Is there lipstick in your disaster kit? In a true survival kit meant for an airplane crash, life raft or backpacking wilderness you will not find it, but for a bug-out-bag it may have its place.
Our body is an amazing machine. The system we call skin is one very unique organ of our body. It is constantly repairing itself and replacing our dead cells with new ones to keep itself in tip-top shape. Even the old worn-out skin cells are used to pad and provide additional protection to the new cells. It covers all the exposed muscles, bones, and other connective tissues to keep out bacteria and other bugs that would harm or kill us; and yet, it requires absolutely no maintenance from us. It does all the work of greasing the undercarriage, mending tears and holes we put into it, and even eliminates odors (nature's ways of protecting the newborn to prevent the predators from finding it). Yep, it is a stand-alone and self-sufficient organ; yet it is also one we humans like to mess with.
We are not happy with nature's way of providing a protective layer of dead skin cells, so we scrub and scrub until we are down to the "shiny new skin" as much as possible.
We wash away the body's natural oils and replace them with [commercial products].
We also need to try to make it smell much better by tossing on some cologne or perfume. In our attempts to mask the odor of sweat we need deodorants. The list of "we need to do" to our bodies can be rather long; e.g. shampoo, manicures, hair removal, etc. In society, we must follow the norms of the group and do these things.
But what about in a survival situation wherein your attempts are geared towards just keeping that skin intact and staying alive; are those functions necessary? The "need to bathe" is not really a physical need of the body. It is a social need, but the body's oils keep it pretty much in good working order all by itself. There is one documented case of a woman in the middle ages who died at the ripe old age of 76 and who had never had a bath in her entire lifetime! She was also reputed to have died a virgin and perhaps there was a correlation, but I'm not going there. My point being is that there is no real need to bathe during an emergency nor even immediately afterward, be it in the disaster shelter, in the woods, desert, sand dune, or wherever you took off to.
Does that mean I am recommending not bathing during a crisis? Of course not; I am merely pointing out the fact that we have no physical requirements to take a bath. We do need to wash our hands as much as possible to try to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and other parasites from getting into our bodies. But consider this; in a disaster what is the most critical item you are going to need? Water and lots of it. For those who have not lived in arid environments as I have, you may not appreciate just how precious water becomes. The old saying "Water is more precious than gold" really does hold true in many environments. Unless you are fortunate to have a swimming pool, lake, or stream nearby while surviving, bathing as we know it is pretty much a forgotten memory during a crisis.
Let me also mention that while you are staying somewhere immediately after the event, such as being in a disaster shelter and waiting on the Calvary to arrive in the following days or weeks or perhaps awaiting for return to normalcy while out in the hills, personal hygiene care does take on an entirely different function in any survival situation. The body does not need it physically; rather, but it's a very real and important psychological requirement to try to keep up appearances the best you can. You will have a need for a basic sense of being somewhat "normal" in a mixed-up world. Basic hygiene tends to keep your spirits up and reinforcing your will to survive.
With water, a much sought-after commodity during a disaster in most urban and many outdoor survival locations, other means of coping can be explored when planning your bug-out-kit. If you have a friendly nurse, ask her about a waterless shampoo kit. They are considered an "expendable item" by the hospitals. Many medical supply stores carry them or can order a few. Be forewarned, they are not known as being on par with Alberto VO5, but in a pinch, it beats nothing. They weigh hardly anything and take up little space.
There are waterless soaps on the markets, but be most will quickly dry your skin if used on anything other than your hands. Pre-moistened wipes work pretty well. A box of baby wipes work just as well, and they are cheaper to buy. Sanitary wipes cost a little more yet are much larger in size. A few wipes and a small bar of bactericidal soap is all you need to keep clean until that shower comes your way. The only other extra item I would suggest tossing into the bag for hygiene is a small bottle of body powder or corn starch. After "being civilized" for so long, we have taken away much of the body's natural oils in large degree and we need to help the body along for a few days until it catches up. Jock rash can be a real pain in the butt.
Now consider the female critters be they young or old. Once the emergency is remotely under control, the basics of life are met, they and family is safe and cared for, the very next urge they have is to get clean and are going to go looking for a shower if available. (If you get in between a lady and the shower stall she might just take out her Swiss Army knife and get you to yodeling). Women are much more driven by our society to "look nice" wherever they happen to be regardless of their situation. It has become a strong subconscious part of their lives. If they don't "look good" they don't "feel good". In a survival situation, after the needs of shelter, water and food have been met, most women NEED to groom themselves as best they can. It is important for their psychological well-being to do so.
While preparing a list for the disaster kit, ask her what she can get by with at the minimum to make her feel good and make room for it in the bag. I suggest in the family bug-out-bag, along with the other toiletries, to toss in a small mirror along with her favorite shade of lipstick.
-Jerry B Blaine