Hygiene and Personal Care

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Skin Cracks

One of the things that commonly occurs to river runners hands and feet is cracking of the skin. In normal conditions, the skin produces enough oil to maintain healthy skin. A river trip can easily overrun the body’s ability to keep the skin naturally moist, causing cracking of the skin. This typically occurs at the fingertips and along the back of the heels and can be very painful.

There are a number of causes responsible for the loss of skin oil. These include exposure to a very dry climate and repeated exposure to water.

There are a number of strategies that have been employed to prevent cracking of the skin from happening. Remember, prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we’ll start with preventative measures. These include:

Applying hand lotion to your skin two weeks before your trip starts. This increases your skin oil level.

Wearing dry gloves while rowing, loading/unloading the boats, while setting up and breaking down camp, and while hiking. This protects the hands from loosing natural skin oils to dirt and water exposure.

Wearing dishwashing gloves while doing dishes. The waterproof gloves protect the skin from losing natural oils due to prolonged water exposure.

Wearing closed toe shoes while in camp and while hiking. This prevents wicking away natural skin oils that contact dry hot sand.

Applying external oils to your skin. This assists natural skin oils in doing their job. Some river runners will apply one of these external salves or lotion products to their hands and feet at night just before falling asleep, and once applied, cover their feet with a pair of clean dry socks, and their hands go into socks as well.

A large number of topical salves and lotions are available, and for each product, there’s at least one river runner who swears by that specific product. Some of these products include:

Any type of regular body lotion like Lubriderm.

Mom’s Stuff, made by Lee Bennion. See: http://www.horseshoemountainpottery.com/momstuff.php

Super Salve http://www.supersalve.com/salves1.html

Bag Balm

Burt’s Bee Balm

Climb On http://www.climbonproducts.com/

Cornhuskers Lotion

Dumont's No-Crack Hand Cream http://www.nocrack.com/


If you find you have developed a painful crack on your skin, some river runners use super glue to glue the crack shut. Once opened in the heat, the tube may dry up. Some river trips bring multiple tubes. Some river trips will have access to medical grade Dermabond, a topical skin adhesive, and bring that. Duct tape has been used to close skin cracks.

Remember, good hand and foot care is as important as making sure your boat is tied to shore.

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