In my goal to climb 100 boulder problems V2 or harder this fall, there was one thing that was instrumental in my success. It wasn’t my shoes or crashpads. It wasn’t a traditional piece of gear at all.
That’s the thing with bouldering. There isn’t a lot to it. It’s just you, the rock, and the skin on your fingertips. And after my first few sessions, my skin was thrashed.
It had been six sessions, only a handful of problems, and I was in trouble. I’d worn through the skin on each of my fingertips and had multiple tears on each hand. I knew I couldn’t continue on the same trajectory. Staring at my fingers and willing my skin to grow just wasn’t working. I needed a new strategy.
That’s when I turned to Rhino Skin Solutions and built my own skin care routine. A couple days of skincare and rest allowed me to recover. Continued maintenance built solid, supple calluses. Within two weeks, I was bouldering 4-5 times per week. After a month, I was climbing with reckless abandon. I have never climbed outside that often and my skin was stronger than ever.
It feels weird to call this a gear review, because this isn’t a traditional piece of gear. There was no magic bullet, just consistent hard work over time. But, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain that consistency without healthy skin. And that is why Rhino Skin Solutions was so crucial to my success.
There are a few things that stand out about Rhino Skin Solutions products. First, they work and that’s the most important thing. But more than that, they are adaptable. They aren’t a one solution fits all product. Rhino Skin Solutions has a wide array of products that can be tailored to meet your specific needs. Follow their website, identify your problem areas, and pick the products that suit you. It’s that easy. Plus, all of the products are made with earth grown ingredients, so you don’t need to worry about what you’re putting on your skin.
My Skin Care Routine
Though everyone has different skin care needs and I highly recommend that you tailor your routine to fit your needs, I wanted to give a quick overview of what worked for me. Here are the products that I used:
Split - Split is what I used to get my skin back on track after my rough start. It is a stick that you rub on any open wounds. I got a handful of them and kept them at my desk, in my car, and on my nightstand. Whenever I had a wound, I would treat it multiple times a day to help it recover quickly. I used this often at the start of my project. As my skin got stronger, I rarely needed it. Still, I highly recommend it because there will be times when you need it.
Repair Cream - Repair Cream is what I use for maintenance. After every session and every night, I apply Repair Cream. It helps my skin to regenerate between sessions and stay strong. I keep the travel sized bottle in my chalk bag and have the larger pump bottle on my nightstand. If you only get one product, this is the one that you want.
Performance Lotion - I got the Performance Lotion to help with my sweaty hands. This is the one product that I used that was tailored specifically to my skin. For the first two weeks, I applied it three times a week. It helped to reduce my hand sweat. After that, I used it just one time per week with similar results.
I highly recommend Rhino Skin Solutions to the climber looking to get outside multiple times a week. My skin was able to handle gym holds paired with occasional outdoor climbing, but as I shifted all of that energy outdoors my skin couldn’t keep up. Rhino Skin Solutions provided a comprehensive, tailorable solution that allowed my skin to regenerate and thrive even through repeated abuse.
Graham Is An Award-Winning Professional Climber, A Well-Recognized Creative And A Vocal Climate Activist.
He works as a producer and the director of development with Bedrock Film Works through which he is able to utilize his extensive logistics, rigging, marketing and media expertise while maintaining his role as an athlete in the outdoor industry.
As an activist and advocate for climate he works as the lead of the Protect Our Winters CLIMB team
Skin Care For Climbers
Sheffield Climbing Clinic's Guide To Skin Care For Climbers
BY: JAMES WALKER - PHYSIOTHERAPIST
JULY 9, 2019AT SHEFFIELD CLIMBING CLINIC WE SEE PATIENTS WITH A VARIETY OF CLIMBING RELATED INJURIES. HOWEVER WE ARE OFTEN ASKED FOR ADVICE ON SKIN CARE. Injuries can be very frustrating due to the fact they can prevent you from climbing, but bad skin can just as easily stop you in your tracks.
There are two general types of skin issues associated with climbers;
It can be quite confusing to figure out which products are suitable for you. Common questions include: What skin type am I? Won’t moisturizer cause my skin to be soft? How do I prevent sweaty tips? What is antihydral?
This article hopes to clear up some of this confusion as well as provide you with tips on how to best care for your skin.
