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Climbing Skincare | Buying Guide

by Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones

As climbers, our skin is our most important tool, sensitively connecting us to the vertical world and creating the essential friction that keeps us on the wall. But, knowing how to maintain your skin and deal with its specific needs both whilst climbing and between climbing sessions can be tricky. Put simply, most of our climbing skin troubles will come as a result of skin that is either too wet or too dry, we’ll take a look at some of the specifics of each below and some of the products that can help you maintain superb skin.

Wet Skin

Wet skin, sweaty tips or scientifically known as Hyperhidrosis is a typical problem amongst climbers, reducing friction on holds or rock and leaving you with burning, thin pink tips at the end of a long session. Here are some solutions to mitigate the negative effects of soggy skin, both on and off the wall.

Whilst climbing:

  • Liquid Chalk: Liquid chalk is the most effective sweat remover with its alcohol base evaporating quickly as it comes into contact with skin, removing sweaty moisture and leaving a consistent layer of dry chalk behind. Our recommendation would be Rock Technologies' Dry 5 Liquid Chalk or Secret Stuff 80% Alcohol from Friction Labs (increased alcohol % means it’s more hygienic and removes even more moisture). We’d recommend using liquid chalk as a base layer during your session and combining this with dry chalk on top.
  • Chalk with drying agents: Some chalk companies mix drying agents into their magnesium carbonate, a concoction specifically devised to help climbers with Hyperhidrosis. Our pick has to be the fantastic Metolius Super Chalk which is said to absorb up to 15% more moisture than average climbing chalk.
  • Air Flow: A good source of air flow will cause moisture to dissipate. A decent fan, a windy day or even wafting your hands between attempts can make all the difference.
  • Don’t hold things: Avoid holding things (like a mobile phone) or covering your hands between climbing attempts. Solid objects won’t allow your skin to breath and will stop them from feeling the benefits of free-flowing air.
  • Wash your hands: Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after your climbing session. Skin will only start to heal once it’s chalk free.
Friction Labs secret Stuff Liquid Chalk 80% Alcohol

Between climbing sessions:

  • Methenamine and Rhino Skin: Frequently used by climbers in an anti-sweat foot cream called ‘Antihydral’, Methenamine is a chemical that causes your skin to release formaldehyde which in turn denatures proteins in your sweat glands and stops them from releasing any liquid. Antihydral has long been a staple of sweaty climber’s skin regimes but, with the product’s potential to cause severe splitting and cracking of the skin, it’s rather nuanced and difficult to use. Now, climbers turn to Rhino Skin, a company which produces an array of safe and simple climbing solutions. For the sweaty tipped of you, Rhino Skin offer:

Performance (4% Methenamine) – My favourite product, this squirt on cream activates overnight, smells incredible and leaves you with tough, sweat free skin the next day – regular application is recommended.

Dry (8% Methenamine) – A spray on solution that activates overnight, you’ll only need to use the Dry 2-3 times a week.

Tip Juice (12% Methenamine) – The strongest Rhino Skin product, Tip Juice is the closest and safest alternative to Antihydral. Applied to your fingertips with a brush, Tip Juice only requires weekly application for top results. 

    Although these products still contain Methenamine, their aloe base (as opposed to the talc base found in Antihydral) removes some of the harsher elements found in Antihydral, making them safer and easier to use.

