Tips for runners to protect skin from sun damage

This “whisper” thin running shirt can do a lot to protect your shoulders and upper chest from the sun, and won’t make you overheat. Women’s Ghost short sleeve running shirt from Brooks, $48; available in four colors.

When was the last time you thought about putting on sunscreen? I know, it’s March; but many of us travel over the winter or take full advantage of what sun we do get!

I tend to harp on my friends about protecting their skin: sunscreen, hats, and hydration. I’ve had some run-ins with pre-cancerous skin, and my father has too. Several friends have, too. And for runners, it’s a common malady because we tend to get out and enjoy it, thinking more about our pace and mileage than UV rays. So, here are some tips to get you thinking about it. The most important one: make skin protection a habit!

Of course, staying out of the sun is the best strategy to avoid getting burned. But if your only time to run is between the sunniest hours (10a-4p) or you just love it too much, here are some other suggestions.

Tip #1: Stay hydrated and avoid sugary drinks. According to Certified Nurse Practitioner Lovely Laban, sugar causes something called glycation, which can break down your skin’s collagen. Electrolytes are important, but they are best delivered in drinks that have little or no sugar, like coconut water.

Tip #2: Sunscreen it up … upwards of SPF 30 with UVA and UVB protection. AND, read the bottle. Most sunscreens need to be reapplied after a certain time period, which can be shorter when you are sweating a lot. This may mean you need to apply some mid-way through your long run! The Adventuress Sunscreen Swipes are a good solution – it’s a wipe the size of a wet-nap (packaged) that is measured out to cover your face, ears and neck. (I reviewed them a few years ago – read it here.) And be sure to apply to your calves; running exposes them to more sun than even just walking.

Tip #3: Eat right! Yes, the food you eat can help protect your skin. Laban explains, “Yellow and orange foods such as colored bell peppers and yellow summer squash, as well as dark pigmented foods and berries contain high amounts of anti-oxidants that can boost your skin’s defense.”

Tip #4: Don’t put your skin on the defensive, especially on your face – use gentle cleansers and moisturizers. Laban suggests using products that include “hyaluronic acid,” which sounds a little scary, but is hydrating and has anti-inflammatory properties. Also, avoid sunblocks and other products with preservatives like paraben, which may be linked to certain types of cancers. You can find organic sunblocks and lotions that will work well without these chemicals.

Tip #5: Be smart about what you wear. Will you really be that much warmer in a tank top than you would be in short sleeves? And how long will your shoulders be in direct sun? There are so many amazing new tech materials designed to protect you from the sun. Check out this amazingly thin shirt from Brooks for women, for example.

Tip #6: Bring shade with you. Hats are AWESOME. I love running in a hat. It keeps my hair back and the sun out of my eyes … and more importantly, off my face.

Tip #7: Go to the shade. Trail running is amazing in the summer. In addition to being shaded (especially singletrack trail like Wildwood), if you can find a wooded trail it will often be cooler as well.

And finally:

Tip #8: If you have skin, see a dermatologist. Don’t wait until you have something concerning you … go in now, for a baseline examination, so your doctor can see when something changes. If you are prone to skin damage, you may need to go on a regular basis. Olympian Deena Kastor is all the example you should need: she’s had multiple minor surgeries to remove melanomas. She now visits her dermatologist multiple times a year to stay ahead of her risk.

Some of these tips were suggested by Skin by Lovely, a clinic specializing in non-surgical facial rejuvenation; they want you to take good care of your skin! Founder CNP-G Lovely Laban holds a master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in the science of aging from UCLA. They are located at 2311 NW Northrup St. #100 in Portland’s Pearl District.


About Author

We started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. We also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support local race organizers.

%d bloggers like this: