Skin Care for Climbing
Whether you realize it or not, your skin goes through a lot. Especially during the winter, cold air dries the skin on your hands, leaving them chapped and dry. Climbing during the winter months doesn’t help either.
Tearing of the Skin
Sometimes after a climbing session, you’ll start to notice changes in your skin. Parts of your palms will start to build callouses. They’re both good and bad to have. Why? They help toughen up your skin.
Although, if the callouses are dry and hard, they can rip open and possibly bleed while climbing. Ow! The torn skin from this kind of an injury is called a flapper. Sometimes it’s only a little; then sometimes it’s more. Occasionally I will have them, and they suck badly.
One can remove a flapper by cutting it off by using nail clippers or small surgical scissors. Or tear the loose skin off. I don’t recommend this method because you can lose more skin from it. Plus, it can hurt more.
However, once the skin is ripped open, it might be too painful to use that hand to climb. Depending on your pain tolerance, it might be best to give it a rest.
A couple of tips to help prevent flappers are:
- Keep your skin moisturized
- Maintain calluses.
The keeping your skin moisturized part may seem like a no-brainer. But you should keep it in mind, mainly if you use chalk before climbs. Chalk reduces sweat, so you stick onto the holds or rock. It’s doing its job by retaining moisture. On the flip side, though, it’s also drying out your skin too. If you don’t use chalk, the rough texture of the holds or rocks can also lead to the skin drying out as well.
Using lotion or healing salve is a good way to put moisture back into your skin and help it become more resistant to stress. I use Joshua Tree Climbing salve to treat my hands. It’s an organic salve that I find works great on my skin.
One of the guys who used to work at Climb UP recommended it to me after showing him a flapper. He told me it worked wonders for him. When you apply it, it’s not greasy. The smell is kinda strong after use, but I don’t mind it. Some weeks I do better at hydrating my skin than others.
Maintaining the callouses is simple. One way is filing them with an emery board or soft nail file. It helps to soften and smooths them down, so they hopefully won’t catch on a hold. I recommend doing this at least once a week or more if you feel the need.
This method also helps prevent finger splits which are when the skin on the finger splits open, usually on the inside of a finger joint. Luckily, I haven’t had these. I’ve heard they’re painful. Climbing is out of the question if this happens.
Wanna See My Battle Scar?
Scrapes on my knees and elbows are common to find after climbing. I don’t know how but I am prone to getting them. Previously, I couldn’t remember a session where I didn’t get one. Now, I try to be more careful about that.
I mention in my Climbing Attire: What to Wear post the reason why I try to wear long pants when I climb is so I can protect my knees. However, I do forget or it’s too hot to wear something long. When I’m scuffed and scraped, I still show it off to my friends, especially if it’s big or painful. Some marks have turned into scars, but they’re barely visible.
Protect your skin before and after climbing. It will help you in the long run and hopefully, have less downtime to heal. Your skin will thank you for it. Until next time, happy bouldering!