Sometimes, even chamois crème isn’t enough. Some days, maybe our saddle slipped, maybe the ride was more than we expected, maybe the time trial took more out of us, maybe we had too much chamois time after that hot hundred. The result is our undercarriage is a bit raw.
Ordinary hand lotion is usually not a good idea, as most contain some scent, the chemistry of which can irritate sensitive skin. Vaseline is too thick; clothes will stick to it and you. Besides, being that we’re cyclists and prone to over-exertions, we typically want something that will speed healing. To that end, we tested out Assos Skin Repair Gel.
The gel is the result of a partnership with the Swiss company Kronopharma. Assos claims this is only the first product of a line of skin-care products based on the use of hyaluronic acid. On the good side, they say this cream has been clinically tested for safety and is slightly acidic, with a ph of 5.5 so that women shouldn’t have a problem with it and it “does not affect the vulvovaginal trophism.” That last term is pretty obscure; seems to mean that it doesn’t adversely affect tissues in that region of the body. On the bad side, the public relations sheet we received called this “one of the novelties of the year.” Probably a bad translation.
Hyaluronic acid, or Hyaluronan, is prescribed to treat dry, scaly skin, and speed tissue healing from cataract surgery. Liposomes are used to treat fungal infections, though at a strength that is prescription-level, not over the counter.
Assos reports that this is only the first of a line of products utilizing Hyaluronic acid. What other lotions they could devise for cyclists we’re at a bit of a loss to figure. Maybe they’re coming up with a new chamois crème, but after that, what? Sunscreen?
Assos sees the skin repair gel as treating irritated, inflamed skin and swollen genital area post ride. They believe the gel is anti-inflammatory, will speed the healing of skin, will keep the skin hydrated, keep it’s “turgidity, plasticity, and viscosity,” and will lubricate the skin on top of all that. In other words, this gel is supposed to bring you skin back to normal faster than it would do on its own, and it will feel nice while it is doing all these things.
Many might think a post-ride salve is not for them, something unnecessary because they’ve got leathery skin down there. If you’ve ever had a sensation where you didn’t want to sit on your saddle at the end of a ride, it could be because the skin you sit with is a bit on the raw side. It took us a while to figure this out, but when once we did, we started using a chamois crème. A skin healing solution seemed like the next step, even though we hadn’t thought of it at the time. Riding crotch lotions can’t protect everything all of the time.
The gel comes in a squeeze tube, which we find easier to control application than in a tub. The tube has 75ml (2.53 ounces) of the lotion, a quantity we thought a bit small. But, on the good side, it easily fits in a crowded travel bag, easier than the Assos crème tub. The gel is brownish in color and has a viscosity between hand lotion and petroleum jelly, a bit thicker than the lotion, but an oilier consistency, which helps it spread thinner and covering more surface area than a similar quantity of hand lotion. A dab or two first put on a finger and then rubber between the legs was plenty for coverage.
The first sensation is one of mild warming. It’s a nice contrast to the “air conditioning” sensation Assos chamois crème is known for. The warming stays on for a while. It’s there and there and there, and after a while it’s unnoticeable, until you think about it again. After several hours of having the lotion on, the covered skin feels softer, almost thicker.
We’d like to report that we never need such a salve, but we do. It’s a result of the usual culprits. Our skin is more sensitive than we’d like to imagine: years and years of riding haven’t toughened up that skin or deadened the sensations; the former we’d like, not the latter.
We were wondering what did the magic for the gel. Looking at the box, we had the sinking sensation that the Tillman family must have felt when the military sent them boxes and boxes of documents relating to their son. Too many ingredients to investigate.
Among the ingredients are menthol and peppermint. These are usually cooling agents, though we sensed warm. But peppermint also has been shown to reduce “pain sensing fibres”, though this has only been demonstrated in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another ingredient, rosemary, is an often-prescribed herbal remedy for speeding the healing of episiotomy scars. Low down on the ingredient list is aloe and arnica. Both are herbal remedies. Aloe is often used to help skin healing, while Arnica is used as an anti-inflammatory. Assos doesn’t point to any of these ingredients. These remedies just seem to be part of the soup to them.
The ingredients are legit, even if they haven’t been thoroughly proven. In terms of taking the Skin Repair Gel for a spin, the evidence is sufficient for us. Herbal remedies work often enough to merit a try.
And try we did. Overall, it produces a pleasing sensation and seems to repair chafed skin nicely. We haven’t generated either saddle sores or folliculitis since we picked up the gel, but maybe application has helped. After races, we put applied the gel immediately after peeling off the chamois to see if that would minimize discomfort and maximize healing. It doesn’t stick to clothes, but does seem to remain on the skin for a long time. In terms of it speeding repair of the skin in order for our undercarriage to be ready for another day of hot and heavy chamois abuse, we never had a ride where we felt our skin was still raw and sensitive after applying the day before.
We tried applying it before repairing for the evening, and in the morning, the gel still seemed to be present, and no raw skin, no sores, no clogged pores. All good.
We can’t prove it absolutely worked, but we can’t prove it didn’t work, either. We’re happy to keep this Assos product around and will be taking it in the bag to races and applying it when our skin feels damaged. It’s one of those ‘gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure’ kind of things.
If you feel you have to use Skin Repair Gel after every ride, you’re either doing RAAM, a Grand Tour, Las Ruta de Conquistadores or your bike doesn’t fit right. We’ve had this tube the better part of three months, and maybe once a week we’ve felt it might be necessary, mostly because we had finished one long, hard ride or race and were facing another long hard race or ride the next day. Still, we used it a good bit more than that, sometimes applying it post-ride every day for a week, not so much because we felt we needed it, but to see if it made a difference even when our skin felt fine. The tube still feels pretty full to us.
Discomfort, particularly in the crotch, makes riding harder. If you can’t sit comfortably in the saddle, riding is pretty hard. No one needs that. Treat your sensitive areas well.