Project Description

Date: June 9th, 2017

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Justin Brown and Skin Care for Climbers

Justin Brown is a climber of 20+ years who had skin issues. His hands were sweaty and he got split tips too often. He decided to start experimenting with skin care products, including lotions, balms, and Antihydral, and found that a combination of all of them worked best for him and his friends. And that’s how Rhino Skin Solutions was born. He now has a line of products made specifically for skin care for climbers.

I asked him to be on the show because I knew he’d done his research on all the different ingredients he uses in his line of skin care products for climbers. I figured he could enlighten all of us as to their efficacy and side effects they might come with. We talked for a while about the active ingredient in Antihydral, an antiperspirant, which is methenamine, and the research that’s been done on it, which was fascinating to me because I’ve always been a little wary of the stuff myself. He eased my mind about it.

He also gave a bunch of tips for taking care of your hands in general, and exactly how to use his products because it can be a little bit confusing how often and how much to use when you’re talking about drying agents.

I hope this interview helps you avoid split tips and sweaty hands so you can climb your best without distractions.

Justin Brown Interview Details

  • Why you should moisturize your hands
  • Is methenamine (antihydral’s main ingredient) safe?
  • How to best repair your skin
  • What kind of soap should you avoid?
  • Do hand balms make hands too soft?
  • The main things you should do to keep your hands healthy
  • Antihydral vs Rhino products
  • How you know if you’re using too much

Justin Brown Links

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Photo Credit

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Transcript

Neely Quinn: Welcome to the Training Beta Podcast, where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and I have to let you know, first thing, that this will be the last podcast for a few weeks. I’ll be back in a few weeks, but I am having surgery on my other shoulder on Monday, which is three days from now. I had shoulder surgery on my left shoulder three years ago, and when I was being rolled into the operating room, I remember saying to my doctor- Dr. Hackett- “I’ll see you soon, for my other shoulder”. So I’ve been dealing with this since then, and you guys have been dealing with it because you have to listen to me bitch about it all the time. So I decided that I have tried everything and it’s still not where I want it to be, so I’m going to have him fix the two tears in my labrum and take out the bone spurs that I think are causing most of the pain. Hopefully I will be able to climb in another six weeks or so, and be able to climb semi-hard again in another three to six months. That’s what happened with the other shoulder. In any case, I am going to need a few weeks to recover, and so no podcasts for that time.

But, in the meantime, I have an interview for you today with Justin Brown. Justin Brown is the owner of Rhino Skin Solutions, and you can find that at rhinoskinsolutions.com. Justin is a climber, he’s been climbing for over 20 years. He lives in Bend, and he climbed at Smith a lot, but anyway- he has skin problems, or he did. So he decided that he needed to make skin products to help with not only his sweaty hands, but also the splits in his tips that he was getting all the time. He did some experimentation, and he now has a whole line of products that deal with sweaty hands, and tip splits. That’s like a tongue twister. He uses the same ingredient that is in Antihydral. Antihydral is a very strong anti-perspirant, but I’ve always heard that there could be negative effects of it, so I really wanted to talk to him about the science about the ingredients in Antihydral, because he uses them in his products- if they’re bad for us, if they’re good for us, if it’s just totally fine. He has a lot to say about it, he’s done a ton of research, he’s a super nerd about skin, which I really appreciate. He is going to educate you on not only how to use his products, but what to do in general to take care of your hands for climbing.

The other thing he is doing is giving you guys a discount- a 15% discount on anything in his store. If you go to rhinoskinsolutions.com, and use the code “BETARHINO”, all one word, you will get 15% off, so thank you Justin, for that. And here he is, enjoy.

Neely Quinn: Alright welcome to the show Justin, thank you for being with me today.

Justin Brown: Sure thing, excited to be here.

Neely Quinn: Okay, so for anyone who doesn’t know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Justin Brown: Sure. I’ve been rock climbing for over twenty years. I started in Ohio at a climbing gym that had just opened in 1994, or something. Just fell in love with it, and climbed from coast to coast a little bit. I settled here in Bend, OR about nine years ago. Great community out here, everybody pushes each other really well, and Smith Rock tends to be a little bit of an ego crusher. I think that makes the community band together and I really have dove in deeper into climbing while living here than I have in a long time. Just enjoying it, and started Rhino a few years ago- two years ago about now. It’s a great way for me to give back to the community, and just kind of get even deeper into this crazy climbing life. That’s kind of where I am now as a climber.

Neely Quinn: Cool. So why did you start Rhino, and tell us what Rhino is.

Justin Brown: Okay. Good question. Rhino is a line of skincare products for rock climbers, and really any athlete or person that works with their hands that needs high performance skin. We make repair cream for rock climbers. It’s got some salicylic acid to help skin turnover and some essential nutrients for the skin. We also make anti-perspirants. We have three different levels of antiperspirants for rock climbers. They include skin nourishing ingredients as well, and come in different levels of anti-perspirant strengths, so you can really tailor it to your specific skin type, which is kind of a new thing on the market.

