Dr. Jess Talks Skin Care


Today, Dr. Jessica Otis, who pops up on Crux Crush from time to time (check out her post on protecting your lats), is sharing her wisdom on skin care. Here’s what she has to say about keeping your outer layer in tip top shape:

From the chalk we cover our hands in, to the sun beating down on us while climbing a wall, and the cuts and scrapes that inevitably result from a day at the crag, climber’s skin takes a real beating. All too often we take the amazing healing and protective properties of our skin for granted. I, for one, was always a wash my face and slap on some body lotion or sunscreen kind of girl, until the arrival of some, ahem, “fine lines” on my face and a live in boyfriend with five times as many skin care products, which catalyzed an overhaul of my skin care routine. So today I thought I’d share what I’ve found works well for my skin to combat the effects of climbing.

Hands: There is no denying that the increased friction that chalk creates between your hand and the hold, and the sweat it absorbs, can be essential for sending hard routes. Although chalk does not draw water out of the skin, merely absorbs sweat and moisture from the surrounding atmosphere, it sure does dry out our hands. My favorite product to rehydrate my hands, soothe hot-spots and calluses, and prevent hang-nails and splits in my cuticles is Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter. At $4.99 for 8 oz it works just as well as similar body butters from stores like The Body Shop for half to a quarter of the price! This body butter is also absorbed much faster that salves that can leave oily marks on everything you touch. I also keep Burt Bees Milk and Honey Body Lotion (smells so good) or Eucerin Original Healing Soothing Repair Cream in my glove box or climbing bag for the way home from the gym and at my work desk during the day so my hands are hydrated before chalking up.

Body: Since we don’t know if, or how, all the synthetic compounds that we smear on our skin everyday in lotions are affecting our health in the long run, I try to use brands made with natural and organic products whenever affordable. Therefore, I usually use Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion on my body. Don’t let sunburn spoil a hard day of climbing! When I head outside I bring along Aveeno’s Natural Protection Mineral Block waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30).

Face: Since the appearance of the previously mentioned “fine lines” on my face, I’ve started taking all that advice you always hear when it comes to women’s skincare. First off, as someone with a complexion on the oily side, I rarely used to moisturize my face for fear of the shine. However, just because you have oily skin, does not mean that your skin is well hydrated, and dehydrated skin cells can shrink causing fine lines to be more visible. For this reason, combined with the fact that you really, really should wear your sunscreen please, led me to daily use of Burt’s Bees Radiance Day Lotion (SPF 15). If I feel like my face will be shiny due to the lotion I apply a thin layer of Bare Mineral’s Ready Touch Up Veil powder (SPF 15). Since moisturizers and makeup with SPF protection do not substitute for a good sunscreen I’ve been happy to find that the Aveeno sunscreen I use on my body doesn’t make my face break out. At night I usually opt for Burt Bee’s Natural Acne Solutions face wash and daily moisturizing lotion, along with whatever eye cream was on sale at Rite Aid (why are they all so expensive?!). Ladies, please share advice on your favorite skin care products in the comments!

Lips: Nothing is worse than dry, sunburned, split lips in your youth, or the resulting skin cancer later on. When you’re outside frequently apply a chap stick with SPF protection, Eos makes a fun one in a round, easy to find yellow container (SPF 15), or for a more natural product try Kiss My Face Organic Lip Balm in Mint Treat (SPF 15). When you want a little color after a long windy day outside, I recommend Clinique Chubby Sticks, they don’t dry your lips out like regular lipsticks and Clinique’s products tend to be fairly natural and easy on sensitive skin.

Finally, it’s not only what you put on your skin, but how you treat your body that counts. For healthy skin that can heal quickly always drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep already!

Climb on!

Jess has a PhD in physiology, and is currently doing biomedical research focused on metabolism and gastrointestinal physiology in the Baltimore area. She has been climbing for the last 5 years and is excited to help female climbers better understand their physiology and anatomy to be able to climb their hardest. Jess is open to future physiology and health post requests!


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9 thoughts on “Dr. Jess Talks Skin Care

  1. miranda marquette says:

    Thanks, Dr. Jess! This was an awesome article for those of us who are just starting to climb.

  2. V10Princess!!!! says:

    jess – i’m a little hesitant to go nuts with hand moisturizers. i feel that they leave my skin soft and vulnerable to tears/rapid breakdown. any ideas for how to recover the hands without weakening the sexy layer of leathery skin i’ve fought for so valiantly all these years?

  3. Trish says:

    Awesome, thanks for the tips! Do you use those climbing salves like Climb On or http://www.jtreelife.com/ — or is that what you meant you use the Coconut Body Butter for instead?

  4. sarahsss says:

    I use Banana Boat “Naturals” for daily face sunscreen because it’s all mineral-based in terms of the sunblock (not half minerals for marketing, plus chemicals) and it doesn’t dry out my skin like some others I’ve tried. (My skin’s on the dry side.) I use Burt’s Bees “royal jelly” night cream for a nightly moisturize–after I, too, began noticing some of those “fine lines.”

  5. Bieber4lyfe! says:

    Sun screen leaves your hands ULTRA greasy. No good for climbing – I use spray sunblock when I’m at the crag. Gotta use the brain, folks!

  6. Jess says:

    Trish- I used to use those salves, but I never liked how greasy they left my hands. They do get the job done though!

    V10Princess- that’s the problem! To try to keep my skin strong I try not to moisturize my hands until after I finish climbing for the day. I’d love a suggestion for a pre-climbing moisturizer to use at work during the day that wouldn’t leave my hands vulnerable. I wash my hands ~10 times a day and they get really dry…

    I love the spray sunscreen advice Bieber4lyfe! Any advice on a natural brand that’s good for using on your face or do you stick with traditional sunscreen or a solid sunscreen stick for that?

  7. Bieber4lyfe! says:

    Jess – for the face, I like the stick. I will NEVER let sunscreen get on my hands before I climb.

  8. migrantmatt says:

    Sun-pro makes a really good sunscreen and chapstick! It has avocado oil, macadamia oil and aloe vera with UVA/UVB sunscreen, great for after a day in the sun as well.

  9. It feels good and confident when I got advice from a professional like you Dr. Jessica Otis. Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge Dr. Jess and thank you CruxCrush for letting it happen. Definitely subscribed to CruxCrush now.

    best all the best 🙂

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