1 1/2 inch think curling iron after blow drying my hair. After styling my hair, I can leave it like that for about one week at a time, unless I’m breaking a sweat hiking or doing yoga.
Don’t Fall for the Toxic Chemical Makeup Trap!
Have you heard of the Dirty Dozen? Almost all conventional beauty and household cleaning products have one or more of these twelve chemicals that have been proven to cause a variety of diseases, often referred to as the Dirty Dozen. This is the list of the most common toxic chemicals lurking in your makeup products.
I choose to support vegan, cruelty-free companies and products. Almost ALL conventional makeup products in stores today have dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals. Even worse yet, so many of these companies test on animals. Animal testing is an antiquated way that industries test products for safety. Out-dated regulations in many states actually require animal testing, even though there is significant research that animal testing is an ineffective way to test the safety and efficacy of drugs for humans. This means animals are hurt or even killed for absolutely nothing. I support non-toxic products and vegan companies who do not conduct harmful tests on animals.
To learn more about animal testing and better understand why it’s not actually effective, check out this study by Dr. Aysha Akhtar. We have more advanced ways of testing products today that don’t harm animals so it’s a win-win to go for cruelty free, vegan health and beauty products.
There are 60,000 dogs being used for research and testing in laboratories across the United States, and the vast majority of them are beagles. I support the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), the world-leading animal rescue and advocacy non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of animals exploited for research and other forms of cruelty, abuse, and neglect.
Beagle Freedom Project also has an app called Cruelty Cutter that will tell you if a product is cruelty-free. Check it out!
So What’s In My Non-Toxic, Cruelty-Free Makeup Bag?
W3ll People is a woman-owned company dedicated to non-toxic beauty products. Not only do they have vegan beauty products, they have AMAZING beauty products. I love W3ll People black mascara & W3ll People Bio Powder Bronzer in natural tan.
My other non toxic, vegan travel beauty products include: Smashbox Studio Skin 24-Hour Foundation in 2.3, NYX eyebrow pencil in dark brown, and PYT Beauty NO BS eyeshadow palette.
Van Life Beauty: How to Organize a Van
Organizing a van is not easy! If you live in a small place, you know organization isn’t always easy. When you live in the a van full-time, storage is a massive issue. I’ve dedicated a massive amount of time and energy to designing my van in a way that is perfect for my life.
I store all of my toiletries and makeup in packing storage cubes. I use these bags for everything– clothes, electronics, beauty products, office supplies. They come in a variety of different colors and sizes and it’s so easy to toss everything of one category in the same bag. I use the largest size ones for things like jackets/outerwear and pants/shorts. It is a dream way to get rid of clutter in a small space and is easy to grab and go.
TIP- Trying to figure out how to design and organize your van (or even get inspired to organize a small apartment)? Take a tour of my van to see what works for me to keep my tiny home clean!
Non Toxic Cleaning Products
Of course, it’s essential to have non toxic cleaning products as well, especially in such a small space. I use Dr. Bronners for my dish soap and laundry detergent too. The company specifies different percentages of soap mixed with water for different uses, so be sure to check the instructions on the bottle.
Eco-Friendly and Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sure, you know sunscreen is a big deal especially if you into van life and leading an active outdoor lifestyle. But have you heard all of the issues surrounding sunscreen? It is estimated that 6k tons of sunscreen is flooding reefs and playing a serious role in climate change. That’s why the market has been flooded with reef friendly sunscreen lately.
With that in mind, the oxbenzone/octinoxate free, cruelty free, oil free Alba Lavender Sunscreen is a smart pick that keeps me protected.
Staying Fit While Traveling
Van life and gym membership go hand in hand. Those of us who live in our vans tend to jump at the chance for 24/7 shower access! If you go with a big chain gym, you can access a shower and workout space while traveling anytime, anywhere.
Not always being in town, I like to keep basic exercise equipment with me. After seriously spraining my ankle, I’ve become obsessed with these resistance exercise bands for glute exercises.
I love yoga and actually have just become a certified yoga teacher (read about the madness of that process here). I am dedicated to practicing daily, both for keeping fit and keeping my head on straight while traveling as a solo female in a camper van.
Van Life and Yoga
Yoga is popular with van life folks, in part, because it is easy to do anywhere. You can do yoga barefoot in the forest if you want to! While I definitely do love going minimalistic sometimes, it is handy to have a few tools if you are trying to up your game.
Health on the Road
At the heart of any van life beauty routine is a healthy lifestyle. Sure, it is great to start your day with a quick yoga session but being healthy is so much more than that.
I have talked to ya’ll about biohacking before and it is something I would highly recommend looking into. Holistic health is everything. You can’t use look at one area of your health in isolation.
Another core aspect of staying in good shape is keep your mind healthy. I share sometimes about mental health because it’s a highly underrepresented issue online. Of course, it is tempting to present a Instagram-perfect life, but we’re all human and these days people are looking to connect authentically, which means sharing the not-so-perfect side of vanlife.
I am in regular therapy (shout out to my badass BetterHelp therapist who calls me out on my crap!). It is not because I am in crisis or there is something wrong with me. It is because I want to feel my best. So, when we are talking the perfect van life beauty routine, forget the spa and head to the therapist!
So, fellow travelers, what are your beauty secrets? Whether you are living in a tiny home or van, trying keep things eco friendly, or just mixing things up, I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below and let’s keep dishing.
So as you’re reading this list filled with many awesome zero waste skincare products, remember you don’t need them all. Find the products your needs and loves.