How To Get Rid Of Calluses On Hands

May 24, 2019

Proper callus care is an essential part of any athlete skin care routine. Whether you do Crossfit, rock climb, or do gymnastics, calluses require care and attention if you want to keep your hands healthy and in optimal shape. As time goes on and you become more dedicated to your hobby, your calluses will build up and it will become vital that you take care of them. Developing calluses that aren’t properly maintained lead to hand tears so you’ll need to implement a hand care system to stay active.

There is one important thing to keep in mind: you don’t want to completely remove your calluses. They form a barrier in high friction areas, protecting your hands from any physical aggressors working against them.

What you do want to do is maintain them by shaving them down so that they are in line with the rest of the skin. At this level, they are able to properly protect your skin without getting in the way of your workout or weight lifting.

On top of that, calluses that are too thick can lead to hand tears, just like calluses that aren’t built up enough. You need to find that sweet spot if you want to steer clear of crossfit hand tears or ripping skin.

Thankfully, it is easy to implement a preventative athlete hand care system into your routine. If you are looking to take care of your calluses and keep your hands in top shape, the two main callus maintenance methods below are best. You can skip the home remedies like baking soda, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar!

The Pumice Stone Method

Many athletes include pumice stones as part of their crossfit callus care routine. The stones have rough surfaces ideal for helping you get rid of any dead skin cells. While they seem like they can be harsh on the skin, the abrasive surface provides just the right amount of friction to be effective yet gentle.

You can find cheap pumice stones at the drugstore but seek out a high-quality option if you want to get the best results on corns and calluses. Our Natural Pumice Stone is oblong shaped and much more porous than what you will find at the drugstore. Since ours are natural, they are more abrasive, more durable, and last much longer. They are also free of glue and gross synthetic ingredients unlike the cheap drugstore varieties.

A pumice stone works best on skin that has been softened by water. Warm water soak your hands for five to ten minutes or use in or right after you get out of a shower. For an extra treat, take an epsom salt bath. You use it by gently rubbing it over the damp callused skin on your hands. Move the stone in different directions so it works the callused area from all angles.

Since the calluses are soft, the top layer of skin will come off fairly easily, so use light pressure. Continue this process until the calluses are in line with the rest of your hand. Knock or rinse off any dead skin that builds up on the stone along the way.

The Callus Shaver Method

A callus shaver is another popular option that many athletes turn to as part of their crossfit callus care routine. The w.o.d.welder Callus Shaver is a perfect option for anyone as it is easy to use and has a protective safety guard that prevents you from shaving too deeply. Maintenance is also easy, as the blades only need to be replaced every 2-3 months.

A callus shaver is safe to use on either wet or dry skin. We recommend using it on dry skin, as you are more likely to shave off more skin than is necessary when using it on wet, soft skin. Dry skin leaves a more protective barrier, ensuring you are shaving off the least amount of skin necessary.

You use the callus shaver by simply dragging it over any thick, overgrown calluses. When the skin builds up in the blades, lightly tap it on a hard surface to knock it out and repeat on other affected areas.

Creating a Athlete Hand Care Routine

Both tools are great for effectively taking care of calluses so it comes down to personal preference. Some people use one or the other, while some use a shaver for larger ridges and a pumice stone for smoothing bumps out.

How often you need to maintain your calluses will vary from person to person. Most athletes use some form of callus removal a few times a week to keep them at an optimal level. By keeping your hands in perfect shape, you’ll be able to hit heavy weights or your hobby of choice as often as you’d like.

Regardless of what method you use, you will always want to follow up with some form of hand moisturizing cream to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. If you are looking for products to round out your hand care system, check out our other athlete skin care products. Our line includes natural and innovative options that help athletes in any sport keep torn calluses at bay, and maintain their skin at a functional and healthy level.

3/3 Photo: Pexels/Scott Webb

How to prevent workout-related blisters

1. Stop holding on for dear life. A tendency for beginner rowers is over-gripping, Von Frochlich says. “It’s important to relax your fingers. You want your grip to be firm but not overly strong,” he says.

2. Leave your engagement ring in your locker (or at home). Wearing rings is a big no-no. “It will pinch the skin every time you grab a bar, which will lead to blistering.” It could also really scratch your jewelry.

3. Keep ’em clean and soft. If you’re using chalk at CrossFit, don’t wait to wash it off later, since it can drastically dry out your hands. “What it really comes down to is getting the chalk off after a workout and cleaning your hands every night as part of a beauty regimen,” he advises. That means using a pumice stone if calluses develop and moisturizing religiously.

