Every fit chick knows that hitting the weights has plenty of benefits, but gorgeous hands are not one of them. Blisters, calluses, and dry hands are common lifting woes that may seem unavoidable—but there are steps you can take to keep your hands beautiful no matter how tough your workouts may be.
While calluses may not be aesthetically pleasing, they serve an important purpose, especially for someone who is training hard in the weight room. “Calluses are our skin’s way of protecting itself,” says Lauren Ploch, M.D., a dermatologist in Augusta, GA. “Skin thickens and forms calluses in response to repetitive trauma, friction, and/or pressure.”
To prevent calluses, try to distribute the weight you’re lifting more evenly over your hands, Ploch says. Barrier ointments with petrolatum or dimethicone can help prevent friction-induced calluses. (To avoid slippery hands, use ointment only on pressure points.) If you really want to keep your hands callus-free, consider wearing lifting gloves or grips, which help redistribute weight and prevent pressure-induced calluses and blisters.
If you already have calluses, it’s still not too late to beautify your hands. “Massage them with a bland ointment [free of fragrance, color, or cooling additives] such as Vaseline or Aquaphor regularly, or try a cream that contains agents such as urea and ammonium lactate to help break down the keratin protein in a callus,” suggests Ploch. Gold Bond Ultimate Rough & Bumpy Skin Cream contains both ingredients; CeraVe SA and AmLactin both contain ammonium lactate.
When blisters form, many lifters follow some variation of the tough-girl-approved “tape it and push through” method. But depending on the severity of the blister, this may make the area even more prone to callus development.
The blister “roof” protects the skin like a natural bandage, explains Ploch. “You want to keep the skin on top of the blister intact. Even if you tape or bandage your hands, this protective skin can come off, which means the blister will take longer to heal and become prone to infection,” says Valerie Goldburt, M.D., a dermatologist based in New York City. If the skin does rip, try washing the area with a gentle cleanser daily and applying a bland ointment and a bandage. And consider cross-training for a few days—Goldburt says the skin may need some time off from lifting to heal.
Doing your runs in cold weather or getting out for other forms of cardio can lead to painful, dry, cracked hands. But exposure to the elements isn’t the only trigger. “Your hands can become dry from eczema or allergic contact dermatitis [an allergy to metals or plastic],” says Goldburt.
An over-the-counter cortisone cream or a hydrocortisone prescription can help treat allergies and eczema. If dry hands are still a concern, apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly to your hands and wear cotton gloves to sleep. And to keep your skin from drying out in the first place, use a gentle cleanser to wash your hands, and moisturize immediately after washing with a petrolatum-based, fragrance-free product such as Aquaphor or a dimethicone-based option like O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream.
Your palms aren’t the only part of your hands that can look worn from your workouts, especially if you often take your fitness to the great outdoors. The backs of your hands are prone to sunburn and dryness, so year-round protection is a must. Make sure to regularly apply sunscreen to your hands and arms to prevent long-term side effects, adds Ploch. “Protect the backs of your hands from the sun. Over time, the sun can cause the skin to thin and become more susceptible to bruising and injury,” she says. Try a combo hand cream and sunscreen like Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn, which has an SPF of 40.
BY ROSE MCNULTY