Neely Quinn: Okay. So you do the repair and the anti-perspirants, anything else?

Justin Brown: Repair, antiperspirants, and then we have a Split Stick as well. That’s a balm, a lot like some of the others- J Tree, and ClimbOn and stuff. It kind of rounds out the lineup of stuff. The repair and the anti-perspirants are for skin that’s intact, and then the Split Stick is designed for if you have an open wound, like a cut or a split, or an avulsion, or flapper. So it kind of fills that niche.

Neely Quinn: What is it, like super glue? Or what does it do?

Justin Brown: No, it’s a beeswax based product. So if you get a cut or a split, you have an open wound, and not only does it bleed, but moisture escapes from there and it is an easy way for bacteria to get inside your body. So what you want is something you can put on that open wound to kind of keep the bacteria out. You want to have something that is an antiseptic for the wound, and you also want to keep all the moisture under the wound in, so it’s an occlusive, and it helps create the perfect environment for that wound to heal.

Neely Quinn: So it’s not like- does it have anything like Neosporin on it? I know when people have cuts wherever, they’re prone to putting Neosporin or some sort of anti-bacterial on it. Is it like that at all?

Justin Brown: Yes… it’s more of a natural solution to Neosporin. Neosporin is great, and it’s definitely proven to heal. The way Neosporin was created, is there was oil workers working around pipes, and they would get nicks and cuts and stuff. Neosporin is a petroleum based product, and they found that when they got the petroleum on their hands, their wounds would heal faster. So it’s this jelly by-product of making different oil products. So Vaseline, and things like Neosporin, are that by-product. Basically, what they do, is they are an antiseptic and they’re an occlusive. So the Split Stick is very similar, except it’s not a petroleum product, it’s a beeswax based product. There’s been studies that show that things like honey- we have honey in it as well- that honey and beeswax can kind of do similar things to those petroleum products.

Neely Quinn: Okay two questions. Can you define occlusive?

Justin Brown: Occlusive is a cover that is not breathable, so in the context we are talking about, it’s a cover that is not breathable. So Gore-Tex could be an occlusive as well, but in this case it’s a wax that you are putting over your skin, or over your wound, so nothing can get in or out.

Neely Quinn: Okay. And I said I had a second question. Do you think that Neosporin or any petroleum based thing works the same as beeswax- not because there is something magical about petroleum, but because they both just keep everything out and everything in?

Justin Brown: Yes. I am not 100% sure on the exact efficacy of both of them together, I would have to look that up. But I think they are probably both pretty proven. The main factors in a wound healing are going to be how clean it is, the bacterial load that is in the wound, your diet. If you’re eating a lot of sugar products, that’s not going to be awesome for you. And then skin moisture, and skin health. Being an occlusive is probably one of the most important parts of that wound healing, and then being anti-bacterial is the other really important part. I could see them just thinking about the two products off the top of my head, I could see them being very effective at about the same rate. I’m not sure if there is something in the petroleum product that helps be an anti-bacterial or whatever, but with our split stick we also add our tea tree oil to it, and honey, and those are proven anti-bacterial agents. We haven’t done side by side tests- I’m not sure which would be the most effective.

Neely Quinn: Yeah. You’re not a research lab, you mean?

Justin Brown: Exactly. Research lab of one.

[laughter]

Neely Quinn: Yeah. I want to back up a little bit, because I want to get a little bit more about why you started it. What were you finding with yourself and other climbers that you found a need for this niche to be filled?

Justin Brown: So, when I was a single rock climber, I would go rock climbing and I would climb, get my hands dirty, stay chalky, go eat burritos, drink a beer, and washing my hands had nothing to do with rock climbing. They get chipped up, and they’d stay chipped up for the whole trip or until I took a shower, and they’d just be dry and disasters. As I got older and wiser, I started rock climbing and then washing my hands, and when I met my wife, she used hand care products. We’d be in the house, eating dinner, and then after dinner she’d put on a hand care product, and I was like “Ah, why do you do that, it’ll make your hands soft”, because that was the idea back then. People were like, you just want hard dry hands. But her hands were always in good shape, and she never really complained of skin issues. So one night, I was like “Alright, I’ll try your hand care products”. So I tried it, and the next day, my skin was perfect. It was better than it had ever been, and I just thought that stuff was magic.

I used it for a few days at first, and it smelled great, so I put it on my hands, and would go to sleep smelling like mint and flowers. It was awesome. But being the classic rock climber, I was like “Man that stuff is really expensive, I bet we can make this for less”. It was like a top of the line hand care- it was actually a foot care product from Aveda. So we kind of looked at all of the ingredients and we were like “Huh, there are a lot of ingredients in here that we don’t think we need”. We kind of looked it all up, saw what every ingredient was, and made our own batch. We ruined a lot in the process, but we came up with what is the Repair Cream now. And it works. We are just as surprised as everyone else, but every time we put it on our hands, and every time somebody else puts it on their hands it seems to work, and feel good.