4. Use a protective balm. Before a tough workout, Von Frohlich applies a product called Tuf-Foot, originally developed to protect dogs’ paws and horses’ hooves. But as you’d expect, he admits the smell is not exactly appealing. Another less fragrant option he recommends is Bag Balm. We’re thinking an all-natural Paw Paw balm or do-it-all coconut oil would also do the trick. Just make sure it’s absorbed well before you go to grab the kettlebell.

5. Wear gloves (or tape). “Some people like gloves and some people hate them because they generally can’t get as good of a grip,” Von Frohlich explains. But they will definitely help prevent blisters. Now there are brands like G-Loves that make them for women in fun patterns and styles. Tape is also an option, but you can’t use a lot. “Too much will cause your hands to slide on the bar,” he warns.

Putting a few of these guidelines into practice—and getting your grip on often (sporadic lifters tend to have worse blisters)—should help make your blisters ways less intrusive. Which is another good reason not to skip your WOD.

Okay, so now your hands are covered. What about your feet? These are the sneakers fitness trainers actually wear, which pair perfectly with these must-have gym bags.

When you first start lifting weights, you’ll probably notice quite a few new physical side-effects right off the bat: muscle growth, a shift in your metabolism, and — if you’re working hard with iron dumbbells and barbells — newly rough and callused palms.

The skin on your hands is getting stronger along with your muscles, as anyone who has ever learned barbell-centric Olympic lifts can attest. The tough, conditioned calluses might not be as appealing to some as silky smooth palms, but for others they serve as an obvious testament to the hours you’ve spent working hard in the weight room. Your handshake is now even stronger with the rugged ridges, along with your newly-honed grip strength.

But calluses have some practical disadvantages, too. Whether you consider them brag-worthy battle scars or just a pesky side effect of your new weight lifting routine, calluses can cramp your style, not to mention disrupt your workouts.

“Calluses symbolize hard work, but they can be a real issue for someone new to lifting,” Mark Hofman, a StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor and owner of SolFire Fitness in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told MensHealth.com.

If you’re a dedicated lifter doing exercises like snatches and cleans, calluses are inevitable. Here’s how to treat them.

Never, Ever Wear Gloves

They might save your hands, but any gear meant to prevent calluses will sabotage your workout, too.

“Gloves hinder proper technique, especially with kettlebells,” Hofman said. “Your lifts can be stronger without them.”

You don’t need those. No. Rob LewineGetty Images

Gloves can also make it easier to grip the bar in some instances, which takes an important element out of your lift. In other scenarios, like when you perform explosive movements like a clean, you might not be able to get as firm of a handle on the bar, making it more difficult to control the weight. Either way, veteran lifters can always spot a novice (or someone who doesn’t exactly know what they’re doing) if they’re wearing gloves. Wrist wraps or straps are acceptable, and, like weight belts, are sometimes essential for heavy lifts where grip strength just isn’t enough — but you shouldn’t make gloves part of your ever day weight room getup.

But you can reduce friction another way: by chalking up your hands before your start your exercise. Just don’t be that guy who uses too much and leaves behind clouds of white dust on the gym floor.

Never Pick Them

It might be tempting. Your calluses might even come off easily, but resist the temptation to pull at them — you’ll only make the problem worse.

“Pulling, stretching, and picking at calluses basically tells your body to make them thicker and tougher,” Dr. Tyler Hollmig, MD, a dermatologist at Stanford, told MensHealth.com.

Not to mention you could cause them to bleed, in which case you should treat them immediately. Trying to power through cuts and rips will only hurt your grip strength more — you’ll never be able to hit that power clean PR if the open wounds on your hands are bleeding through the lift. Bandage your hands properly and don’t hit the weights without taping up your rips.

“Some folks may think it’s ‘cool’ or ‘tough’ to power though broken calluses,” said Hofman. “But no one wants to see you bleed all over equipment they might need to use next.”

Use the Right Tools

Luckily, reducing calluses is much easier than the reps it took to create them.

Start by soaking rough areas in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes — add epsom salts for better results.

Once soft, shave off dead skin using a pumice stone or microplane (a gentle grater designed for skin), working gently to avoid going too deep or cutting yourself.

Once the calluses are worn down, apply a rich lotion to keep it hydrated.

