The Black Magic Guide to V12 Skin Care

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The Black Magic Guide to V12 Skin Care

At a certain point in our climbing careers, skin management becomes an issue. Maybe we’ve been going after the big proj in the boulder field too many days in a row or maybe we’ve just been smashing our hangs into wide 3’s and have massive gobies on the back of our hands. Here we’re going to talk about how best to deal with these issues and maybe even get that extra edge that lets us pull just a tiny bit harder.

At a certain point in our climbing careers, skin management becomes an issue.  Maybe we’ve been going after the big proj in the boulder field too many days in a row or maybe we’ve just been smashing our hangs into wide 3’s and have massive gobies on the back of our hands. Here we’re going to talk about how best to deal with these issues and maybe even get that extra edge that lets us pull just a tiny bit harder.

The issue that troubles the majority of sport climbers and boulderers is tip skin.  It can kill the psyche immediately if when you pull off the ground for the first move your tips are screaming in pain.  So let's talk about how to best deal with that as well as touch on a few techniques for dealing with pockets, cracks and some other skin ruining monsters.

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Wash your Hands! (w/ Soap and Warm Water)

In the age of Covid-19, we all know how important it is to sanitize and wash your hands frequently before, during and after climbing.  Not only are you being considerate of your fellow climbers, but washing your hands removes dirt and bacteria, allowing your hands to heal faster and help keep any cracks, splits or gobies from becoming infected.  Hand washing allows skincare products to absorb faster and more efficiently--and contrary to crag folklore--won’t make you lose your calluses.  Hand washing is the first step in managing your skincare. Make sure you do it before applying any of the products below or they may not work well.

Preparation (Getting that Skin Thick!)

There are a number of things you can do to get your skin nice and thick before you head out to the wall.  As well as improving your calluses some of these tips can increase the amount of friction you have on the rock and make it less likely that you’ll slip n’ slide off holds.

Antihydral

Once only available from a german fußball website, Antihydral is the OG method for getting perfect skin and is becoming more and more available in North America. This cream was originally designed for treatment of hyperhidrosis and it’s active ingredient Methanamine blocks the sweat pores and stops you from sweating.   

The easiest way to apply it is to put a drop on each finger of one of your hands and then rub those drops onto the fingertips of your other hand.  Everyone that uses Antihydral has a different method, but if you’re just starting out it’s important to start slow.  We’d recommend you don’t leave it on for more than an hour the first time you use it, but it's important to leave it on for at least 45 minutes for the active ingredient to work.  Some people will leave it on overnight, but if left on too long or used too frequently you risk getting painful splits in your skin that won’t heal.

It will take several days for the effects to kick in when you use Antihydral so don’t expect hypercalouse sweatless skin the next day.  Especially if your tips are already raw.  The best time to use this product is 2-3 days before you expect to be climbing and the effects should last about a week before you need to re-apply.  Make sure you are moisturizing your tips while using this as your skin will not heal if you don’t.

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Rhino Skin Solutions (Tip Juice & Dry Spray)

Above: Rhino Dry (left), Rhino Tip Juice (right)

These two products could be considered a weaker and more convenient version of Antihydral.  Dry Spray is about ¼ the strength of Antihydral and Tip Juice is close to about the same strength of Antihydral.  Both products are a liquid rather than a cream.  

Tip Juice can be used very similarly to Antihydral, but it evaporates quickly and you can’t tell if you have it on still.  

Dry Spray is considerably weaker and you can use it on your entire hand.  This can be better if you don’t sweat that much, if you’re climbing on bigger holds or if you’re crack climbing and struggle with tape slipping off when you sweat.

A lot of people use a combo of both of these products.  Using the Dry Spray almost every day and then using Tip Juice the day before they climb.

Healing Your Damaged Skin

Once you’re done climbing there are a few things you can do to speed up recovery so you can get back on the rock.  We’ve touched on a few of these points already, but some of them are worth mentioning again because they’re important.

Beeswax Salves

Above: Joshua Tree Salve (left), Climb On Bar (middle), Grandwall Skin Balm (right)

These are the most common hand care products you’ll find at climbing shops. They usually come in a tin or a chapstick tube.  These are great for healing a split or any sort of wound on your hand.  They work by applying a waxy layer with essential oils, which helps trap moisture and protect your skin, keeping the wound moist and giving it time to heal.  This is extra effective if you place a bandage over the wound while the salve is on.  Some salves have antibacterial properties that help prevent infections.  If you get a skin infection it can take weeks to heal.

Glycerin / Aqua Based Creams

Above: Rhino Performance

These are the products that are creams that you rub in and then like magic they are gone.  They’re non-greasy and let you go about your day a few minutes after you use them.  Rhino Repair is a great example of this as well as the hundreds of eczema creams out there.  Rather than trapping moisture into your skin like wax-based products do they actually add moisture to your skin and help repair them.  This is especially important if you’ve been using any antiperspirants as your skin will be producing less of its natural posture that it needs to heal itself.  Notably, Rhino Performance cream is their dry spray mixed with their repair and is amazing for using between climbing days.