So we came up with the Repair Cream there, and then I have super sweaty hands. If I am sport climbing, I am chalking up every other move- chalking up in the middle of cruxes. If I’m bouldering I take my chalk bag with me- so I was an Antihydral user. You just kind of ride that wave of dry skin, sweaty skin, dry skin. It’s finicky- you have to keep it out of your cracks. So one day, I was like, what happens if we put Antihydral in Aveda foot cream? So I did that- I kind of thought about how much to put in there, and I think I just did 50/50. So we ended up with about 7% Antihydral- 7% active ingredient of Antihydral- and the Repair Cream. We brought it down to Bishop, and about five of us used it, and I’d like blame it on the product, but we all sent out hardest rock climbs, and our skin felt great, and we climbed multiple days in a row. It could have been the training, it could have been the psyche, it could have been the crew, but I’m blaming it on the product. I’m just taking 100% credit for everybody.

I talked it over a little bit, and we decided to try and make Antihydral, basically. So, again, we looked at the ingredients of the Antihydral, we got on Google, we translated all of the ingredients and figured out what we wanted, what was good about it, what was bad about it. We kind of came up with our own formulation, and that is- so our first idea was, well, Antihydral is really strong. The thing we don’t want to happen is we don’t want people to mess their skin up. That was kind of our overarching- okay if we are going to do this, we don’t want people calling us and being like “Hey my skin is a disaster because of your product”. We cut the effectiveness- well we cut the active ingredient in half from Antihydral, and came out with the Dry Spray. That was our first two products- Repair Cream and Dry Spray, and we kind of went from there.

Neely Quinn: Okay so I am going to back up a little bit and ask you about Antihydral. I know that you can’t really get it in the United States, and it’s because- I think it’s because it’s not approved by the FDA.

Justin Brown: Correct.

Neely Quinn: So tell me, what is wrong with Antihydral? Is it dangerous for us?

Justin Brown: Okay, so Antihydral is not approved by the FDA in the United States, but there are studies that show that it’s highly effective as well as not very dangerous. The reason we went with methenamine, which is the active ingredient in Antihydral and our products, the National Institute of Health did some studies, or at least wrote about some studies, with methenamine. The studies had glutaraldehyde, which is a formaldehyde type ingredient, methenamine, iontophoresis, and aluminum chloride. All of those are antiperspirants. They did studies with multiple people, and they found out for long term effectiveness and safety, methenamine is the most effective of all of those ingredients. Glutaraldehyde is a little bit caustic, aluminum chloride works, but there is some health concerns about it, iontophoresis worked, but through long term usage and I don’t think it was effective as methenamine.

So safety wise, I’ll get back to why it’s not FDA approved, but I just want to explain what methenamine is first. Methenamine is formaldehyde and ammonia, and they bond them together. What happens when you put methenamine on your skin, the sweat in your skin is slightly acidic, and it breaks the methenamine molecule apart, and the ammonia evaporates immediately, and the formaldehyde is left behind. When formaldehyde gets in contact with your skin, which is protein, it denatures the protein molecule, or the protein strand. So when you are thinking about protein, it’s like a curly-cue type strand. When the formaldehyde gets on it, it makes the end of the string kind of go straight and limp, and that little piece of denatured protein falls into a sweat gland, and plugs it. It’s called a “precipitated protein plug”. So that little protein bit stays in your sweat gland, and that’s why your hands don’t sweat. So after three days, it kind of repairs itself. The formaldehyde is long gone- it goes away basically immediately- and your hands start sweating again. It’s pretty safe. Methenamine basically does not get absorbed into your body, it evaporates off.

The reason it’s not approved by the FDA is that it’s a really old drug. I think it was made in 1936 or something, well before the FDA was invented. So when the FDA started regulating drugs, they said if there was a drug made before the FDA came around, they’re basically grandfathered in and they don’t have to be approved. So it gets used- it used to be a prescription drug for bladder infections, and it still can be used for bladder infections. There’s a couple of over the counter things. But it’s never been used over the counter for sweating. I’m not really sure why not. You can get it by prescription, you can go to your doctor and they would prescribe methenamine if you asked for it. But for some reason, it just hasn’t made it to the over the counter antiperspirants. It’s probably because aluminum chloride is a cheaper ingredient and easier to get.

The studies show that methenamine is an excellent product. They’ve done some studies with mice, and they’ve fed mice heaps of methenamine and they don’t have really any ill effects. There’s no increase chance of cancer with them- they just basically are mice. They’ve done some studies with people who make tires- so methenamine helps in the vulcanization process of rubber. I forgot what country it was that did this study- it wasn’t in the United States. But these people that make tires are around methenamine all day, and it was a good group of people to study for the effectiveness and the risk of methenamine. They found that there was, once again, no increased risk of cancer there. Basically, the only side effects they saw were respiratory distress because methenamine was in the air, and skin irritation. There’s a lot of myth about methenamine, causing cancer, and climbers are like “I’m going to put it on my hands every day?!”. But you’re actually putting an extremely small amount of methenamine on your skin.