Corn Huskers Lotion is a popular moisturizer for lifters, but if you want enhanced results, use one that contains the chemical exfoliants urea or ammonium lactate, says Dr. Hollmig.

He recommends you try CeraVe SA Renewing Skin Lotion, which can help to make your hands less leathery.

CeraVe SA Renewing Lotion 8 oz CeraVe amazon.com

“Put it on right after a shower—up to twice a day—to significantly reduce roughness,” Hollmig advised.

Just know the results won’t be instant, just like your weight lifting gains. Once you start moisturizing, you should notice a difference after about two weeks.

RELATED ARTICLES

Hand calluses are common in the fitness circuit and while some weightlifters and Crossfitters sport their ‘gym hands’ with pride, others find the rough and hardened skin on their palms an unsightly nuisance.

If you do a lot of deadlifts, cleans, snatches, and chins, the friction and pressure from gripping the bar can result in thick, hardened areas of the skin. Your skin does this to protect itself from further damage and possible infection.

As well-intentioned as your skin may be, the rough calluses and peeling skin can be extremely bothersome and distracting when you lift. Fortunately, you don’t need to put up with them if you don’t want to. If you’re a regular at the gym, we put together this guide on how to prevent irritating hand calluses without disrupting your workouts.

Moisturize Regularly

Moisturization should be a key part of your regular skin care routine, especially if you struggle with dry skin. When your skin is dry, its protective barrier function is impaired, making it more susceptible to calluses that can crack or tear.

Keeping hands moisturized is essential to improving skin health and reducing friction between your hands and the bar. If you have coconut oil in your house, consider using it to hydrate and soothe the rough skin on your hands. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties and several skin-protective benefits that can keep hands healthy and strong.

Coconut oil can also be greasy, so you may want to apply it at night and avoid touching your face to prevent potential acne breakouts. During the day, consider keeping a nourishing lotion in your gym bag and apply it each time you wash your hands.

Adjust Your Weightlifting Technique

While calluses are a normal part of weightlifting, their size and severity can vary depending on how you grip the bar. Gripping the bar improperly can lead to larger calluses that are more prone to cracks and tearing.

Even advanced lifters don’t always hold the bar correctly. Although gripping the bar in your palms is more secure, the best position for most lifts is to hold the bar between the palm and the fingers along the knuckles. This reduces the potential pinching and friction from the bar that can result in painful calluses.

Wear Weightlifting Gloves

One of the easiest ways to prevent calluses is by investing in a good pair of weightlifting gloves. This type of glove covers the palms and some of the fingers, protecting hands against the friction from the bar.

Weightlifting gloves are somewhat controversial in the gym. While some lifters say that the extra material of the gloves hurts their performance, others say the benefits of weightlifting gloves outweigh the negatives. For example, some people sweat so much in the gym that they struggle to grip the bar properly. Wearing gloves can actually help them achieve a better grip, all while protecting their hands from calluses.

Chalk Up

Using chalk in the gym can help you get a better grip on the bar by reducing the sweat on your hands. It’s also beneficial for quick, repetitive motions that can cause blisters and tears.

Apply chalk after each set to ensure that you get enough chalk to form a protective layer on your hands. The one caveat to using chalk is that it’s extremely drying to the hands. This can make your calluses prone to tearing if you don’t keep them well moisturized.

After your workout, be sure to wash your hands with a moisturizing soap, followed by an intense moisturizer. This will help counteract the drying effects of the chalk and keep calluses from becoming too rough and irritating.

Treatment Options for Hand Calluses

Whatever you do, never pick at your calluses. This can expose a raw and painful wound underneath, putting you at risk of infection. Instead, consider the following methods for treating hand calluses:

  • Soak Your Hands Daily—Place your hands in a bowl of warm water and let them soak for 15-20 minutes. This will soften the calluses and make the dead skin fall off easier. Follow this up with hand lotion to seal in the moisture.
  • File Them Down—Even lifters who believe calluses are a good thing know better than to allow the dead skin to pile up too much. Filing down your calluses will help keep them smooth and allow you to grip the bar more effectively. You can use a file made specifically for hand calluses or use a pumice stone to shave down the rough skin.
  • Apply Salicylic Acid—You may already be familiar with salicylic acid from your acne products. With its powerful exfoliating abilities, salicylic acid can soften the calluses on your hands for easier removal. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Dermatology, researchers used a 30 percent salicylic acid solution and found that it was both a safe and effective treatment for calluses and corns. To avoid damaging the surrounding tissue, consult your doctor before applying salicylic acid.
  • Treat Torn Calluses ASAP—If your callus rips, stop working out immediately. Soak the area in warm water and try to gently clean it with soap. Then, trim away any hanging skin that is in danger of further ripping and cover the wound with a breathable bandage. This will help reduce the risk of infection while speeding up the healing process.