(Note – this article goes into a fair amount of detail on all things related to skin care. If you would prefer to just get some solid tips on caring for your skin then skip to the bottom and check out the ‘top tips’ section)
Let’s start by talking about the skin itself. Due to the abrasive nature of rock or indoor climbing holds, climbing causes damage to the epidermis (the outer, waterproof layer of skin). We face a constant battle of trying to heal this outer layer of skin after each session, so that it recovers in time for the next.
The reason a damaged epidermis is an issue, is because you’re damaging the waterproof barrier of the skin, meaning the skin’s ability to retain water at the surface is reduced. Water is essential in all biological processes and regeneration of the skin is no exception. Reduced moisture levels at the surface of the skin leads to reduced rates of healing.
For performance on the rock we want to keep our hands dry, hence the use of chalk.
When we climb, we’re in a continuous cycle of slightly damaging the epidermis, as well as taking away moisture and essential oils from the skin with chalk.
So basically we want to try to minimize the damage to the epidermis whilst we are climbing, then provide moisture to the skin between sessions to give it the best opportunity to heal. As well as this, we want to limit activities between sessions that further reduce moisture levels on the skin.
CONSIDER YOUR CHOICE OF CHALK. There are mainly three types of chalk (from most drying to least drying);
It’s common to see people using a liquid chalk base layer then chalk containing a drying agent. This will be excellent at drying out your hands but just consider if it is completely necessary due to the negative affect it can have on the skins recovery time.
Also try to break the habit of constantly chalking up/standing with your hands in your chalk bag between attempts!
USE CLIPPERS / A SANDER: Keep on top of small tears and bits of frayed skin. These can get caught on holds and cause even bigger tears. Ideally the surface of the skin should to be kept as smooth as possible. Regular nail clippers and a bit of sand paper or skin file kept in your chalk bag makes this easy to do.
USE TAPE IF NEEDED: From your skin’s perspective if you get a split or a flapper at the start of a session it would very much like you to go home, let it heal and try again next week. As climbers there’s one thing that we really don’t like - not climbing! So if you get a split or flapper but you decide you want to continue climbing then clip away any excessive skin, sand the edges and tape it up using regular climbing tape straight away.
KNOW WHEN TO STOP: The tale of the undercut dyno - there’s a gritstone dyno problem at The Roaches in the Peak District, a big one-move dyno from undercut jugs, to a sloping right hand finish. Each time you pull on, you get a bit closer - but also lose a bit more skin.
A while ago I tried this problem and on the 15th attempt, I looked at my skin and thought “hmm, those tips are really pink, looks like they might go through” but decided to carry on regardless. A few attempts later I looked down and two tips were bleeding and that was the end of my session.
So try not to be stupid, like me, and know when your skin has had enough. Although that’s easier said than done.
WASH YOUR HANDS: Sounds obvious, but from personal experience it can be a good while after getting back from a climbing session before washing all the chalk and grime off my hands by the time important jobs like making a cup of tea have been done!
All this time your hands will be getting a little dryer and you’re delaying putting moisture back into the skin, which is needed to help it heal.
MOISTURISE: A common misconception is that moisturizers will make your skin soft and wet, meaning it will be more easily damaged on the rock and cause you to slip off holds. In fact they will make your skin supple, pliable and allow it to heal much faster without having any effect on how sweaty or wet your skin is.
This misconception could be attributed simply to language. ‘Moisture’ just doesn’t seem to be something you want as a climber. A better term for them would be ‘conditioners’, as climbers would be more likely to put a ‘skin conditioner’ on their hands after a session.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, water is absolutely key to the healing process, moisturizers simply increase the amount of water at the surface of the skin resulting in quicker healing times.
Moisturizers do this by the use of three key ingredients;
The good news is that all moisturizers, repair creams, skin salves will likely have a positive effect on the condition of your skin and the rates of healing, as they all essentially work in the same way.
For me, some are simply a lot more practical than others. For example ‘Climb On’ contains beeswax making it a fantastic occlusive that stays on your skin for long periods. Unfortunately this just isn’t practical when wanting to apply multiple times a day when at work.
These are however very useful if you have a split or a flapper as they stay on the wound for much longer and will sit nicely under climbing tape or a plaster. This is why Rhino Skins ‘split stick’ uses beeswax as its base ingredient.
