The Secret to Better Pole Grip? Better Skin!

The Secret to Better Pole Grip? Better Skin!

Hi, my name is Melanie and I am an over-gripper.

I’m not kidding. I marinate in iTac before trying a series of new tricks, and my cascade down the pole is marked by a series of unsettling squeaks.

In my defense, my hands sweat A LOT. But, I’ve come to realize that my reasons for using so much iTac are one: I get scared when trying new moves and two: I have dry skin.

I know the first reason is just something I need to work through on my own, but to find out how to improve my skin, I turned to Brandi Godcharles, a licensed aesthetician and owner of Brandi Land Pole Dance & Aerial Studio Boutique in Tampa, Florida. (That’s her pictured above and throughout this post.)

As a lead instructor, Brandi only tends to use grip aid when trying new, complex moves without a spotter. Not tricks her body is already familiar with.

How can she hang out in a Gemini position grip-free? It comes down to two essential things: exfoliating and moisturizing on her days off.

The key is to use a deep, thick moisturizer (not just any drug-store lotion, Brandi says), that can penetrate your skin on recovery days. Exfoliating at least once a week will knock off those dead skin cells that sit on the the top layer of your body. The result? Supple skin that improves your body grip naturally.

Below are some of Brandi’s major tips, including which ingredients to look out for and to avoid, plus how and when to apply them.

Brandi Godcharles. (Can I have this facial dewiness too, please?)

If you could only use two skin-care products, what would they be?

CeraVe moisturizing lotion is what I use now. It has hyaluronic acid in it, which is an amazing ingredient. It moisturizes and pulls water into the skin and holds it there. Once you wash it off, it’s still going to feel soft, because that product works into the deeper layers of the skin.

The other thing I would use is my exfoliating bath gloves—I do not live without those things. They’re super cheap, I’ve been using them since I was 18, and they get the job done. You just load them up with body wash and hang them up in your shower when you’re done.

Those would be my two products for the body.

What about moisturizing the hands? How important is it to do so?

You really need to be moisturizing your hands to soften up callouses. It’s really about balancing everything out.

I’ve really only come across one good moisturizer in seven years [for hands]: Strawberry Body Sorbet from The Body Shop. It’s a water-based moisturizer, so it really sinks right into the skin, especially if you wet your hands first and put it on.

The one thing that I can’t stress enough is that if you’re in class and you just can’t get your grip, no matter how much grip aid you put on your hands, then your hands might be too dry. You might want to get a little bit of water on your hands and put a little dab of that lotion on your hands with a little bit of grip aid, just to bring your hands back to balance.

Why is it important to wet certain areas first?

Every time you have moist skin and put moisturizer on top of it, your skin will just drink that up. You always want to try to moisturize when your skin is a little bit damp, that’s why it’s best to do so right out of the shower.

Are there any types of skin-care products to avoid? 

For the days that you’re going to be on the pole, I would avoid anything that has oil, unless you have the type of skin that just drinks that stuff up or absorbs it really well.

Every time that you have a thicker oil or cream on your skin, even if you put it on in the morning and you have pole class at 6 p.m., you’re still going to have a layer that’s going to make it so hard to grip the pole.

You also want to start paying attention to certain ingredients. A lot of the stuff they sell at the drug store is superficial—it just kind of sits at the top of your skin and it’s not really doing anything to penetrate deeper layers. It just sits there and makes you feel moisturized, but once you wash it off, your skin stays the same.

How do you feel about fragrant lotions?

By and large, fragrance is not bad, but if you’ve got something that’s so potently fragrant, typically it’s got alcohol in it, which is drying for the skin.

What kind of ingredients do you recommend to treat bruises?

Arnica is probably the mainstay that everybody uses. I personally don’t really use it that much anymore because I find that it dries my skin, since the most common formulation you find is the gel, and that has a lot of alcohol in it. You can find a cream that’s a bit more moisturizing (here’s one).

That’s really the only thing I know of for bruises, but I’ve heard that eating pineapple can actually help with healing bruising. It has something in it that helps with swelling and things like that.

So exfoliating and moisturizing your skin can reduce your need for body grip?

Absolutely, one-thousand percent. You might even find you don’t need it anymore.

That would be wonderful, because I use A LOT of iTac.

When you start taking care of your skin a bit better, you’ll find that your skin is gripping to the pole, but it’s not gripping to the point of iTac [which can be restraining]. I do most of my moves on static, so it’s imperative for me to be able to move around on the pole.

Start taking care of your skin a bit better and it will lessen your need for iTac. You might need just the littlest grip to tap on your major grip points, like your traps or back of knees, or maybe a bit on your sides for leg hangs.

Taking better care of your skin to improve your grip seems like such a simple concept, I don’t know why I didn’t consider it before.

It’s simple but it’s not, because we’re all socialized in this industry to never moisturize our skin. I didn’t moisturize for two or three years and it wasn’t until my skin got really dry and I started moisturizing again that I was like, “holy crap, my skin is sticking to the pole better.”

Then I started doing some experimentation with it and I was like, “damn, nobody talks about this!” It seems counterintuitive, but it’s actually not. Just moisturize.

Are there any other tips you care to share? 

When you practice a trick for a few hours, you can get really raw skin. One thing I like to do when I get home, after I take my shower, is put my moisturizer on and really take extra good care of the areas that are rubbed raw. I’ll use a facial mask on those areas or put a nicer facial cream that has really good ingredients on those spots. That way they almost heal overnight, because we all want to get back on the pole in a couple days to practice. That’s one tip that I’ve found helps me a lot and helps my students a lot.

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I also asked Brandi about shaving or waxing before pole, because if you’re like me, sometimes you totally forget to do it until you’re getting ready for class and realize you’re growing a miniature garden on your body. Her best advice? Not to worry about it so much, because not only is body hair natural, but when instructors are spotting you, they could care less about how prickly your legs might feel (you know, because they’re more concerned about your overall safety and stuff).

If you do want to trim down a bit, Brandi suggests doing so the night or so before class, because even though you’re exfoliating when you shave, your skin dries out quickly when you don’t follow up with lotion. Also, if you wax on the same day as pole class, you’re just begging to irritate your bikini area when practicing your hip holds. Ouch.

For more of Brandi’s advice and favorite products, view her video on skin care for pole dancers.

PS. Funny story: Brandi and I were actually in the same online master’s degree program together last year, but neither of us realized until I recently found her video. It just goes to show that even though this community is expansive, it’s still a small world out there.

All photos via @brandigodcharles, used with permission from Brandi Godcharles.

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