Neely Quinn: So compared to actual Antihydral, how much methenamine is in your products?

Justin Brown: Okay, so Antihydral is I think 13% methenamine, and it’s in a talc based product. So when you put that on your skin, you’re putting a fair amount of methenamine on your skin, and as it’s shown by it’s effectiveness, it’s extremely effective. So our Performance Cream is 4% methenamine, and our Dry Spray is 8% methenamine, and Mikey’s Tip Juice is 12% methenamine.

Neely Quinn: Okay, so pretty close to regular Antihydral.

Justin Brown: Yup, yup. Mikey’s Tip Juice is an aloe-based product, so you’re going to get a lot less methenamine on your skin than with the talc based product, just because of the thickness of the layer you’re putting on your skin. It’s the same percentage, but you’re getting less molecules on your skin most likely.

Neely Quinn: And one of the main differences between you guys and just plain Antihydral is that you have other nourishing ingredients- like the aloe for instance.

Justin Brown: Yeah, so the aloe is there because we wanted a humectant. A humectant is kind of a liquid- it’s like honey. Honey is a humectant, glycerin is a humectant. It has a certain amount of dissolved solids, so it helps transport moisture into your skin, or pull moisture from your hands up into your skin, so it kind of helps regulate your skin’s environment. And it helps get the ingredients into your skin, so that’s kind of why we used the aloe. We also have magnesium in all of our products across the board. The reason we do that is because magnesium is good for connective tissue, and skin health, and it’s also a mineral that a lot of people don’t get in their diet at the amounts they need. That’s what I hear- you may know a little bit more about that than I do. So the skin is a great way to absorb magnesium, so we put it across the board in everything, and just kind of feel that’s a good way for people to get it real easy.

Neely Quinn: Okay, can you go through your products that have Antihydral in them and tell us who should be using them, and how they should be using them?

Justin Brown: Yes. So the Performance Cream, the Dry Spray, and Mikey’s Tip Juice all have methenamine in them. The Performance is the least concentrated, and it’s also combined with a skin conditioner, and so it’s made for consecutive day uses. If you are on a road trip, or if you are training hard, or if you’re home crag is in perfect condition and you know you are going to be doing a lot of rock climbing and you want to maintain a nice dry skin, you can use Performance every day if you want. Dry Spray, twice as strong. For me, I’ll spray Dry Spray on my hands… I’ll do three pumps per hand once or twice, and then I’ll change to Performance until I want my hands to sweat again.

Personally, I don’t really use Mikey’s Tip Juice hardly ever. I’ve probably used it four times a year if there is a crimper that I know I’m going to grab that’s going to be really sharp and I want that tougher skin, I’ll use Mikey’s Tip Juice. But for me, Dry Spray and Performance Cream are my go to, and that’s pretty much what I would recommend for everybody. I think Mikey’s Tip Juice is super effective, but I think it’s probably too effective for 90% of the people out there, especially if you are new to antiperspirants for your hands, I’d stay away from Mikey’s Tip Juice until you try the Dry Spray or Performance until you know how you interact with it a little bit better.

So for me, let’s say I’m training at home, climbing in the gym a bunch, I like my hands to sweat or just be normal and natural, and then I’ll use Dry Spray before a performance stage. So if you’re training, doing your thing, let your hands sweat. They’ll be a little more healthy, skin environment-wise. Unless you sweat a ton, and then you might want to mitigate that a little bit. I think with training you have a two week performance stage usually. Use some Dry Spray, spray it on your hands, wait until the next day, check out your hands, if they seem good that’s awesome. If you still want them a little drier, you can use Dry Spray again, and that should dry them out pretty good for the next day. From that point on, I’ll use the Performance Cream, pretty much on a daily basis for that entire performance period. I’ll use Dry Spray for two days, then I’ll use Performance Cream for the rest of the trip, as well as I’ll use Repair Cream at night, multiple times, just to keep my hands conditioned and my skin flexible.

Neely Quinn: Okay, that’s great. How do people know if they’re using too much? What’s going to happen to them?

Justin Brown: So if you use too much antiperspirant, your skin is going to become what everybody describes as glassy. This is a lot more evident I think in the climbing gym than it is outside, just because the nature of climbing holds in the gym is a lot smoother and the texture is a lot more consistent.  It would be a great place to test our product out if you’re new to it. You don’t want to- if you’re a marathon runner, you’re not going to eat something new on the day of your marathon run, you’re going to stick with your diet.

Neely Quinn: You’d be surprised, but yeah, that’s optimal.

[laughter]

Justin Brown: Theoretically. So, where was I going. Oh, glassy skin. So your skin is going to be glassy, and what that means is you’re going to grab a hold, and there is going to be no moisture in your skin, so you’re going to grab a hold and it’s not going to feel tacky. That hold is going to feel like there is no texture- your hand is going to come off of it, they’ll slide off of it, where otherwise they wouldn’t. So we found is I have these cool little skin humidity testers.