My job involves washing my hands very often during the day (more about why that’s an issue in the next section), so I tend to apply moisturizer reasonably frequently. However for most people 2-3 times per day will be sufficient. The most important time to apply it is before bed as it gives your skin the best opportunity to maximize healing over night.
MOISTURISE REGULARLY: Of all the tips in this article, regularly moisturizing your hands with whichever brand works for you, will likely make the biggest difference in the condition of your skin and the rate it recovers.
CONSIDER YOUR CHOICE OF SOAP: Soaps are designed to remove dirt and grease from your hands. They will also remove the essential oils, which work as an occlusive, from the surface of your skin. In turn this will dry your skin out. If you have a job where you very regularly wash your hands this can take its toll. Using a moisturizing soap such as ‘Carex moisture Plus’ will reduce the effect of this.
WASHING UP GLOVES: Washing up liquids are excellent at removing greasy/oily substances from pots and pans. They are also excellent at removing essential oils from the surface of your skin. Wearing a pair of washing up gloves is a really easy way to prevent this from happening.
WATER TEMPERATURES: Higher water temperature improves the efficiency of removing grease/oils from surfaces. Think about how much easier it is to do the washing up when the water is really hot. Reducing the temperature of your showers, baths and hand washing will reduce the rate at which essential oils are removed from your skin.
GLOVES IN THE WINTER: Winter means lower temperatures, but also lower humidity levels. This means that rock is grippier and why winter is gritstone season! Unfortunately for your skin, the lower humidity means less moisture levels on its surface which results in slower healing rates. Something as simple as wearing a pair of gloves when you’re out and about during the winter will reduce the adverse affect of low humidity on your precious skin.
KEEP HYDRATED: Hydration levels will have a big effect on the amount of water available to cells throughout the body, so drinking plenty will help with the condition of the skin and its rate of healing.
Hydration as well as nutrition has a big role in the healing times of skin as well as the recovery times of all soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and muscles. Keep an eye out for an article on this topic by our Nutritionist Ed Smith in the near future.
SWEATY TIPS AKA HYPERHIDROSIS So far we’ve mainly spoken about how to improve the condition of skin that splits, wears or cracks easily. One of the main issues for some climbers isn’t dry skin at all; it’s the complete opposite – sweaty tips!
Sweaty tips will cause you to have less friction on the holds, and when climbing at your upper limit, it can be the difference between success and failure
Sometimes even with the use of liquid chalk, regular chalk with a drying agent and frequent chalking up, sweaty tips can still be an issue.
Over the years many climbers have resorted to using Antihydral, an extreme skin-drying agent that pro climber Daniel Woods calls ‘the secret to success’.
This Daniel Woods quote can be misleading due to the fact It has no context. It should read ‘as a pro climber who suffers from sweaty tips, I’ve found that the use of Antihydral is the only way for me to sufficiently reduce sweating in order to enable me to climb some of the hardest climbs in the world, and for that reason it’s my personal secret to success’. But that isn’t particularly catchy.
As someone who has very dry skin, it would be a terrible idea for me to use Antihydral, so don’t be tempted to think it can bring success to us all.
How does Antihydral work? Put simply, Antihydral is an antiperspirant that stops sweating in the same way as using an antiperspirant under your arms. Antihyrdal contains a substance called Methenamine, more specifically 13% Methenamine. All skin is slightly acidic and contains water, so when Methenamine comes into contact with this environment it releases formaldehyde. The formaldehyde causes the proteins in the sweat glands to denature and in turn they block the production of sweat.
The blocking of the sweat glands can last for up to two to three days, this is why Antihydral can be so effective in stopping sweaty tips. It can also, if used incorrectly, causes big problems to the skin such as severe split tips due to the dry conditions inflicted on the skin.
As there is very little information on the correct and safe use of Antihydral, it is difficult to recommend its use.
RHINOSKIN – A SAFE SOLUTION TO SWEATY TIPS? Rhinoskin is a skincare company specifically for climbers who, as far as I am aware, is the first company to harness the effectiveness of Methenamine. They sell three antiperspirant products called Performance, Dry and Tip Juice. These contain 4%, 8% and 12% Methenamine respectively. So depending on just how sweaty your tips are you can get a much safer dose of Methenamine. Even the 12% Tip Juice is not as potent as Antihydral, due to the fact it has an aloe base whereas Antihydral has a talc base which aids Methenamine in being more effective, even though the percentage content is similar.
