Hand & Skin Care for Rock Climbing

Nothing destroys a climbing session like shredding your skin. How often has your body been willing, yet your skin is so sensitive you think it needs to go to counseling?

Every once in awhile, while scrolling through Instagram in a numb haze, you’ll stumble upon a gruesome photo of a climber’s bloodied hands. The owner of the hands – against all natural survival instincts – is proud. It’s her very own gore, and it’s beautiful. In the world of extreme sports, battle scars can be super dope.

If you’re us though, on a mission to bring peak performance to every athlete who benefits from better grip, almost all nasty hand tears are preventable. Whether you've worn down your tips or even caused a dreaded flapper, there are easy steps you can take to keep your skin fresh so you keep climbing.

Wooden hand model making a rocker sign

Luckily for us, products and techniques exist that ease the process. We’ve compiled a list for you here.

NOTE: Many climbers swear that avoiding moisture is the answer to good skin. They wear gloves when they do the dishes and even try to shower without getting their hands wet. We understand the approach, but it’s not sustainable. Your skin is your largest organ; it needs moisture and nourishment to be healthy and grow. Instead of dehydrating your skin, you want to moisturize it appropriately so that it stays elastic and can stretch. There is a fine line...mushy tips and grandpa skin are no good.

Trim your nails: Don’t be that person. You know which one. You can hear the cringe-worthy sound of nails scraping down a climbing wall throughout the entire gym.

Climber using finger nail clippers to trim finger nails

When you trim, make sure a little bit of white nail remains. If you find yourself still scratching the wall, you didn’t trim enough. If your nails sting after you cut them, you took too much off. Make sure to round the edge all the way to the side of your finger to avoid hangnails.

Trimming your fingernails saves everyone’s nerves and prevents you a lot of pain. Most gyms have resident nail clippers somewhere in the gym – ask around!

Moisturize your hands 1-2 hours prior to climbing: Moisturize your hands before the session? Yup. If you correctly time the application of moisturizer, your skin will be well hydrated and elastic by the time you start pulling on holds. Elastic skin is less likely to crack and split, while rock-hard “plastic” skin can tear and pop open like a grape. You don’t want grape skin.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT use a wax-based cream. You can hardly use your phone after putting that stuff on, much less climb.

One of the best options out there is Climbskin , a hand cream engineered for climbers by climbers. Unlike most of the other hand creams out there, Climbskin is not wax-based, meaning your hands won’t feel greasy after you apply it. The natural ingredients (aloe vera, shea butter, dragon blood, etc.) combine into one powerhouse moisturizer that will bring joy to your crusty, desiccated skin.

Pay attention to your skin: Throughout your session, look at your hands. If you see a split or a tear starting to form, file it down RIGHT AWAY. If you can’t file it then and there, consider cutting your session short. It’s better to walk away and come back tomorrow than be forced away from climbing for a few days.
Climber clapping hands together after chalking up to create a small cloud of chalk dust
Use the right chalk: Okay, yes, we are a company that makes chalk. Even if we weren’t, this would still be an important step. Use chalk with no drying agents or impurities. Clean chalk keeps your skin healthy, protecting it from overdrying and cracking. If you’re skeptical, check this out: SCIENCE!


File your skin: In the noob phase of climbing, everyone gets blisters. It’s inevitable. Just roll with it for a while. Eventually your blisters metamorphose into strong, healthy calluses. As a climber, you want calluses that are flat and smooth. If they’re not, they can fray and rip, so it’s important to reduce the chances of that happening. All it takes is a little skin filing.

Any time you notice fraying of your skin or calluses, use a sandpaper file to smooth them out. The smoother your skin, the less likely it is to catch and rip on climbing holds. Most gyms have skin files available. That said, you wouldn’t be the only one who felt grossed out by the thought of sharing a file with a hundred other people...

We recommend our double-sided skin file  - handmade, super long lasting, and just awesome. It’s pocket-sized so you can easily fit it into your pocket or chalk bag. It’s also curved to more readily accommodate the weird shape of your fingers and hands. And to top it all off, it comes with six replacement strips of sandpaper.

Make sure to file down any calluses that stand out, including those at the top of your palm.

Wash your hands: Cold water and soap. Climbing holds are gross - remember that guy you saw walk into the bathroom with his climbing shoes on just before he got back on the wall?

Climber washing hands using soap and cold water after a session

Apply Climbskin once again: As soon as you’ve thoroughly washed your hands, get some Climbskin on them. Prepare to feel immediate joy and relief in your hands. It’s like a tall glass of cold water on a hot day. The essential oils hydrate and heal your skin FAST. If you apply Climbskin on the reg, your skin will be ready to go day after day after day. Some people like to put it on again before bed, too.

Again, this is one of those times where you have a choice between traditional wax-based products and Climbskin. If you prefer the wax, make sure to bring a sock to put over your hands so you don’t slime up everything around you.


Now you know some deep, dark secrets about taking care of your hands. Constantly maintaining a healthy epidermal layer on your paws is clutch – the less time you spend healing hand wounds, the more time you have to climb!

If you have any tips and tricks for hand care, please share them in the comments!

Climber grabbing on to natural rock outdoors


You crave the moment where your grip does more than you thought it could. That split second is nirvana. At FrictionLabs, we help you find that feeling. We use science to engineer the best chalk anywhere. Try It to experience better performance, safer breathing, and healthier skin.

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