Neely Quinn: [laughs] Nice.

Justin Brown: You can get them on amazon.com. They’re awesome. They’re like $25, some of them work great, some of them don’t work at all. But there is one that graphs your skin humidity, every time on your phone, so it links up with bluetooth. But all of the instructions are in Japanese, so I couldn’t get it to work with my phone, but it seems like it would work great [laughs]. But the one I use, it’s super simple. You just push it on the pad of your skin, you wait two seconds, and then it tells you the oil content of your skin, and the humidity of your skin. We’ve kind of figured out that the ideal humidity of your skin is about 35%.

Neely Quinn: Hmm.

Justin Brown: Somewhere between like 27-40%, I’d say. If you go over that humidity wise, so if you’re above 40, your skin is going to be wet, and you’re going to just go through tons of chalk, it’ll be more likely to tear, it’ll be more likely to come off holds, and just isn’t going to be as durable. If you are below the upper 20s, your skin is going to get that glassy feeling, and it’s not going to have as much friction on the holds as you want. So using our products, we have a bunch of different levels, and you can kind of get into that proper humidity level. So you don’t want your hands totally dry, but you don’t want them soaking wet either.

Neely Quinn: This is fascinating. You’ve taken this to a whole different level.

Justin Brown: Oh man, I was just delving deep into a whole new thing yesterday too.

Neely Quinn: Oh yeah? What was that?

Justin Brown: Well I’m glad you asked. I think a big problem with climbers right now seems to be splits. So I’m trying to figure out how to have people not split their skin. My original thought was, you can put a little… so people tend to get splits in the same place. Not only on their own skin, but everybody seems to get splits in the same place, which is your top digit of your pointer finger, your middle finger, or your ring finger. Like, just above the crease. And so, how do you prevent that, because people don’t seem to be too psyched on it. So what I have been telling people to go, and I haven’t really gotten much feedback about it yet, but I’d like people to get Repair Cream and just spread it right there their skin splits. My idea is that it will add a little bit of moisture to the skin and give it a little bit more flexibility.

So I was diving deeper into this whole theory in the past week or two, and I’ve learned a lot about skin structure and it’s tensile strength and all that. So what I found out, is your skin is made up of collagen and elastin. The elastin doesn’t really do too much structurally, but the collagen does. Collagen is just a bunch of little protein fibers that basically look like just a woven- I was going to say a woven mat, but those are usually pretty uniform. It’s basically like a cotton ball- there’s fibers just going all different ways. When you pull on your skin, when your skin receives tension, those fibers line up in the direction of pull. That’s what gives your skin strength. So if you pull your skin sideways, they line up sideways, if you pull it vertically, they line up vertically. They kind of adjust on a microlevel to wherever the stressor is. I was like, whoa that’s amazing!

So, they found if they kept pulling those fibers, they split into smaller fibers, and distribute the stress even more. They took some skin, not on a person, it was, I think it was rabbit skin. But they also used cadaver skin from people’s backs and stuff. They made a little slice in it, and they pulled on the skin then, and they found that it didn’t continue to tear. The collagen fibers all aligned to prevent the skin from continuing to tear, and it just started stretching. So if you get a split, you can keep climbing, and that split isn’t necessarily going to get worse, it’s just maybe going to get deeper, but the skin around that split is going to stay super strong. But how do you prevent that split from happening in the first place? I’m going on a super long tangent, so feel free to jump in.

Neely Quinn: No no, please.

Justin Brown: So we need to prevent the split from happening. One of the things with material is if you have a uniform material and there is a weakness or an inconsistency in that material, that’s where that weakness is going to be. That’s where that split or break is going to happen. We get into filing, and should you file, or shouldn’t you file, do you want thick skin, do you want thin skin- that whole conversation. Your epidermis, the outer layer of your skin, is going to be dry and super inconsistent. Your dermis, the middle layer of skin, is where all the strength comes from.

The ideal that I’m playing with, is you want to file down your epidermis basically until you get to the dermal layer. And your epidermis isn’t very thick, so it’s not that hard. There’s tons of files out there now. And if you look at your hand, which all of us rock climbers do, and you look at that first crease, that crease is usually pretty thick. If you have a thick crease, it’s got increased epidermal layers, and then if you looked at it under a microscope, it’s also going to be super ridged and inconsistent. That usually will end right where that increased thickness and increased inconsistency of skin, usually ends right where the split happens.

I think that if people a) moisturized their skin, or condition their skin- I like using “condition” better because “moisture” has a bad connotation in climbing- but if you condition your skin and file your skin down to get to that dermal layer, you are going to have a lot more strength and consistency in your skin, and possibly decrease the amount of splits you have. You with me so far?

Neely Quinn: Yeah I’m with you. And you can keep going, but I want to know about filing too, like what your specific suggestions are for that.

