One of my favorite quotes, whether we are talking business or climbing or whatever, is ‘Go Big or Go Home’. That is largely what lead me to open Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex. So … why not start my first climbing advise blog with one of the stickiest and most controversial subjects: Skin Care.
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has an opinion (and they are seldom the same). That’s probably because everyone’s skin is unique. However, one thing I have also noticed, is that many people have no idea how to deal with skin issues in the gym. So allow me to take a shot.
Build some callous. Callous is the tough covering that our skin develops in response to irritation. In climbing, it develops on our fingers in response to the trauma of the holds that we grab. As callouses form, they provide a protective layer to allow us to climb longer and harder. The good news is that these develop by themselves. The bad news is that they take time. So the answer is to climb. Use those hands. Roughen them up. Then let them heal. At first, that means stopping climbing before skin starts to break down and then giving it a few days to heal before you jump on the holds again. Before you know it, you will have some nice callouses and will enjoy longer climbing sessions.
Keep hands clean. Dirt and grime will work like little razors, cutting and tearing skin. Wash hands with a non-alcoholic cleanser before and after climbing. Dry immediately to avoid skin break down.
Use a quality climbing chalk. Chalk keeps hands dry and improves grip. Slipping on grips causes significant trauma to hands which increase the risk of skin breakdown. Chalk also helps avoid catching a part of your skin on a hold and tearing that part off. The higher concentration magnesium carbonate chalks like those from Friction Labs stay on your hands longer and help avoid those bare spots that happen with some chalks.
Repair skin damage. When skin does start to break down, stop climbing and start healing. Apply one of the commercial climbing salves. These are great to apply at bedtime after a day of climbing, to begin the healing process. If you have open wounds, you might want to use an antibacterial cream like Neosporin. Bliss stocks both A-Balm and Joshua Tree products. Find the one that works best for you and use it often. Your skin will thank you. Sand large protruding callouses. Over time you will discover larger callous on certain areas of you fingers. Mine tend to be the worse just over the fold on the end of my fingers. These can get large enough that they hurt when compressed on small holds and can also ‘catch’ on holds and rip skin. File these down with either a pumice stone or just plain sandpaper. (one of my favorite instruments are these new battery operated foot sanders they sell in the cosmetic departments). After sanding, apply a skin salve.
There you have it. I’m sure some will disagree and not all of these things may work for you, but this is what I do and seems to work for me. Climb hard and Follow Your Bliss.