Final Thoughts

While some gym enthusiasts believe that calluses are the price one must pay to lift weights, this isn’t necessarily true. There are several effective ways to prevent and treat gym hands so that they aren’t such an annoying distraction in the gym.

If your calluses are still bothersome after a few weeks of trying these methods, it may be time to see a dermatologist. They can shave down the callus safely using a surgical blade or apply a spot treatment of salicylic acid to loosen the dead and hardened skin.

Toughen Your Hands and Prevent Rips

Having ripped hands is a major bummer, it is considered an injury, and it shouldn’t be looked at as a badge of honor. If your hands are torn and they hurt, doing almost anything in CrossFit (or everyday life) is a challenge. There are very few occasions where a workout is important enough to finish once your hands start to rip.

There are ways to toughen up your hands and prevent tearing in even the most grueling workouts.

First, to toughen up your hands. Get used to hanging on the pull up bar. You will find that not all pull bars are the same. Some are zinc-coated (usually silver) and smooth, others are powder coated (usually black) and have a rougher texture to them. Generally, people seem to have less issues with hand tearing on the smoother zinc-coated bars. Either way, get up on that bar and practice hanging there. This will also work your grip strength and, if you do it right and hang with your core tight and shoulders engaged, you’ll also strengthen your shoulders and lats. Win-win!

The next step after hanging from the bar is to slowly work in some movement. Beat swings are a good way to work on toughening your hand skin and also working on your kip at the same time.

You can take that a step further and work on your grip strength as well. We want to toughen the hand skin, but we also want to toughen all the muscles that do the grabbing. Farmers carry with kettlebells and pinch grip carry with plates are great ways to work on that.

If your hands are sweaty during a workout, chalk can help. Friction is what causes the tearing. If your hands are free to move across the bar smoothly you’ll have less issues. This is part of where the increased grip strength comes in. If you have a strong grip and are confident in your ability to support your weight, you won’t have to death grip the pull up bar. If you aren’t death gripping the bar, your hands can move across it more easily and the skin won’t get stretched and pulled and eventually tear.

Another option is to use grips or gloves. This puts a barrier between your skin and the bar and prevents the friction. Sometimes people feel less secure on the bar though, so be sure to try it out before using them in a workout. Grips and gloves may also interfere with other movements in the workout. You may want the grips for the pull up bar, but cleaning heavy weight on a barbell or swinging a kettlebell may be more difficult and you may not want to have to stop and take them on and off between every movement.

Simple athletic tape across your hands may be a good solution. It provides a barrier for your skin, allows movement across the pull up bar, you can still securely grip the bar and it isn’t likely to interfere with other movements in the workout. Just put one strip around your hands right below where your fingers attach to your hands. Make sure the tape is loose enough to expand all of your fingers.

Be sure to keep calluses under control. This is a big one. You need strong skin on your hands, but as your calluses get too big, they are more likely to tear off in the middle of a workout. There is a sweet spot as far as calluses go. Strong enough to support you without pain, not too big that the whole things tears off once you start moving on the pull up bar. You can get an actual callus shaver to help with hand maintenance. It’s basically a razor blade on a handle. They are pretty safe and general it is difficult to shave too much off.

The other recommendation for keeping calluses under control is a pumice stone. You can get these at drug stores. The best way to use them is to just keep them in the shower and the last thing you do before you get out is grab it and rub it across your soft, water-soaked hands. The top few layers of the callus dead skin will be exfoliated.

Be careful callus shaving or pumice stoning too much before a workout that requires a lot of pull up bar work. That newly exposed skin can be a little tender for a day or so after working on it.

And, unfortunately, even doing all of the right things, you may find yourself with a nasty hand tear at some point. If you feel your hand tearing mid-workout, stop and do something about it. Get some chalk, put grips on, tape your hands, or even modify the movement.

Once you do tear, be sure and clean it out thoroughly. This is going to suck. It will hurt a lot. But you need to get that exposed skin clean to avoid infection. Consider a spray antibiotic as well. Keeping your hands open to the air so the spots can dry out and heal is your best bet. If you have to cover them, use band aids and medical tape to protect the areas. They even make some products that facilitate healing, like liquid skin, which protects the new skin while it heals.

