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Gold Medalists Talk Olympic Manicures, Crazy Callouses, and Hardcore Sun Protection

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Esther Lofgren shows off her patriotic digits.

Punishing practices aren't the only ways Olympic athletes put the hurt on their bodies. For champion rowers like  Mary Whipple, Esther Lofgren, Erin Cafaro, and Meghan Musnicki, there's the looming threat of serious sun damage. And ravaging their skin with multiple daily showers. And monster callouses. Clearly, rowing is not a smoky-eye-and-glitter-hairspray sport, so when the ladies visited our office this week, we talked skin-care essentials. (When it comes to sunscreen, they don't play.) But we should note that, while they're low-maintenance on the water, they clean up quite nicely. 

How do you take care of your skin when you’re on the water?

Mary: When you go in the locker room, you’re like, Are we at the beach? Everyone is just spraying [sunscreen]. Tons of sunscreen.

What SPF?

Esther: Some of us wear 100+. And you wear long-sleeved shirts even when it’s 100 degrees because you’re trying to protect yourself.

Mary: And then there's so much sweat, that you're like, Do I put on sunscreen before the warmup or after the warmup? Or both?

Megan: Both!

Is there a certain kind of sunscreen that you prefer?

Megan: I have to use the very mild forms [of sunscreen] with zinc in it because my skin is pretty sensitive, so if it has perfumes or anything else like that ... it starts to sting my skin. The one that I use isn’t sweat-proof, so I always have to reapply it.

Mary: Usually people wear a hat, so they put the sunscreen below it because they don’t want sweat and sunscreen to drip into their eyes. It’s funny because sometimes when I forget that I’m not wearing a hat, I put sunscreen on and burn my forehead.

Erin: The [men’s] coxswain from Athens had skin cancer, and one of the girls from our 2008 boat had to have a piece of her skin removed. So it is a major concern. We’re out there constantly, at least six hours a day.

Esther: We also shower two or three times a day. So we're also trying to balance getting clean, because you don't want to be gross and sweaty, with not wanting to take all your skin off. I think that most people use stuff that’s free of chemicals so that we’re not ravaging our bodies even more. Most of us do sunscreen and moisturizing. We’re all done up right now, but we certainly don’t compete in makeup. We’re not track and field. [Laughs]

Who did your manicures?

Esther: This is actually from the Olympic Village at the Procter & Gamble house. They had a laminated sheet with all the different countries’ flags.

Mary: Destinee Hooker from the indoor volleyball team had gold pinkies to remind herself that's what she was there for.

What about the callouses?

Esther: We have crazy callouses. When you get manicures, they always want to put callous remover on them, and you say, No, no I need those.

Megan: I don’t put moisturizer on my hands because my hands are pretty soft, so I need the callouses or else you get blisters.

Meghan Musnicki shows me proper form for (tough!) rowing machine gym workouts.

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Comments (1)

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