So, have you ever unintentionally ripped off a callus working out? Geesh Louise, does that ever hurt! Once you’ve done it, it’s like you NEVER really want to do that again and it has a not so wonderful effect on your workouts for the next week as things start to heal.
If you’d asked me a year ago about calluses – I would have looked at you quizzically, a couple of weekends of post hole digging and nailing fence boards – and playing the guitar would have been the only experience. Can you wax poetic about a callus? Well, if you’re like me, a year into CrossFit, you could actually write oh so much and oh so intimately about calluses as we are all now BFF’s with them.
Oh and before we start, I have to ask “Why oh Why do all the web articles about this topic have graphic photos of bloody hands?” Cripes.Enough.All.Ready.People!! If I’m looking this up, chances are I have my own example on my own palm – I don’t want to see yours too, so excuse me if there are none here (but if you’re dying to see one, you can click to see our fearless leader as Jesse loves to share).
Let’s dig into the fine art of calluses
What is a callus? From Wikipedia – A callus (or callosity) is an especially toughened area of skin which has become relatively thick and hard in response to repeated friction, pressure, or other irritation. A callus will form on any part of the skin exposed to friction over a long period of time.
Your skin is the protective layer of your body, think of either shoe or glove leather; if you keep it soft and flexible, it is very durable as well as protective of what’s inside. If you let leather dry out, it starts to crack and it tears easily. For the best protection of your hands, you need to have smooth and supple calluses that protect the hands but remain intact when working out.
By nature, a callus tends to be more of an unstable layer of skin that adheres to the underlying “healthy layers”. Letting your calluses get hard gives you friction between the hands & the bar or the hand & the kettle bell and it’s that friction that leads to the tears. Tears can also happen if the callus is allowed to get too large or thick.
There are two big prevention steps that everyone agrees on
- Moisturize regularly
- Ensure that you wash chalk off of your hands completely
Chalk is an exceptional drying agent for the skin. The purpose of chalk is to ensure that your hands stay dry. Leaving chalk residue on your hands only causes more cracking and slows healing, so wash it off when you’re done and make sure you put a moisturizer on as soon as possible. Remember to go light with the chalk as it increases friction & the possibility of tears!
This is the ‘whatever works best for you, just do something” category.
- Prep – For the best results, look to do maintenance in the shower or after bath or shower but if that doesn’t’ work for you, then soak your hands in warm water (do some dishes, wash the car, give the dog a bath) to get the area moist. When calluses are softened, they’re much easier to work with.
- Sand – Using your tool of choice, you’re going to gently sand them down. Recommendations include pumice stones, callus shavers, as well as emery boards and some folks just use a skin exfoliating wash (basically a granular liquid scrub). I, personally, follow Jesse’s lead with a Ped Egg (available most drug store and places like Wal-Mart & Target). The cheapest I’ve found so far is $5.99 at Ross stores and on occasion, they also sell the three pack refill for the same price – if you haven’t seen one, think of a small scale cheese grater – when rubbed over the calluses, it takes off the top layer of dead skin quickly & very effectively. I even saw a post about a dude that used a Dremel tool – now that was a laugh but it must have been a pretty serious callus, too!
- Seal – Moisturize your hands when you’re done. Recommendations include Corn Huskers lotion, Bag Balm and Neutrogena Fisherman’s Formula.
First Time Advice
Remember to go lightly the first few times with your sanding implement, at least until you get the hang of it as removing too much of the callus, while not as painful as a tear, isn’t fun either as you’re basically starting over & rebuilding the callus and end up with tender hands again.
If you are really consistent with your moisturizing, calluses will present less of an issue, as the skin will naturally slough more effectively rather than building up heavy, rough, layers of dead skin.
If you do happen to get a rip or tear, this is another place that everyone agrees:
- Wash your hands with soap and water one more time.
- Apply a generous amount of Neosporin to the fresh wound.
- Cover the wound with a small bandage or tape. This will allow the Neosporin to do its job overnight to keep the area moist and prevent infection.
One other suggestion I saw referenced is to modify your grip, which lessens the areas of friction – here’s a YouTube video from Mark Ripptoe on the proper grip to avoid calluses.
If you’d like to do your own callus research, here are some great places to start:
Do you have any good callus tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!– Colleen