    Rhino Skin Solutions table

    Dry Skin

    Dry climbing skin, although generally better for friction than wet skin, can present its own difficulties. In extreme cases, these problems can be far more troublesome than their sweaty counterparts, resulting in nasty skin injuries like splits or flappers (more on these later). First, here are some tips for climbing with dry skin:

    Whilst climbing:

    • Chalk: It might seem obvious but, avoid using chalk containing drying agents or any of the liquid stuff. We’d recommend the ultra-pure Friction Labs Gorilla Grip or Peak Chalk’s Chunky Chalk.
    • Skin maintenance: Always carry some basic skincare tools in your chalk bag: 
    • Skin file/sander – A sanding tool is essential to file down damaged skin or built up calloused skin to ensure an even climbing skin surface. We’d recommend Climbskin’s File. 
    • Clippers/blade – A way of removing damaged or flaking skin is imperative to stop this developing into a split or flapper. Standard nail clippers should do the job.
    • Tape – The simplest and most versatile skin solution. Tape is perfect for on-the-go skin repair and finger injury support. We stock a fantastic range of our own tape here.
    • Wash your hands: Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after your climbing session. Skin will only start to heal once it’s chalk free.
    Climbskin nail file

    Between climbing sessions:

    • Repair and moisturise: Dry skin naturally lacks moisture which can cause it to crack and wear. Hydrating your skin before, after and between sessions is fundamental to promote elasticity in your skin. We’d recommend a climbing specific balm or cream, these products have been designed with climbers in mind, ensuring your skin remains tough but supple. Here are some of our favourites:

    Climbskin Hand Cream– An awesome, beeswax-based cream developed by climbers to repair and prepare your skin for those tough sessions. Climbskin’s Hand Cream can be applied pre-session (1-2 hours before to boost skin elasticity), post session for immediate relief and overnight for maximum benefit. 

    Climb On Crème Lite – A great, on-the-go skin cream designed for regular application with a wax free ingredient list. This makes it an ideal pre-session moisturiser and perfect for those who want to apply regularly throughout the day. 

    Rhino Skin SPIT – Hydration in a bottle, the SPIT spray from Rhino Skin is designed to be used 1-5 minutes before climbing to hydrate your skin and boost its elasticity.
    Climb On Cedar Bar – A food grade, natural balm designed with repair in mind. The Cedar Bar doesn’t just smell great, it’s fantastic on your fingers, repairing damaged skin and preparing it for that next session. This balm is best for overnight use.
    • Skin maintenance: With the basic skincare tools discussed above, make sure to sand and file your skin down, removing any flakes or loose bits to leave a consistent and even layer of tough skin. Concentrate on your finger joints, tips and sides, avoiding your finger pads – finger pads need to be thick and tough. However, if your pads look shiny of ‘glassy’ then be sure to sand them down too.
    • Avoid oil removers: If you’re pre-disposed to dry skin then you’ll want to avoid anything that removes the already limited naturally occurring oils in your skin. This includes things like:
    - Washing up liquid – wear gloves whilst you wash up.
    - Hot water.
    - Soap – try and use moisturising soaps.

    Skin and Finger Injuries 

    Here are some of the common skin injuries you could experience and how to deal with them:

    • Flappers: Flappers can occur when dry, calloused skin comes loose and gets peeled back or to those newer climbers with soft skin that blisters and eventually peels away. These can look nasty but are easy to fix. Simply remove any of the peeled, dead skin with your clippers or blade and allow the injured section of skin to breath and dry. When your injured skin has dried, apply a healing balm or cream like Rhino Skin Repair. If you want to keep climbing with a flapper, remove the dead skin and tape over the injured skin.
    • Splits: Splits usually occur when dry skin cracks in finger joints or on finger tips. Splits in the cracks of your finger joints are easier to remedy and can be treated to continue climbing – sand away any loose or damaged skin and tape over the split. Post session apply a treatment like Rhino Skin’s Split stick, a beeswax based formula designed specifically for split skin. Splits on the pads or tips of your fingers are far harder to treat, calling it a day and allowing the split to heal off the wall is recommended.
    • Injured Fingers: If you have sore or injured finger tendons then why not try Climbskin’s Organic Silicum Gel and the classic Crimp Oil are two great ointments that can be applied to finger injuries, massaged into the skin to provide relief to swelling and pain.
    • Check out our Finger Injury Taping Guidefor a comprehensive look at taping solutions for finger and skin injuries. 

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