BJJ is amazing but can be rough on the skin. There’s heat and sweating, the roughness of the gi, mat burn and potential partners with contagious skin infections to deal with. So in this BJJ skin care guide, I talk you through everything you can do to keep your skin in top condition while training Brazilian jiu jitsu.
The Importance of Good BJJ Skin Care
Good skin care is especially important for BJJ.
Grappling sports like wrestling, judo, MMA, submission grappling and Brazilian jiu jitsu are all particularly tough on the skin, because of intense physical contact with the mat and your training partners.
Not only is BJJ tough on the skin but you’re also probably training more than the average person.
Your skin is under a lot of pressure and so you need to take special care of it.
Good hygiene and skin care will help you prevent common BJJ skin infections such as staph infection, ringworm, impetigo and more.
Good skin care will also help you prevent skin irritation issues such as acne, dry skin and itchy skin after BJJ.
And it’s always better to prevent problems than try to fix them later.
So here’s how to get the most out of your BJJ by taking good care of your skin.
BJJ Skin Care
There’s 5 steps in your BJJ skin care routine:
- Over the counter treatments
In this article you read what to do in each of these areas to reduce the harm that BJJ does to your skin.
How to wash your skin after BJJ
You need to wash your skin. Duh.
But there’s good and bad ways to do it.
The best way to wash your skin after BJJ depends on you and your skin, but here’s some options you can consider.
Do you sometimes get skin infections from BJJ, such as staph, ringworm (tinea corporis) or athlete’s foot? Or are you afraid that you might?
Then a great option is to use Defense soap body wash while you shower. Defense soap uses an essential oil mix, including tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil, to fend off bacteria and fungi.
Defense soap is made especially for the BJJ practitioner and it’s definitely the most popular antibacterial soap in jiu jitsu.
‘Soap free’ soap
Do you get dry skin from BJJ? In that case, you may want to consider using a ‘soap free’ soap. Soap free soap cleans the skin without dehydrating it. It’s often made from coconut oil, and doesn’t contain alcohol or other dehydrating substances, so it doesn’t take off your body’s natural oils.
Anti-dandruff shampoo is another good option to use after BJJ because it has anti-fungal components in it. But it’s not antibacterial. So it can stop a fungal infection, such as jock itch, but not an infection caused by a bacterium, such as staph infection.
If you have dry skin, you should also consider showering less, and showering cold (or at least, less hot). Cold water doesn’t take off your body’s natural oils as much, which is what causes your skin to dry.
How to cloth your skin in BJJ
The second essential piece of your BJJ skin care approach concerns your clothing.
Basically, you want to cover your skin as much as possible, so that it doesn’t come into contact with the mat and your training partners.
If you train gi, you’re set. The gi covers you fully.
But if you train no gi grappling, you need the following pieces of clothes.
Long sleeve rash guards
You must get long sleeve rash guards. A short sleeve rash guard exposes your arms, and in particular your elbows to mat burn and skin infections such as ringworm.
Direct contact with bacteria and fungi is the main cause of skin infection in BJJ, so make sure you cover your skin up!
You must also get spats for the same reason that you need a long sleeve rash guard.
If you only wear grappling shorts, your legs and in particular your knees are exposed to the mat.
And if you’re one of them leg lockers, you also expose your legs to your training partners and a lot of friction. So cover your legs up – the friction even helps your leg locks!
If you get dry or sensitive skin, you should also use some basic moisturizing cream.
I always need to moisturize when my skin gets dry, which happens especially in winter because of the dry air and the hot showers.
I use this Cetaphil cream, but I think any of them are probably good.
Keeping your skin moisturized also keeps it flexible and strong, so that it won’t break or tear as easily.
Supplements for Skin Care
There’s also some supplements that may be beneficial to your skin.
In general, supplements for BJJ aren’t studied enough scientifically, because it’s hard to get funding for this kind of research. This makes it a bit of a guessing game as to which supplements are the best for BJJ and whether or not they even work at all.
But, there are some skin care supplements that may strengthen your skin for BJJ.
Studies show that low levels of vitamin D are related to susceptibility to infectious disease and various other health benefits. Vitamin D is also known to have anti-inflammatory effects, which is why some people take vitamin D supplements before training.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may help with inflammation, which is why it’s so popular among athletes.
Fish oil is a popular source of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you want to add fish oil to your diet, you could add a few teaspoons of fish oil to your protein shake or add it to your meals.
Fish oil is known to have a fishy taste, so it’s best to add it to foods that you’re already eating, otherwise you may get tired of eating fish all the time.
Another option would be to take fish oil pills.
These fish oil capsules are easy to swallow and have no fishy aftertaste.
Zinc is one of the most important minerals for your skin. It helps your skin heal faster, fight off infections, and maintain moisture.
You can find zinc in foods like pumpkin seeds, crab, beef, tuna, and yogurt. You can also take a zinc supplement to maintain healthy skin.
But, because zinc supplements are unregulated, the amount of zinc you actually get in a supplement can vary.
Over the Counter Medications for Skin Infections
There are also some over the counter medications that you can stock up on to help you care for your skin after BJJ.
Betadine is an antiseptic cream that helps prevent infections to cuts and wounds.
I use betadine after pretty much every training session. I almost always have at least one new cut on my fingers somewhere, and to prevent it from getting infected I just apply some betadine.
Antibiotic ointment is useful for skin care purposes because it can prevent and treat bacterial skin infections.
However, don’t overdo these, because they also harm the good bacteria that live on your skin and protect you from harmful bacteria.
Antifungal cream helps to prevent and treat ringworm and other fungal skin infections.
But just like with antibiotic ointments you shouldn’t overdo them, because you don’t necessarily want to kill all the fungi on your skin, only the harmful ones.
Cold sore cream or patches
Cold sore cream and patches are very useful to have at your home. Whenever you feel a cold sore coming up, you can apply them to stop the herpes simplex virus right in its tracks. I find that when I start applying my cream right away, I often don’t even get a noticeable cold sore.
Bonus: Use Tape to Avoid Rashes
One final tip I’ll give is to use tape to avoid rashes on your finger knuckles.
If you play guards with a lot of sleeve grips, you probably get finger rashes and other finger injuries from BJJ all the time.
Now, I’m not an advocate of taping over your finger rash after you already got it, which is a common reason why people tape their fingers in BJJ.
But, I do like taping over your finger knuckles as a preventative measure. I hate to get open wounds on my fingers, so I do this quite often.
Use Skin Care to Enhance your BJJ
The last thing you want is to get a skin infection and miss out on 2-3 weeks of BJJ progress.
Make sure that you follow the steps in this BJJ skin care plan to minimize your chances of getting sidelined!