There are whole industries built around the care and curing of ripped hands. You really don’t need a lot though. Most of the things you can do and take care of yourself with minimal amount of accessories.

Take care of your hands. They are important for everything you do – inside and outside of the CrossFit gym.

How to Take Care of Your Hands If You Lift Heavy Weights

skynesher/Getty Images

Recently, just hours before meeting up with a new Tinder match, I beasted a particularly grippy CrossFit workout that basically entailed twirling around a pull-up bar like a wanna-be-gymnast. (Think: an AMRAP of bar muscle-ups, toes-to-bar, and burpee pull-ups).

The aftermath? My hands were totally torn up, and my calluses were hard as rocks. Cute #lewk a first date? Eh, probably not.

Far from just a CrossFit problem, any exercise regime that requires gripping weights or hanging by your hands—Olympic and powerlifting, kettlebell moves, rock climbing, and even rowing—can result in a little hand wreckage (and first date embarrassment!).

Is there anything you can actually do about it, though, or are you forced to choose between “nice” hands and fitness for life? Here, your guide to both preventing and treating beat up hands, whatever your workout of choice may be.

Why do you get calluses on your hands?

To an extent, hand carnage follows a chain reaction. First, calluses. “Some folks may find them unsightly, but calluses are a normal and natural response to lifting weights or doing pull-ups,” explains sports medicine physician Nancy E. Rolnik, M.D. at Remedy Sports and Regenerative Medicine. Trouble is, untreated, a callus can rip or tear off, causing an open wound on your hand. Yikes. (While other problems, like blisters, are awful on their own, for the most part, it all starts with the callus).

But why do calluses happen? “The skin’s physiologic response to repetitive friction, pressure, or trauma is for the top layer of skin (the epidermis) to thicken,” explains John “Jay” Wofford, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas.

Calluses have a protective function, says Dr. Wofford. Basically, calluses are meant to prevent the skin from breaking, cracking, or tearing in the event of future “trauma.” For that reason, you don’t want to completely get rid of hand calluses.

So, are calluses a good or bad thing?

If you came here to figure out how to get rid of calluses on your hands, it’s time for a reality check. You may be tempted to slough off all that rough stuff—but don’t. Callus care follows the Goldilocks principle: You don’t want that skin to be too thick, or too thin, but just right.

If a callus gets too thick, it can “catch” on a pull-up bar or weight during a high-friction movement (like a kipping pull-up, kettlebell swing, or cleans) and cause the whole thing to rip off, leaving a gash/raw spot in the middle of your hand. Um, pass. Um, pass. Further, thick calluses can become painful, thanks to an increase in pain receptors in the thickened skin, according to Dr. Wofford.

On the flip-side, “if the callus is too thin, it can become fragile and tear, which defeats the body’s purpose of forming the callus in the first place,” explains Daniel Aires, M.D., head of dermatology with The University of Kansas Health System.

The solution? Smoothing and shaping the callus enough to keep it from catching, without filing it down completely, says Dr. Aires. Here’s how:

How to Get Rid of Hand Calluses the Right Way

  1. First, soak your hands in warm water for 5 to 15 minutes.
  2. Then, use a pumice stone (Buy It, $7, amazon.com) to safely file it down, leaving a thin layer of callous behind, and sculpt it into something smooth, so no rogue edges can catch and tear.
  3. Optional step: Moisturize your hands. Experts are divided as to whether or not lotion is helpful because “it softens the skin and thin out the callous,” explains Dr. Aires. Some pros worry it softens the skin too much. “My recommendation would be to use it judiciously and conservatively,” says Dr. Wofford. “Plus, too much moisture too close to your workout will cause a slippery grip and interfere with grip ability.” (Related: How to Strengthen Your Grip Strength for a Better Workout).

If you think your calluses have gotten REALLY out of (ahem) hand, Dr. Wofford suggests something a little more hardcore: “I recommend paring down the callus by using a surgical or scalpel blade, which will leave a smoother callous behind.” That said, he notes that this is probably best done by a physician or other medical professional, or should be done with great (!!) care.

What do you do when a callus rips?

One of the more painful hand injuries is the ripped callus—which usually occurs when a jagged callus catches on a pull-up bar. Sometimes bloody, usually painful, and always a workout interrupter (ugh), rips are about as fun as being ghosted. How you care for a rip depends on whether or not they’re partial (meaning, there’s still some skin dangling) or full.

