At 56-years-old, Conrad Anker is arguably the most rugged and recognized mountaineer on the planet. He has more than 30 years of experience climbing and a handful of first ascents under his belt. Anker is the Team Leader for The North Face’s Climbing Team and recently teamed up with DoveMen+Care, speaking to the impact his unique job has on his skin health … and the skin health of every dude who hikes, camps, and gets outside.
The Manual sat down with Anker for his essential skincare routine, both on and off the mountain.
Start using Conrad’s tips now so you don’t look like a leathered stick of beef jerky later in life. We can’t promise you’ll look as good as Anker, but close enough.
Prepare For The Elements: Moisturize
“Climbing, by nature, puts you in the elements,” Anker says. “You can get cliff wind, lots of sun if you’re high up, and freezing temperatures. You have to be aware you’re constantly drying out your skin and exposing it to the elements.”
Anker says he learned over time that when your skin is well hydrated and supple, it’s less susceptible to damage. Namely: frostbite.
“We used to shake on powder to dry our feet out at night on long expeditions in Everest and Antarctica. Our feet would be wet through the perspiration from our boots. In 2007, I had an epiphany.” Anker says, “If your hands and feet are well hydrated and not drying and cracking, they’re warmer in the long run.”
It may sound counterintuitive, but before you hike in a cold climate, moisturize your hands and feet before slipping into socks and gloves.
Protect Your Skin: Cover Up
Anker says, “When I’m outdoors, the primary way I like to protect myself from the sun is with fabric. That’s my foundation.”
While we may think of slopping on sunscreen(still a good idea), Conrad recommends a neck gaiter, hat, and while hiking in the desert or warm climates, light gloves.
“Gloves protect the backs of my hands from getting too much sun,” he adds. “I didn’t think about how damaged my skin could get when I was younger. I’d tough it out and look like a Game of Thrones character at the end. Now, I don’t want to get sunburned.”
In fact, Anker calls gloves “the foundation” of his on-mountain skincare routine. “From a big mitten to a thin protective glove, they are one of the most important layering pieces.”
Ward Off Painful Cracks: Manicures & Pedicures
That’s right, one of the most badass men in outdoors is telling you to get a manicure and pedicure.
“With your hands on longer expeditions, the constant change in temperature will create incredibly painful cracks on your fingers,” Anker says. “One of my treats to myself and an expedition hack is at the start of each winter I get a pedicure.”
Anker suggests protecting your hands and feet because they are how you connect with the vertical space you will explore.
Another pro tip? Lip balm, or another petroleum-based product, for your cuticles and to ward off cracks. If you do develop a painful crack in your hands, pull out your trusty gloves again. Apply moisturizer and slip on your gloves before going to sleep.
Keep Oils in Your Skin: Choose Your Soap Wisely
If you do have the luxury of showering on the mountain, bring a soap with a moisturizer built in. Right now, Conrad has the Dove Men+Care Body and Face bar in his bag. Favorite scent: Clean Comfort. “ I’m a little tone deaf when it comes to scents and tend to get sensory overload when I was through Duty-Free. My wife says she likes Clean Comfort on me too.”
The goal of your soap is to keep the oils in your skin. Many hardcore bars, especially in industrial jobs and settings, will take everything out of your skin.
“When you wash daily with intense soap, the chemicals pull away oil and dehydrates your skin,” Anker says.
Off the Mountain: Annual Dermatologist Visits
“I take care of my skin so I’m not as susceptible to sunburn and frostbite. I have had no frostbite.” Anker says, “I also go to a dermatologist annually.”
Because of the nature of his career— spending weeks and months mountaineering at a time — Anker calls his perpetually tan mug “the matchstick” look. He laughs that some guys sun tan themselves to get that look to work in an office — which is not good for your skin health. If you do have sun damage, start healing with these tips and, for the love of your skin, buy a good pair of gloves.
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