Are you “pro” pre-mature aging? Or, keen on increasing your odds of getting skin cancer? Your answer is likely “no.” This implies that you wear sunscreen when running, are active, or outside in general, correct? If your answer is “no,” then it is time to form new sun protection habits!
Runners (hikers, cyclists, walkers, etc.) spend more time outside than average. More time outside = more sun exposure = more skin damage and increased cancer risk (if not properly protected). If through exercise you are striving to be healthy, and ultimately more youthful in your appearance, then sun protection is a NO-BRAINER.
Sun and Skin Protection Tips – SUNSCREEN
Sunscreen must be in your arsenal! SPF (sun protection factor) 50 when possible, and key features are water/sweat resistant, oil-free, water based and non-comedogenic. Apply sunscreen an hour prior to sun exposure (if possible!). At minimum, 20 minutes beats applying immediately before sun exposure. I normally apply my sunblock stick en route while driving to my running spot.
Sunscreen Myths and Mistakes
- Wearing sunscreen in heat does not affect running performance. This article proves further proof/detail. And oil-free, water based, and non-comedogenic will not impede sweating, which is vital to thermoregulation.
- “I don’t burn, so I don’t need sunscreen.” False. Majority of UV rays are UVA rays, those that cause skin cancer. According to NY based dermatologist Neil Schultz: “Not burning confers no protection from skin cancer.”
- Whether it is cloudy, winter, etc., you need sun protection. 80% of UVA rays penetrate regardless of weather/time of year.
- Sun damage resulting from burns also (via UVB rays) accelerates aging.
- “Once is enough.” False. Re-apply every two hours, or after 80 minutes of sweating/swimming.
- Protect easily forgotten areas: tips of ears, back of neck, hands, around lips, and the scalp. Skin cancers occurs most on the face and neck.
- The chest and shoulder often receive too little sunscreen protection.
Other Sunscreen Tips, Thoughts, Tricks
Whether you choose a spray, lotion, or stick, apply a sufficient amount! Most folks apply only 25-50% of the required amount (follow label instructions!). Each type has advantages, but the most important consideration is using something you will use consistently. My choice is a stick for the face/neck/hands, and a spray for everywhere else. Plus, a lip balm with sunscreen is the best way to protect your lips. Tip: if you don’t run from home, keep sunscreen in your car (preferably in a gear bag with all your running essentials!).
Sun Protection Personal Favorites
My personal sunscreen favorites are SUN BUM SPF 30 Sunscreen Face Stick as it smells amazing, is lightweight, ad non greasy. I prefer a spray for body, & use primarily Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Spray (SPF 70). It goes on cool, is non-greasy, and a great spray applicator. Both have UVA/UVB protection, are oil free, non-comedogenic & water resistant for 80 minutes.
Other Sun Protection Options…
There are other ways to protect your skin to incorporate into your daily routine.
- Clothing is actually the first line of defense against UVA rays. Hot temps and added clothing is a tough combination, but with more moderate temps, cover your skin as much as possible (long sleeves, higher neck line, etc.). Of course, there is clothing available with SPF protection as well.
- Exercise early or late in the day. UV rays are greatest between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. You’ll have added benefit of staying cooler during warmer months as discussed in this blog post.
- Choose shaded routes and trails. Parks/trails offer a few degrees of cooler temperature vs. city streets.
- Wear a hat! It protects your head, eyes, portions of your face, and some even provide SPF protection. Here is a link for some recommended hats for running.
In closing, be smart and protect your skin! Use sunscreen, protective clothing, avoid peak times of day when UV rays are their highest, find shade, wear a hat, and yes, wear sunglasses!