If they’re partial, don’t remove or peel off any flap of skin that remains attached. Instead, gently clean the wound with soap and water—and, if you can handle the burn, rubbing alcohol, says Dr. Wofford. Then thoroughly dry your hand and lay the remaining flap of skin back down over the raw area and apply a Band-Aid to hold it in place. “This flap of skin can function as an additional bandage to the underlying wound, and it’s actually capable of releasing certain signaling molecules that can aid in wound healing,” he says. Plus, the skin flap also protects the wound from dirt, debris, and bacteria. After a few days, the skin underneath will be firm enough that the overlaying rip can be trimmed off.

What if a piece of skin gets completely ripped off? “Don’t worry about placing a completely removed piece of skin over the wound,” says Dr. Wofford. “It’s best to just clean the underlying wound, apply an antibacterial ointment, and a bandage.”

Either way, you might need to lay off hand-heavy workouts for a bit. Any workout that requires you gripping a bar is likely going to further agitate the wound and delay healing—so you’ll have to ask yourself if this particular sweat-sesh is worth dampening your workouts in the coming week. Luckily, there are plenty of workouts (running! rollerblading! swimming!) which are hands-free. (See More: Try This Indoor Workout Running Plan).

Okay, what if I get a blister?

Blisters, like calluses, form due to repetitive friction, explains Dr. Rolnik. They can be pretty small or as big as a grape.

If a blister forms, Dr. Wofford suggests draining the fluid with a sterilized needle. “You can sterilize a needle over a flame or with rubbing alcohol, then puncture the blister with the sharp point.” He says it’s better to do this yourself than to allow the blister to pop naturally because, if it pops on its own, there’s more likely to be trauma to the blister’s “roof.” “The skin overlying the blister should not be peeled away because, again, it serves as a bandage to protect the underlying skin,” he says. Then, top with a bandage for added protection.

You can still work out, but workouts involving pull-up bars and barbells are more likely to peel away the top layer and ultimately delay healing. So, if you can, opt for exercises that don’t pose that risk to the blister roof (like this super short leg workout or this ab finisher).

You may consider investing in a pair of weight lifting gloves to wear for times like these. “Properly bandaging the wound and then wearing lifting gloves can help add a few layers of protection to the skin,” says Dr. Wofford.

Should I invest in lifting gloves?

If lifting gloves can help protect your healing skin, it’s understandable that you might wonder whether it’s just best to wear lifting gloves all the time. But that’s like asking, “should I download Tinder?”—the answer depends on who you are, what you’re looking for, and your needs.

“Lifting gloves can be super helping in preventing the formation of calluses,” says Dr. Aires. So helpful, in fact, that you’re actually interfering with your body’s ability to form that protective shield between your hands and the barbell.

That’s why, if you’re okay having slightly rougher hands, he suggests you don’t wear gloves. Going bareback will allow the skin on your hands to thicken, which (when maintained) can actually prevent you from ripping in the future, he explains.

But if ~silky smooth~ hands are a priority of yours, go ahead and wear them! Just keep in mind: “If you go with gloves, you’ll need to wear them every single time you lift,” says Dr. Aires. (Related: Breathable Workout Gear to Keep You Cool and Dry)

Oh, and wash them regularly. Because your hands are sweaty and weights can be dirty, gloves can become a cesspool for bacteria and dirt, he says. Ick. If you own or are thinking about buying some lifting gloves, check out our guide to The Best Lifting Gloves (Plus, How to Properly Wash Them).

What about grips, lifting straps, or chalk?

Grips: Unlike gloves, which are usually worn for an entire workout, grips (like this pair from Bear KompleX, Buy It, $40, amazon.com) are typically only worn for movements on the pull-up bar. Dr. Wofford recommends that CrossFit athletes, gymnasts, and other exercisers who are on the pull-up bar a lot experiment with them because they can help reduce tension and friction on your hands. But, like lifting gloves, using them too much can prevent any callus from forming at all.

Lifting straps: In addition to grips, if you’re a powerlifter or Olympic lifter, you might experiment lifting straps (like these IronMind Sew-Easy Lifting Straps, Buy It, $19, amazon.com). “These can be very helpful in protecting the hands while performing certain types of heavy lifts because they redistribute tension and weight away from your hands and grip strength and into your forearms and wrists,” says Dr. Wofford. When used appropriately, they can significantly reduce friction and rubbing on the hands and help prevent rips and tears, he says.

