Your skin is the largest organ in your body and one of the only organs your bar guests can see – take care of it!
No one wants to see bleeding knuckles, saggy eyes or cracked fingertips. And although guests should never see your bare feet, if your tootsies aren’t happy, you’re in for a very rough shift.
A Harsh Environment
The laymen wouldn’t understand, but you and I know that being a bartender is extremely hard on your skin. But painful skin on your hands and feet can be debilitating at worst, or at least really ruin your night.
So how do you take care of your skin? First of all, lotion on-shift is pretty much impossible. How many times have you applied lotion to your dry hands then tried to handle a wet glass or bottle? Once. Then it slipped from your fingers and you never did that again.
We’re on our feet a lot. Our hands are always damp with some fluid or another. We stay up late. We’re always on stage. And yet we still have to look gorgeous.
Thankfully, there are some tricks that can help you recover from common bartender skin problems – or prevent them altogether:
1 – Lotion Before and After
Bar skin care is as much about what you do when you aren’t working as when you are. As I said, lotion on your hands on the clock makes everything too slippery. You need your grip.
But if you show up to work with dry, chapped hands and you have to live with it. So you will have to plan ahead and take care of them on your own time.
Find a favorite lotion and keep it everywhere: in your locker, your purse or backpack, your car, in the manager’s office and at home. Put it on as soon as you’re done handling glassware.
Keep your hands properly lubed at all times away from the job.
What kind of lotion? I’m not here to shill any brands, but avoid anything with too much perfume. Get some serious stuff. I favor cocoa butter with petroleum jelly. A good lotion is worth the money.
2 – Seal Your Cuts
Curb the Damage
Ever have a bandage on a cut only to realize you don’t know where it went? (I hope the health inspector didn’t find it!)
Don’t trust bandages for minor knicks. They’ll never stick. Keep tubes of super glue in the first aid kit, behind the bar, in the kitchen and in the office. It’s great for sealing minor cuts and cracks.
If you’re not feeling so industrial, get liquid bandage, which is essentially medical-grade super glue. It sure smells like it and it comes with a brush for easy application.
Don’t get Cut in the First Place
I never get cut by sharp knives. Only the dull ones. I never cut myself on broken glass unless I don’t know it’s there. I rarely draw blood at all, but when I do it’s on something weird.
Crusty bread. Corrugated boxes. Plastic jars. But the worst hazard?
Ice. I’ve cut myself on ice cubes more than anything in a restaurant. Be careful dragging your knuckles while scooping ice. A bin full of ice is sharp and unforgiving.
3 – No Baggy Eyes
We work late, but we often stay up late after work too. Work hard, party hard and who can blame us?
So sometimes your face won’t look as fresh and perky as the day you interviewed. Particularly your eyes can give you away.
The only lotion I’ve ever been able to put right on my eyelids without irritation is pure aloe vera. I’ve even got it on my eyeball directly by accident. No burning. Just a little blurry.
Get the clear stuff with no additives at all. It should smell like almost nothing. Put it everywhere. It will wash off and you can’t work with it on your hands, but every other hour of the day you can bathe in it.
You can even eat it. (Not recommended.)
4 – Cloven Goat Thumb
I’m not sure what the technical term is, but that’s what I call it.
One of the most tiny but painful inconveniences I’ve had while working is cracked skin on my fingertips, especially my thumbs. It’s deep. It bleeds. It doesn’t want to heal. It’s very sensitive to heat, citrus, chemicals and pressure.
It hurts to touch anything.
I haven’t found an accurate description of the cause other than repeated hand washing, exposure to chemicals and changes in temperature.
The aforementioned super glue or liquid bandage works well. I kept some in my car and painted my fingertips before driving to work.
The good news is, I started trimming my nails longer and more frequently and it doesn’t happen to me much anymore. I think exposing too much of the sensitive skin under the nail was inviting the cracks – but I’m no doctor. That’s just what’s worked for me.
5 – Harvest that Stubborn Corn
I have one spot on one foot that gradually regrows a callus. It’s where my right little toe connects to my foot. The corn presses against the joint, creating a painful hot spot.
But I have a weapon.
Corn removing pads available at the grocery store include two parts. A medicated disk covers the thick bony skin. An oval pad covers that disk to keep it in place and cushion the area.
The pad will stay on throughout your shift and probably fall off with your next shower. After one or two applications, the corn will either shrink or fall off, alleviating the pressure on your foot.
They come in packs of at least nine and I always keep some handy.
Stock Up Before the Last Minute
I hate running around before a shift. I like all my things in place. When my get-ready routine goes smoothly, the shift ahead of me does too.
So make sure you’re planning ahead and not scrambling around just before clocking in to find a pad for that wicked corn or super glue for a cleft thumb. Come early, lotion up, seal off your wounds and get to work.
Having happy skin, like all elements of our business, takes planning and the right tools. Skin care is a habit and a lifestyle. Keep your favorite items stocked everywhere so you can proudly display your most visible organ and enjoy your shift without painful hands and feet.
About the Author: Eighty Six
Eighty Six, also known as David Klenda, has worked the front of the house since George Bush’s dad was president and OJ was famous for being a football player. He’s been writing poetry and fiction longer than that. He’ll write freelance about anything for a buck, but is so glad to be writing about something he knows and loves. Currently he is making a Spokane neighborhood dive a little more crafty.