Now that we’re in to winter, a few months of damp and cold are here, and I know it’s a season of painful skin cracks for many climbers. Somehow the drying of skin in the low humidity of winter leads to the formation of cracks, especially in calloused areas like around finger and toe nails, and heels. We usually don’t notice these during activities when our skin is damp inside boots and gloves, but later when the skin dries, the tough skin next to a crack acts like a lever that pries on the crack and focuses on the nerves at its base, with painful results. Not only are these cracks annoying, but also they don’t heal well because they are continually opened up by skin forces on them during our activities.
I have found that Super Glue (or Krazy Glue, etc. — various names for cyanoacrylate adhesives) applied directly to such a crack fills and reinforces it, and immediately removes the pain during ‘indoor’ times when the skin is dry. It also promotes healing by eliminating continual flexing and tearing at the base of the crack. As with all open injuries, it’s a good idea to wash a skin crack first to minimize bacteria and so improve the healing environment.
I’ve had good success with applying a little Polysporin to a skin crack before bed and sealing it with a bandade to retain it overnight. I’ve also tried a number of antiseptic washes and hand sanitizers like Purell with similar good results. By morning these applications are usually gone anyway, otherwise I wash the crack out and dry it before sealing it with Super Glue again for the day. With this care, I’ve found that a skin crack typically heals in a couple of days, whereas otherwise it can persist for weeks before healing during bad weather when I’m less active.
Super Glue can be bought dirt cheap at various Dollar Stores, Dollaramas, Liquidation Supercentre, etc., eg., a card of several tubes for a couple of dollars. It’s useful for many other repairs and household assembly tasks too.