Justin Brown: Um, so we have a bunch of files here, at Rhino, and they’re 80 grit and 100 grit files. I think they work great. But actually now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if they leave the skin too coarse. I wonder if you want to go 80 grit, 100 grit, and then finish with a 120, so you have nice smooth skin. That’s probably going down that rabbit hole too much. So yeah, just file down until you get to that nice healthy layer, so it’s not white, like dry white skin is going to be really inelastic, and it’s not going to be very strong. It might be good for grabbing sure sharp crimpers, so maybe you want it on your tips, but in your creases you want very pliable, durable, healthy skin. That’s kind of where I’m going with my idea of that.

To continue with your skin structure, they found that if they apply slow force- so if they pull slowly on the skin- it’s actually less strong. If they pull slowly on somebody’s skin, or a piece of skin, it actually holds less force than if they pull quickly on skin. This led me to think about why and when people’s skin is splitting. It’s almost always on the hangboard, I think. Most people’s skin is splitting on a hangboard- you don’t really hear people say, and I hope your listeners correct me or back me up in this theory, because I need input from the climbing community. But people are hanging on the hangboard, and you usually hang the hangboard kind of slowly, and then you hang there for a long time, and that is kind of the perfect storm for you skin to split. Whereas if you are campusing, you’re loading your skin really fast, and I think it mades the collagen line up and kind of tense up a lot better, and your skin is actually stronger in a quick loading.

I mean, it can get dangerous I’m sure, but if you load the hangboard faster, is your skin going to split less? Or if you decrease the amount of time you are hanging- so if you’re doing seven second hangs and you do three seconds or something, and it would be more of a loading force than when you unload, if it would decrease splits. I have no idea, these are just thoughts. I’d like to find out, though.

Neely Quinn: How will we find out?

Justin Brown: I don’t know. There’s lots of people out there. It seems like there are a lot of people that like to experiment on themselves, so I’m hope that happens.

Neely Quinn: Cool, well this is really good information for people. You’ve definitely thought about this more than the average person, but I get a lot of questions from people about “How do I take care of skin, what do I do”. So this is good information. In general, with moisturizing- you’re not moisturizing, what did you call it?

Justin Brown: Skin conditioning.

Neely Quinn: Skin conditioning [laughs]. So your wife was putting it on every day. Is that still what you suggest for everybody?

Justin Brown: She has dry hands. I think the chalk dries her hands out a lot, and so she uses it a lot. But I use Repair Cream every day as well. I don’t find my skin gets weaker because I’m using it, I find it gets stronger because I am adding nutrients to it. Our Repair Cream has tea tree oil, rosemary, mint, magnesium, and menthol. It feels good, it keeps your skin healthy, it gets rid of bad bacteria. When you’re rock climbing, you get micro abrasions, and those micro abrasions can get infected or the bacteria can actually eat your skin. So cleaning your hands and putting something on is definitely good. Like I said, I’m an every other move chalker, but I’ll still use Repair Cream. I’ll be at the crag, I’ll use my Camelbak or water bottle to wash my hands, and I’ll put Repair Cream straight on at the end of the day. I feel like my skin is stronger and healthier and more durable than ever, and I think people that use our products would probably say the same thing.

Neely Quinn: So did you listen to the Daniel Woods interview that I did recently?

Justin Brown: I did, I did.

Neely Quinn: And what do you think about his skincare?

Justin Brown: I’m trying to remember what he said…

Neely Quinn: He said that he wears dish gloves all the time and he doesn’t- like even in the shower. But then that he washes his hands after the shower, but that’s basically the only time he ever gets them wet, or uses anything.

Justin Brown: So, I have a theory. Professional climbers, part of the reason- or not professional climbers, because there are a lot of climbers that are professionals, so that would have a wide range of skin types. Climbers that are at the top of the sport, you know that top tenth of the percent, they are there because they try hard and they train hard and they’re motivated and very proactive about what they do. But I think there is a little bit of gift- like physical gift as well. I probably would say that his skin is naturally better than everybody else’s. So he may not need any products at all, that’s probably part of what has made him so successful, is that his skin is durable. But you do also see his skin crack- we all have Instagram, and we all know when he gets splits on his skin.

He mentioned in that podcast that he trains on crimpers and he doesn’t- he was saying he doesn’t add weight, he just goes for smaller crimpers, and you know, you’re talking about comps versus outside, and he was like “Oh yeah, if it was outside comps I’d win them all”. I just paraphrased, but when you go outside rock climbing, I think you’re grabbing smaller holds, and little tiny crimpers. For the type of holds he’s grabbing, and I’ve never climbed any routes of that grade so I can’t really imagine the holds he’s grabbing, but they’re going to be tiny and sharp, and you may need really dry, really hard skin for those. I’m not positive. And you know, if his skin splits but it doesn’t bother him or decrease his performance and he can keep climbing, it may not be a big deal for him. I would imagine that if he didn’t wear rubber gloves and let his hands get wet in the shower, he would still climb just as well as does now. I think washing dishes might be a little bit different because there’s chemicals in the soap, and you really have your hands in there and you are grabbing an abrasive tool to scrub the dishes, but that’s why you have dogs, you just put the dishes on the floor.

Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s a good idea! But speaking of dishes, that’s an interesting topic. I use dish soap from Whole Foods. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it actually cleans my stuff, but when I go to my brother’s or some other place where they have Dawn or a normal dish soap, my hands actually hurt because they get so dry. I’m wondering if you have any advice or thoughts on that?

Justin Brown: Yeah sure. So, I am a chef as well. Well, I now just do Rhino, but I used to run some restaurants. One of the things that you get to do as a chef is wash dishes. At restaurants we have really caustic degreasers, and I would get home from a hard night in the restaurant and my hands would be so dry, because I was just using these commercial degreasers to wash dishes, wash the floors, wash the skins, wash everything. It was kind of cool because I’m a super sweaty hand person, and they would be really dry the next day when I went rock climbing. But in retrospect, that’s not always that good, because your skin is overly dry and it’s more apt to tear or get abraded or just slip off holds. I would say the dish soap, like Dr. Bronner’s, or more natural dish soap- if you are worried about your hands getting too dry, it’s probably the better option. Dawn, and that type of dish soap, they all have “Super concentrated, use 1/3 of the amount!”, so it is going to dry your hands out.

The better thing to do, would be- I mean, getting a nice natural dish soap is great. It’s probably going to treat your hands better. But a different way you can go is wash dishes and then put on a skin conditioner like Rhino, because that will add all the nutrients back into your skin that you need. Just rinse your hands really well so there is no more soap on your hands, and then if you put on the Repair Cream, you are going to put oil back onto your hands, which you need, you’re going to put moisture in there, and then you’re going to get some good nutrients in there as well.

Neely Quinn: Right- it’s counterintuitive because we think our hands should be as dry as can be, but the moisture, the oil on our hands actually protects them, right?

Justin Brown: Exactly. It protects it and it helps your hands heal. If your hands don’t have any moisture and don’t have any oil, they’re not going to heal. They’re basically just dead.

Neely Quinn: So obviously you can wear dish gloves while you are watching dishes, but the same can be said about all the soaps and shampoos that we use in the shower. I don’t think that most of us are going to wear dish gloves in the shower. So I think the same can be said about not using super harsh soaps or shampoos on your body, right?

Justin Brown: Yeah, for sure. I think that’s pretty valid. If you read directions for like, I guess people use body butters and body lotions and stuff, they all say as soon as you get out of the shower, towel dry, and then apply the lotion. What that’s doing is those thicker creams and stuff are basically, we’re back to the occlusive thing. They’re trapping that moisture inside your body from the shower. So you just want to work on that, and you know, as soon as you’re done washing dishes, as soon as you’re done taking a shower, if you put lotion on your hands, you’re going to get a clean layer of oil and it’s going to trap moisture in your hands and kind of get your skin right back to that optimal environment.

Neely Quinn: Okay. Last question.

Justin Brown: Okay.

Neely Quinn: Or round of questions- is about nutrition. You had talked about collagen and our skin being made up of collagen. Collagen supplements are really popular right now- have you done any research on avoiding skin issues by taking collagen? Or eating it in the form of broths?

Justin Brown: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that! I don’t really know enough about nutrition and the body’s biomechanics to say if you have a good cup of chicken soup how that is going to affect your skin. And I don’t know how much you would need to drink in order for it to be an effective does. There’s a lot of people who say, hey you should put this in your lotion. Arnica is one example- people are like you should put arnica in your lotion! But we don’t, because the effective dose of arnica, you basically need to use 100% arnica for it to help your skin. I’m don’t know about nutrition and skin that much, other than if you have a wound and you have high blood sugar it’s not going to be that great for your wound, it’s not going to heal that well. I think because there’s going to be blood sugar and there is going to be bacteria in there and then the bacteria has something to eat, and then it all kind of propagates itself. But you know, collagen is a protein and your body needs protein to regenerate itself. What do you think about it? I don’t really know.

Neely Quinn: Yeah I mean, I have all the same questions that you just laid out. There’s a lot of research being done, that has been done on collagen supplementation. But yeah. Like how much do you need to take, and how often do you need to take it? It’s obvious that it’s good for skin and hair, but how much, and if it would actually help with such an acute force like climbing. I mean, who knows. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.

Justin Brown: Yeah I don’t think it would hurt at all. Throwing up, whenever you’d get sick, my mom would make chicken soup or something and I’d be like “Oh, I feel better!”. I think if you are using high quality- our whole thing, and if you follow Rhino on Instagram, we’re always talking about real nutrients and that’s kind of what our product is made out of. I think if you are making chicken broth, or beef broth out of good high quality beef, or good high quality chickens, and you’re using good high quality vegetables in there, it’s probably going to help you, because you are getting clean nutrition.

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Any other thoughts about diet and skin?