You should ask your coach if lifting straps are right for you, but anyone working on moves like Romanian deadlifts and shoulder shrugs may benefit from the hand-protecting mechanisms of these straps, he says. Good to know. (Related: How to Properly Do a Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells)

Chalk: Because sweat increases friction, Dr. Aires says chalk (try a re-fillable chalk ball, Buy It, $9, amazon.com) is a decent alternative to gloves because it’ll absorb some of the sweat, thus decreasing friction. It’s worth noting, though, that keeping your hands dry by wiping the sweat off on an absorbent towel may work just as well, says Dr. Rolnik.

The Bottom Line

Some callus formation is good and is ultimately intended to protect your hands—which is why you don’t want to get rid of calluses on your hands.

That said, “you do want to monitor your hands for signs of skin irritation or redness since this is usually the first sign of pending injury,” says Dr. Rolnik. “Strength training is really good for you, so you don’t want to do so much damage to your hands that it interferes with your ability to train.”

Oh, and ICYWW, we didn’t go on a second date. But I like to think that’s because we had no chemistry, not because my hands looked like deli meat.

  • By Gabrielle Kassel

4 Ways To Protect Your Hands If You’re Always At The Gym

Going to the gym and lifting weights is generally a positive experience. You look great, you feel great and you are healthy.

For those who don’t lift weights at all, or for those who are new to the game, it can be difficult to find any disadvantages.

However, for those with a little bit more experience in the weight room, you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say “gym hands,” won’t you?

The act of picking up heavy weights on a daily basis can have a massive impact on your hands: both how they look and how they feel.

Unless you are a gym rat who has nothing better to do other than spend your entire life in the weight room, the side effects of lifting weights can leave you feeling extremely embarrassed by the dry, callus-filled hands that were once soft and smooth.

Some call them battle scars.

In a way, they are. But when they affect your life outside of the gym, it’s time to start paying attention.

So, what are gym hands?

If you have ever lifted weights for any period of time, you will know exactly how dry and callus-ridden your hands can become after just a few sessions.

The rubber materials that cover a lot of the gym equipment you are exposed to on a daily basis can potentially lead to the development of eczema, and the constant friction between your hands and the weights can cause hard, stubborn calluses to form on the pads of your fingers.

Not only can these conditions be extremely painful, they can also be embarrassing, especially if you work in a job where you need to shake other people’s hands all the time.

Here are the best ways to prevent gym hands.

If — like the majority of men — the presence of dry skin and painful calluses was not what you were looking for when you signed up for the gym, fear not.

I have come up with four simple ways to prevent these gym hands from developing in the first place.

None of these will impact your schedule, and they will in no way affect your results.

So, if you want to eradicate the embarrassment of having hands like a caveman, keep on reading.

1. Wear gym gloves.

The first one is fairly obvious: Wear gym gloves.

If you are new to the gym and your hands are free from the scars of battle, investing in a quality pair of gym gloves will be the best way for you to prevent them from developing.

Gym gloves can be picked up for just a few bucks, and they don’t look as embarrassing as they sound.

A lot of men wear gloves in the gym, so this is nothing to be embarrassed by.

Don’t let the egotistical, body-building dogma get to you. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

2. Moisturize daily.

That’s right. It’s not just for women anymore.

One of the best ways to protect your hands from dryness is to moisturize them at least twice per day: once in the morning and once at night.

It only takes a couple of seconds, but it will have a massive impact on the health of your hands.

No matter how hard you go in the gym, you will always be confident while shaking hands.

3. Soak your hands daily.

While this method of softening hands after a workout is more for those who have already developed gym hands, it can also be a great way to keep the hands soft.

The premise is simple.

Soak your hands in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes per day. For better results, you can add Epsom salts to the water.

Next, take a pumice stone and slowly scratch away at the rough parts of your hands.

This will get rid of any hard, excess skin that has developed from the friction of lifting the weights.

Doing this daily will keep your hands soft and free from calluses, no matter how hard you train.

4. Never pick calluses.

While it might be incredibly tempting to pick off the hard lumps of skin that can develop on the pads of your hands, doing so will only make things worse.

Picking dry or dead skin will only get rid of the problem temporarily. The skin will start to grow back thicker and thicker, to make the skin tougher.

There is nothing worse than a hand full of calluses. They are hard, uncomfortable and not very nice to look at.