Shea Butter

Above: Climb Skin Cream

There is really only one climbing-specific cream that uses this as a base and that’s Climb Skin. This cream does a really good job of both adding moisture and conditioning your skin.  It doesn’t prevent you from sweating, but a lot of people find it does make their skin a bit thicker.  It also does a half-decent job of trapping some moisture in and healing wounds.  If you’re trying to only buy one product that does everything half decently, this is the one.  It might not get your skin perfect, but it’s gonna way more than doing nothing.

Hoofmaker: The Original Mane ‘n Tail 

Super cheap and effective, this cream is protein fortified and will thicken your skin, making those crimps just a bit less painful to hold.  Hoofmaker helps make calluses supple and smooth, reducing the chance of ripping open a flapper.  Use Hoofmaker between climbing days or after climbing sessions to help condition damaged skin.  Originally designed for horses to prevent cracked, brittle hooves, it also works on human skin and has long been a favourite of climbers.  Check the dog care section of your local megastore.

Skin Management while Climbing

 

You’re out climbing!  That’s rad, but what if your skin starts hurting, or maybe you’re an ultra sweaty person and you forgot to Antihydral so you’re leaving wet spots on the boulders and greasing it up for your friends. That’s kinda rude... what should you do?

Filing / Sanding

Above: BD Sanding Block (left), Beastmaker Sander (right)

If you’re starting to see your skin ‘roll’ or look like a hole is forming you should have sandpaper at-the-ready.  Sanding down the edges of the hole and making them smooth, which can prevent it from getting worse, especially if you continue to climb.

Nail Clippers

Above: BD Nail Clipper

It’s always a good call to have a pair of these in your bag.  Not only can you give your toes a trim before putting your shoes on, but if your skin is starting to peel you can clip it down which might give you another attempt or two.  If you rip a flapper you can use the clippers to cut off the remaining skin and smooth things out so you’re not likely to make it bigger if you decide to tape up and keep climbing.

Taping

Above: Leukotape (brown), Mueller EuroTape (white)

When it comes to taping your fingers there are a few different methods.  The two best tapes on the market right now are Leukotape and euro tape.  Leukotape is super sticky and has little to no stretch, where EuroTape is a bit thicker and has a bit of stretch, but does not stick quite as well.  EuroTape is also more porous and takes super glue better. So you may be better off with EuroTape if you’re looking to make a little cast on your fingers. If you’re trying to project a fingery crack climb or a pocket climb that’s ripping flappers on the side of your fingers the best method is a combo of Eurotape and super glue.  If you just want something in your bag that can cover split or flapper without having to make a whole performance of it then Leukotape is the better option. It’s also the better option for taping for pulley injuries and it won’t move much while climbing.  Remember it’s very important to heat up the tape after applying it to activate the glue.  Either by holding pressure on the tape with your hand or breathing hot air on it. 

Super Glue

Super Glue is a quick-acting glue that can be used to help close and protect minor cuts and splits so they heal faster, and you can keep climbing.  You should use a medically graded Super Glue which is more flexible and less toxic than the household version you find in your toolbox or craft drawer.  You usually want to combine super glue with tape as it is less likely to peel off if you have tape protecting it.

Crack Gloves

Above: Ocun Crack Gloves (left), OR Splitter Gloves (right)

Tape can also be used to make crack gloves.  In this case, you would want to use EuroTape. The tape is a bit thicker and the little bit of stretch will make more comfortable gloves.  You can also buy premade rubber crack gloves.  Often these don’t quite cover all the areas you want and you may need to add a little bit of tape to make them stay properly.  These are nice as they are easy to take on and off between pitches are save on waste tape.  You can also use pre-tape (spray-on glue) to help stop crack/tape gloves from shifting on your hands. (This works really well with kneebar pads too!)

Rubbing Alcohol

Feeling greasy?  Holds feeling slippery or caked in chalk?  Maybe it’s really muggy out? Some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle or some liquid chalk can dry out your skin and get rid of any excess grease.  Once your skin gets past a certain point of rawness you’ll start to notice that they feel wetter and you can almost see water coming out of your tips.  This happens when you’ve worn the skin down a few layers and it’s plasma, not sweat coming out of your tips.  There’s not much you can do to prep for this (aside from send faster), but some rubbing alcohol can at least help dry you up for a few minutes.  You can also use rubbing alcohol to clean a hold that has had a lot of traffic and is getting kinda manky.  This can add some friction and make it easier to hold.  NOTE: Do not put rubbing alcohol on soft rock like sandstone.  This can damage the rock and break/change holds.  

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Conclusion

New climbers often suffer from soft skin until hands can toughen up and calluses develop.  More experienced climbers can suffer from raw tips, splits, flappers or gobies suffered from sharp holds or long climbing days.  Either way, skincare is important to maintaining healthy skin so you can keep on climbin’.  Questions?  Send us a message, give us a call, or if you’re in Squamish, come by the shop so we can help find the right skincare solution for you.  Climb On! 

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