It’s much more difficult to give general advice on these types of products as the requirements will significantly vary from person to person. For some people they may only need these types of products when they are coming close to sending their project, and feel their sweaty tips are the difference between succeeding and failing.
Some may want to use them regularly before and during a climbing trip to improve performance for that trip. Others may find a balance to be able to use them regularly without overly drying out their tips.
This type of product is in its infancy within the climbing industry and at present is likely to be a case of individual trial and error to find out what works for you.
It is still a good idea for climbers to follow all the advice in the previous section even if using antiperspirant skin products.
HERE ARE THE TOP TIPS FOR CLIMBERS WITH SKIN THAT SPLITS, WEARS OR CRACKS EASILY:
Hopefully this article gives you some useful tips on how to improve the quality of your skin. Everyone’s skin will be different and it’s a case of figuring out what works best for you. For me the key with skin care is consistency. I used to regularly go through tips but since sticking to a skin care regime about 6 months ago I haven’t gone through one. Good luck!
Interview by Steven with: thenuggetclimbing.com/
#162 Rhino Skin Solutions - Essential Skin Care For Athletes. Founder Justin Brown Sharing His Story A nice chat with the guys from Reddyyeti, Curious about how we started Rhino or where we are going? This podcast may or may not help ;)
Interview by Josh with: https://www.reddyyeti.com/podcast
Hueco Tanks is known for hard boulders and abusive crimps. Jason Kehl is a master of his domain. Scaring up new lines from the dark recesses of his dungeon made of stone.
Growing up as a climber in the 90's this pace was a mecca. This review...I'm just so...YAY!
Just a few words about the Rhino Skin Solutions Repair cream, which we tested in Font in a not-so-scientific comparison to another cream. #skincaregeeks
Two things happened recently that have prompted the thought that maybe it is time to share some thoughts on the hotly debated (or is it just me?) subject of skin care. First of all, due to unrelated circumstances, I took just shy of 6 months off of climbing - no rock; no resin; not even the trusty Beastmaker. This meant that by the time the traditional springtime pilgrimage to Font rolled around, my skin was delicate and soft, so unlike the hard, calloused exoskeleton I was accustomed to.
Secondly, we were offered a sample of a new hand cream none of us have used before, which came in just a day before the trip. In the name of science, I decided to pack both the new cream and the Rhino Repair - backpack space be damned.
On the evening after the first day of climbing in Font, I could already feel the damage to my fingertips. They were red and painful and certainly did not feel like they were going to last the entire trip. The decision was made to give the new cream a go (since this is a Repair review, not the other way around, the name of this cream will be omitted). Unfortunately, when I woke up in the morning my tips, still visibly pink, were dry and sore. Now, the purpose of this review is not to categorically say that one of these products is rubbish and the other amazing - everyone’s skin is different and the reaction to products will vary, which is important to remember when purchasing any skin care (or taking other people’s advice).
Second day on, as you can imagine, my fingers were not doing any better. The wafer-thin layers of new skin would sweat through the chalk at a lightning-fast speed, and the soreness interfered with my climbing. It was time for the second half of my highly scientific study: the Rhino Repair test. To my surprise this moisturiser did not feel like any other I have tried before, with a slightly “watery” consistency it does not leave any greasy residue on your hands and the feeling that you have anything on your skin disappears completely after about 10 minutes. The smell is very pleasant, if you like tea tree and peppermint that is, and the slight cooling effect brings much desired relief. The following morning my tips were, dare I say it, better than before - well moisturised, with the shade resembling the normal colour of my skin, and tenderness almost completely gone.
With such a large variety of brands and similar products on the market, knowing your options, testing them all out, and sometimes conducting rather random experiments, will result in a skin care routine that works for you specifically. Personally, I found that the Repair worked absolute magic on my skin, and without it this trip would have ended much sooner for me. If you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, feel free to stop by the shop for a small pump from our tester bottle. Alternatively, we can advise you on what other skin care is out there - the advice you are obviously welcome to ignore.
Skin In The Game
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