bath and body

This Climber’s Salve Is the Only Thing That Heals My Dry, Cracked Hands

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Jeremy Rellosa

My hands are constantly dry. And when I climb, I use chalk on my hands, which saps them of moisture even more. The gnarliest my hands have ever been was after one long winter climb in New Mexico. After sticking my hands into rough sandstone cracks for six hours, it felt like they had been put through a cheese grater. To make it worse, temperatures had fallen below freezing and winds were gusting around 20 miles per hour. When I got home, I remember wincing as I washed my hands, because it stung to use soap as I washed away dirt from 10,000 tiny cuts.

Then my friend at the climbing gym tipped me off to this tiny tin of hand salve, which is made with aloe, arnica, chaparral, and radish root, among other ingredients. He said it’s made specifically for climbers and works wonders for dry, cracked skin. After the first use, I was sold. My knuckles were immediately less white and chapped. The next day, my hands still felt a bit achy as they were recovering from all the nicks and scrapes, but my skin felt softer and rehydrated, like a desert cactus that finally got a bit of rain. It rejuvenated my wind- and rock- beaten hands in a way that normal lotion hadn’t before. Since 2021, it’s been the only hand salve I’ve found that heals my hands, especially in the winter.

I’ve used regular hand creams for years, but as a climber, they presented an interesting problem. Climbers want as much friction as possible between their skin and the rock, which is why they use chalk, so they can better grip the holds — both on actual rocks outside, and indoors, on plastic holds. On my climbing trips, I would never want to use Jergens or Aveeno, which are often too greasy. The slightest smear of lotion on a hold could ruin another climber’s experience, so I stayed away from them.

But Allez’s cream is different — it’s a bit thicker and slightly clumpy, and has more of a paste consistency. You scoop out a little dollop (a little goes a long way), almost like a hair product, and begin working it onto your skin. I was surprised that it didn’t sting when I first applied it, which is often the case with other creams and lotions. I love that it absorbs quickly, and there’s no filmy layer of cream on top that won’t rub in. The lack of residue is not just good for climbing but also for typing on my laptop or using my phone.

This is what my hands usually look like before I apply the salve.

My girlfriend has even drier hands than mine — she says her skin can feel “like a lizard.” During the pandemic, her hands got dried out from washing them constantly, and now that dryness flares up in the winter. After I gave her my pitch about this salve, she tried it and became a believer. She likes how quickly the Allez cream sinks into her skin, and it doesn’t leave it sticky, unlike her other creams that have coconut oil and other similarly moisturizing ingredients.

After: My editor says I could be a hand model.

Even though I’m not applying it every single day, my skin feels better the more I use it. My knuckles and the backs of my hands feel less irritated and itchy when I apply it after hours of being outside. I just wish it didn’t cost $20 for this small tin, because I end up rationing it for when my hands are in the worst shape. And then to tide myself over, I use other hand creams a bit begrudgingly.

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This Climber’s Salve Rejuventates My Dry, Cracked Hands