Survival Guide for a Tropical Henna Photoshoot

Don’t Survive, Thrive!

Some travel essentials

Some travel essentials

This July, I spent 5 days in Playa del Carmen with Brittany. We got some fantastic photos, ate lots of delicious food, and experienced some beautiful locations. Of course it’s not all fish tacos and white sand, and this blog post has all the tips you need to survive and thrive south of the border!

All of the sun protection - The tropical sun is no joke. You can burn in the shade, even with sunscreen. You’ll need a good mineral based sunblock to start, I like Manda with it’s totally biodegradable container and no synthetic chemicals. And don’t forget about your lips! Brittany recommends Coola lipbalm. For face, ColoreScience is a powder based mineral block that does double duty as sunscreen AND mattifies shiny, sweaty skin. A sunhat and sunglasses are essential for mid-day forays, and you can add another layer of protection with a sarong or sun-shawl for your shoulders, or a rashguard for swimming and snorkeling. And remember, non-mineral sunscreens can fade your henna stain faster than you can say “oxybenzone”, so avoid those at all costs!

Pro tips from Brit:

Start preparing for the tropics by wearing different necklines and sleeve styles to avoid a "farmer John tan" which can spoil photos.

Set a timer on your phone to reapply your sunblock every two hours.

If you do get burnt, slather on the aloe before bedtime!

Bug Spray - A sunburn can ruin your vacation and henna, and mosquito bites can too. Avoid unsightly bumps, or worse, tropical diseases, and apply bug spray before you head outside. Mosquitos are most active and dawn and dusk, but can also be found 24/7 in jungly areas, or anywhere with standing water. Keep in mind that “natural” repellents must be reapplied more frequently. Before you go to sleep consider burning a “mosquito coil” or Copal (a natural resin) to keep those little monsters at bay. If you do get bitten, you can apply a little bit of your favorite clay masque to the affected area which will help cool and and shrink the swelling. Over-the-counter creams for itching are readily available as well.

Beauty Secrets of the Stars

Hat, bikini, smile, what more do you need?

Hat, bikini, smile, what more do you need?

Waterproof Fashion Tape helps keep swimwear in place to avoid nip-slips and other wardrobe malfunctions. Amazon is your friend! And if you are going to be swimming in your make-up, Mac Mixing Medium can keep your look picture perfect all day. And don’t forget seamless base layers in your skin-tone. Panty-lines and visible undies are never a good look.

Try New Things and SMILE

One of the most exciting parts of travel is trying new things. Whether that means trying the chapuline mole (cricket sauce) or jumping off a platform into a crystal clear cenote, going a little outside your comfort zone can have big rewards. Pay attention to what the locals are doing and follow their lead. We discovered a beautiful cenote, which had no tourists at it, by trusting the advice of a friendly Taxi driver. He even watched all of our stuff for a couple of hours while we splashed around in the refreshing water. And remember, a smile and a little patience goes a long way in friendly countries like Mexico. And eating where the locals eat is a good way to find food that is delicious, affordable, and safe. Trust me, they don’t want to get diarrhea either.

Be Flexible

Be a little bit flexible with your plans, as sometimes weather, too many people, or invasive seaweed can mean changing your plans. It’s great to have your list of photos and moments to capture, but don’t be heartbroken if you don’t get them all. We had to choose a new photoshoot location when the one we wanted was overrun with tourists and locals having a Sunday picnic. Let the magic happen in the unscripted moments!

Seaweed happens!

Seaweed happens!

Pack Light

Save your body and save your sanity. You don’t need two outfits a day, and you can wear an outfit more than once. Laundry is cheap in most countries, and is washed and dried and pressed the same day. If you’d rather wash your unmentionables in the hotel sink, bring a couple of travel packets of biodegradable and phospate free Woolite with you, and voila!

Stay Hydrated:

I think it goes without saying, but the hot sun, walking and swimming can dehydrate you very quickly. Always carry a refillable water bottle, eat lots of fruit (great for maintaining electrolyte balance), say yes to the salty rim on your Margarita (you’ll need to replenish your salts more frequently than at home), and if you want bonus points, bring a reusable straw with you! The sea turtles will thank you for it.

Happy Travels everyone!