If the temptation becomes too much, simply refer to the above soaking method.

Pull-ups are one of the all-time great functional movements, but can have some collateral damage on the hands. As we turn our attention to improving our pull-ups this month, we thought it would be timely to pass along some tips to reduce the wear and tear on your hands!

Calluses typically form just below the fingers as a result of friction and pressure. Some level of callusing is to be expected from CrossFit, and is actually protective. However, without proper care, calluses can rip mid-WOD, especially during pull-ups. We also see rips in the middle of the palm due to pull-up friction. Neither type of rip is a whole lot of fun.

To minimize the chance of ripped skin:

1) Care for your calluses in between workouts

  • If they get rough, file them down using a pumice stone, callus shaver or pedi-egg
  • For tough guys and gals, use a dremel or fine grain sandpaper (really, both work great)
  • Moisturize regularly with lotion or Vaseline petroleum jelly

2) Practice proper pull-up grip form.

  • The ideal grip is a full reach-around, with the palm on top of the bar, thumb curled around to touch the index finger, and an external shoulder rotation (just like a barbell grip) so you feel pressure towards the outside of the hands.

3) Use chalk sparingly

  • Chalk can help prevent slipping when things get hot and sweaty, but is a prime culprit in ripped skin. Some CrossFitters never use chalk for this reason – it is a matter of personal preference.

If your skin does rip during a workout:

1) Prevent infection. This is a must.

  • Clean your hands immediately and thoroughly with soapy water. (Yes it will hurt)
  • Use an antibacterial ointment or hydrogen peroxide. (Yes it will hurt)

2) Accelerate recovery. Every coach has their own recipe, use at least once/day until recovered:

  • Caleb: Preparation H followed by Vitamin E (no pain)
  • Beau: NewSkin (Yes it will hurt) covered with moleskin
  • Eric’s old coach: Vaseline covered with a band-aid (no pain)

These three techniques have yet to be subjected to a rigorous scientific controlled experiment, so please share your experiences with us. Regardless of whether you use a, b or c, you should be back to 100% within a week or less.

Correctly Caring for Calluses

You apply sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, put on bug spray to protect it from getting bites, and slather on lotion to prevent it from becoming too dry. We are always trying to protect our skin, as we should. It’s the least we can do when you consider all it does for us! Our skin serves as a protective barrier against a host of outside elements, including pressure and friction. When these occur, skin reacts in an attempt to protect itself by forming thick patches called calluses. Unfortunately, this natural response to fend off friction can backfire, causing even more pressure and considerable discomfort.

Rubbing You the Wrong Way

The biggest culprit for the formation of calluses is typically your shoes. Footwear that is too tight can place an excessive amount of pressure on certain areas of your feet. Shoes that are too loose can slip and cause friction. Repeated rubbing stresses your skin, resulting in the build-up of thick layers of dead tissue. The bottom line is, if you want to avoid calluses, wear shoes that fit properly! Also, be sure to always wear socks with them, since they provide an added layer of protection. Stay away from high heels, too, that force too much weight upon your forefoot and tend to squish your toes.

Dealing with Deformities

Sometimes the reason behind the development of a callus is an underlying foot deformity such as a bunion or hammertoe. Because of the uneven weight distribution and abnormal protrusions these cause, such deformities provide pressure points for friction to occur. Using padding in these areas can help protect them.

Flat feet can also make you susceptible to calluses. In this circumstance, orthotic shoe inserts can provide added support and cushioning, as well as help to correct your biomechanical deficiencies that can be contributing to the problem.

Leave the Care to Us

The thick, layered skin of calluses can not only be uncomfortable, but can also dry out, increasing your risk of fissures, and opening the door for infection. This is especially dangerous if poor circulation from diabetes has compromised your immune system. For this same reason, you should never try to cut away the dead skin on your own. Let the experts take care of it! At Country Foot Care, we will pare down the thickened layers to relieve pressure, then determine and treat the underlying cause of the problem. We may also recommend medication to soften the area, as well as suggest strategies to prevent recurrence, including switching to better fitting, more comfortable shoes. In extreme cases, a procedure to excise the hardened patch may be necessary, but this is rare.

If you are noticing calluses forming on your feet, it is time to make an appointment to see one of our talented doctors. You can reach us at either of our offices during regular hours or you can make an appointment online using the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT button in the upper right hand corner of this page. Let Country Foot Care help get you back to feeling comfortable in your own skin again!

Calluses on the hands

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