Skin Care Problems and Solutions for Climbers
Skin care problems can be a nightmare for climbers. At different stages of our climbing life we encounter many problems with the skin on our hands. As a beginner the larger holds push up the skin forming large callouses which are prone to ripping on dynamic moves or if a hold is caught badly. When we go outside rough rock wears away our tips and if we are not careful we will have to stop for a few days till it grows back. Sharp holds cut through the skin, maybe not cutting you, but leaving torn skin which will tear further and stop you climbing.
Looking after your skin is key to being able to climb more and recover those hands from those climbing session quicker.
Skin Care The Basics
The first rules of hand care for climbing is the same for everyone, make sure your hands are clean before you start climbing, dirt and grease will increase the wear on your skin and cause damage, the same afterwards. Rubbing against the holds causes most skin damage! You can massively reduce this by chalking thoroughly so your hands aren’t sweaty and slippery.
Stop before your skin is destroyed! Especially when climbing multiple days in a row or outside on rough rock like Grit or Sandstone. Your skin will re-grow quickly, but the more you’ve lost the longer it will take! With some damage you can easily climb for a couple more days, but completely wear out your fingertips and you may have to take a few days off before you’ve enough skin to climb again. The best way to avoid this is plan your rest days, to let your skin grow, usually two days on climbing then one day off is about right. Doing the same move again and again will cause a lot of damage, unless the boulder problem or route means everything to you, move on and try something else before that valuable skin is gone.
Dry skin cracks and breaks, although you want to keep all grease off your hands during climbing afterwards apply a good climbing skin balm such as Monkey Fist to key areas such as callouses, cuticles and tips!
Large callouses are bad, they are easy to catch on holds and tear leaving deep ‘flappers’ which usually require a lot of tape and stopping climbing till some skins has regrown. The easiest way to stop callouses is by trimming them down with scissors and an emery board. This might sounds a bit savage, but keeping your callouses small will help stop them tearing. Once you’ve filed them down apply your Monkey Fist climbing skin balm to help keep them soft and less likely to tear.
Tears and cuts
Sharp holds and slice through our skin, often the initial damage to the skin isn’t the problem, it’s the loose edges which tear and make the cut large which causes the most damage. Cut skin should be trimmed with scissors to remove any loose edges then filed down leave the skin smooth again preventing tears. This might seem drastic, but a tear is going to remove more skin then gently sanding down the tips to get them smooth again.
Tape and Superglue
If you know you’ve going to be pulling repeatedly on holds that are going to damage your skin then tape is going to help. Whether this is training and preventing the build up of callouses by taping around the joints or when holding sharp pockets to prevent the rock cutting you. Whenever taping make sure you have a good range of motion in finger and don’t cut off blood supply! For tips it’s slightly more complicated, taped tips will make holding small holds harder and the tape often slips. It’s usually best to only tape tips as a last resort and then use superglue to hold the tape in place. For small cuts to tips you can use human superglue to repair it. Remember the DIY superglue is not designed for human use, although expensive medical superglue is the preferred choice.
Good luck and Happy Climbing!