By Joe Taylor
Skin. Our second largest and arguably most useful organ (who needs a heart anyway?). Taking care of this organ, in particular the section covering the most valuable of extremities to a climber (the hands), is essential if you are to succeed and excel in your climbing ambitions. ‘Good skin’ can be the crucial difference between failure and success on your project. If, like me, you suffer from sweaty palms, you will also feel the pain of forever greasing off slopers or waiting 10 minutes for the sweat to dry off that crucial crimp prior to another go.
Enter Rhino Skin, a company dedicated to making skin care products to suit every need of the modern-day climber. Whether it’s sweaty hands, dry hands, thin skin or cracks and splits you are afflicted by, there is a product for you. Each product has been designed through experience by someone who understands what a climber needs from their skin. Also, due to the range available and the variety of uses, pretty much all skin types are covered through some permutation of the Rhino Skin offerings. I tested the range of products available on a recent trip to Font and was impressed with the results. My skin lasted a lot longer throughout the trip, healed quicker and, most notably for myself, was drier and less prone to greasiness. I predominantly used Dry, Performance and Repair to achieve the results I required. The different products available are summarised below and are all-available through Rock + Run.
Repair is a non-greasy skin conditioner designed to aid skin recovery and repair. I used this at least once a day directly after climbing, generally on the walk back to the car. I found it to be very effective, leaving my skin supple and revitalised after the days’ sandstone abuse inflicted upon it. The big selling point for me is that unlike some skin repair products it absorbs into the skin very rapidly (10 – 15 minutes) such that you can rapidly get on with using your hands for less worthy, non-climbing related activities.
Performance is a cream containing both moisturising agents and an antiperspirant. The active ingredient of the antiperspirant component is the same as that in Antihydral cream, methenamine, albeit at a lower concentration. The lower concentration of methenamine and combination with moisturisers makes it a far simpler product to use than Antihydral cream. It also means you have much less risk of drying your hands too much (think glassy hands and cracked skin) or your skin shedding in large sections. I used Performance just before going to bed about 4 times a week during the trip. It’s easy to apply – simply apply a pump or two to the hands and rub it in. It absorbs rapidly and leaves your skin feeling supple and noticeably thicker the following morning, meaning that despite climbing most days it still felt like my skin had plenty to give.
Dry is the next level up from Performance in terms of its antiperspirant properties and works great in addition to provide further dryness for particularly sweaty hands. It can also be used on sweaty feet to reduce the chance of rubbing or blisters and increase warmth in your boots (for this reason, it also works well when wearing ski/mountain boots). It is a spray-on alcohol-based antiperspirant with the main active ingredient again being methenamine, this time at a higher concentration, though still lower than found in Antihydral. I used Dry on the morning of climbing days (it is recommended to use it 2-8 hours prior to climbing and not to wash it off until after 8 hours) where it felt particularly humid and my hands were at their sweatiest. It absorbs rapidly and then lasts up to a few days in its effect, although I found it most effective on the day of use. Repeated use can lead to dry skin so it shouldn’t be used for days on end.
With the same concentration of methenamine as Antihydral cream, Tip Juice is the strongest antiperspirant in the Rhino Skin range. It comes in a very nifty little roller or brush applicator so that you can just apply it to your tips without risk of getting it in cuts or creases that may crack due to dryness. I used the Tip Juice a couple of times on the trip to assist with sweatiness and also to thicken up the skin when it felt particularly thin. Again, it should be used sparingly and with care to avoid unwanted cracking or excessively dry skin.
Split is a beeswax-based balm designed to disinfect and moisturise splits, cuts or flappers. It comes in a handy tube applicator or larger tin and is great at speeding up the healing process of the aforementioned abrasions. Very much in the vein of more traditional post-climbing skin care products, such as Climb On.
I haven’t really used this one to be honest as it’s designed for those with overly dry hands (definitely not something I suffer from!). It adds a bit of moisture and elasticity to dry skin types to improve friction on the rock and prevent splits.
Recover is a muscle and joint massage cream with natural warming ingredients to promote blood flow and reduce swelling. I used it a few times to good effect, massaged it into the affected area, to soothe a bit of sloper-induced elbow and shoulder pain. It also smells pretty delicious.
In summary, I would highly recommend the Rhino Skin products. For skin longevity and dryness there’s really nothing else out there that will give you as good results as Performance or Dry in such a simple way. And Repair is a great regenerative cream that again is so much less of a faff than other products out there. In short, I’m certainly sold on Rhino Skin and will be adding my favourites to my climbing tool chest.
There is also a good review and ringing endorsement from Tom Randall in this video review.