Justin Brown: You know, I just was diving into a whole new thing yesterday and apparently stress has a direct correlation to skin strength, I had no idea. Have you ever heard- oh gosh, I don’t know if I can say this word. It’s a supplement- ashwaganda?

Neely Quinn: That’s good- yeah, ashwaganda.

Justin Brown: Apparently it helps regulate cortisol or something, is that true?

Neely Quinn: I mean, ostensibly. I tried it, trust me. It didn’t do anything for me.

Justin Brown: Nothing? [laughs] I was reading skin strength, there’s a couple of studies that were relating to stress. They found the higher stress level you have, the weaker your skin actually is, in noticeable PSIs. Easier to tear, easier to puncture, and so I don’t know how- I’m just presenting things I’m thinking about and hopefully will have answers for in the future, and how it can relate to rock climbing. I don’t know how quick stress affects your skin. It could be immediately, it could be over two weeks, I don’t know. But it could be something interesting to think about while rock climbing. If you’re tying in at the bottom of your project and you’re getting all stressed out, that may affect your skin’s ability to stay together while rock climbing.

Neely Quinn: Oh god, so getting stressed out about climbing is just one more thing to get stressed out about! It’s crazy how much stress affects your body so completely.

Justin Brown: Yeah it can tear you apart, literally. And then caffeine also has the ability to weaken your skin. It kind of triggers that stress hormone as well, which can make your skin weaker. I was in Hueco Tanks, and I was talking with this guy who found out that when he drinks caffeine his skin totally sheds. So you know, if you’re having skin issues, try cutting out caffeine, I don’t know.

Neely Quinn: Interesting. Yeah, it’s timely. I just wrote an article about caffeine- I got a lot of flack about it. But same thing, telling people that it, you know, increases stress hormones, and it’s a drug, so it definitely has an effect on your body. It’s interesting to correlate it with skin stuff.

Justin Brown: Yeah, there’s a lot of different ways you can go with skin health. I think number one for everybody- wash the chalk off your hands, then was your hands with soap and water, and then apply some sort of skin care. I hope it’s Rhino, but it’s all about skin health and your skin’s environment. Wash your hands, and then apply something at the end of the day. Apply some Rhino Repair, and if your hands are too sweaty, apply some Performance Cream or Dry Spray, and I think you;ll find some benefits from that.

Neely Quinn: Alright, and where do they find you online?

Justin Brown: rhinoskinsolutions.com is the best place to find us. We are slowly creeping into every gym around you, and if you know of a gym and you want Rhino, tell the and we’ll get it in there. But rhinoskinsolutions.com

Neely Quinn: And Instagram and Facebook?

Justin Brown: Rhino Skin Solutions.

Neely Quinn: Alright, well if there is anybody to ask about skin stuff, it’s you as I now know. You are definitely the skin nerd of the climbing community, so I appreciate all your research.

Justin Brown: Nerding out a little bit every day.

Neely Quinn: Yeah it’s great.

Justin Brown: If you want to e-mail me questions, that’s awesome. Rhinoskinsolutions@gmail.com, or justin@rhinoskinsolutions.com, or drop me a Facebook line and get conversations going. We actually have a Facebook group that I just started, kind of like the Power Company Facebook group, but you can just go to Facebook as well. I love answering questions and I love hearing everybody try to figure it out. It’s fun for me and fun for them.

Neely Quinn: Yeah, you’re like our skin doctor over there.

Justin Brown: Yeah, cool, cool, more than happy about it.

Neely Quinn: Yeah, thank you very much.

Justin Brown: Sure thing, thanks Neely.

Neely Quinn: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Justin Brown of Rhino Skin Solutions. You can find him at rhinoskinsolutions.com, like he just said, and the same thing on Facebook and Instagram. And don’t forget about that coupon code that he gave you guys. You can get 15% off of any of his products over at rhinoskinsolutions.com, using the code BETARHINO, all one word.

So, coming up on the podcast, there will be a break like I said. But after that I am going to be talking to Esther Smith about back and neck stuff. We covered elbows, shoulders, and fingers, and now we are going to be talking about backs and necks. If there’s any body part you want us to talk about, just let us know, because I love talking to Esther- she’s so smart. If there’s some injurious parts of our bodies that I am forgetting about, just let me know.

Other than that, if you need help with your training, we always have training programs for you. We have finger programs, we have an ongoing subscription for both boulderers and route programs, and I also actually just put up Steve Bechtel’s new e-book, called Logical Progression. We talked about that book a lot in my podcast episode with him, the third one, which was recent. He sells the paper copy of that book, which is really nice to have, and we are going to sell the digital copy. You can find that at trainingbeta.com/logical-progression, or you can just find it on the training programs page of TrainingBeta. Any time you buy anything from us, you are supporting the podcast, you’re supporting everything we do at TrainingBeta, and we really appreciate that.

Thank you very much for listening all the way to the end- wish me luck and I will talk to you in a few weeks.

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.


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