Healing Up Cracked Winter Hands
When rough rock meets a subfreezing temperature, a climber’s hands are often the first body parts to feel the wrath of winter. Leave small cracks and cuts unattended in the cold season and soon they’ve become craters. Here are some field-tested methods for “minding the gap” and healing up cracked winter hands.
1. Avoid washing your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizers and really hot water, which can dry up fragile winter skin. Instead, rinse hands with room temperature or cold water and use gentle baby wipes or makeup removing wipes—or just embrace a little grime.
2. The old school of thought was to seal up huge gaps with super glue, but no one really wants to put something that toxic in an open wound. Instead, try a medical-grade sealer to patch up big cracks. I like Nexcare Skin Crack Care, which has Vitamin E and tea tree oil.
3. Climb On! skin repair products moisturize and create a barrier against dirt and chalk on your wounds. They’re a little pricey, but they last forever. Start by scraping a small amount from the tin and spreading it over just the injured areas.
4. Originally formulated to sooth dry skin on cow udders, Bag Balm is a cult favorite—the jelly-textured balm works great for softening skin and healing everything from burns and hot spots to rashes and cuts. Try slathering it on your hands at night and sleeping with glove liners or plastic bags on your hands and wake up to softer skin in the morning. You can find Bag Balm at hardware stores, pet stores and tack shops.
5. For quick protection (especially on split finger tips), try a durable medical tape—there are even some tapes made specifically for climbers. Don’t wrap the tape too tightly or your hands will cramp when you try to climb.
6. Stay hydrated! This tip is quick and simple, but it’s also one of the most important. Eating well, getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water will aid your body in repairing itself faster.