Summer is almost here, and that means longer days, warm weather, and time spent outdoors hitting the pavement and soaking up the sun. What’s not to love?
For all of the positives outdoor exercise—especially during summertime—can bring an extra layer of challenge to your skin. When running in the merciless summer, your skin is prone to drying, flaking, chafing, windburn, and most importantly, painful sunburns.
As runners we need to be very careful of the sun’s rays as being exposed to them for extended periods has the potential for dire consequences. This week’s post will tell you all you need to know how to protect your skin while running outdoors.
The Dangers of Sunburns
A sunburn is not only painful— but it’s also dangerous. Sunburns put you at a higher risk for dehydration, heat stroke, premature aging, and most importantly, skin cancer.
Here are some horrifying stats:
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon combined.
- Roughly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S. according to skincancer.org
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime
- According to the American Cancer Society, one person dies from melanoma cancer every hour.
Feeling terrified? You should be.
Runners and Skin Cancer
As far as I can tell, running comes with very few downsides, but a big one is that it puts you in the high-risk category for skin cancer. This isn’t just me talking: my statement is based on plenty of scientific papers.
One example is an Australian study in which researchers reported that marathon runners suffer from more abnormal moles and other skin lesions often associated with skin cancer than a control group.
The reason for this is obvious. When you spend extended periods of time training under the ruthless sun, you’re exposing your skin to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the most detrimental environmental risk factor for skin cancer. And there’s a theory that suggests intense exercise may suppress your immune system and put you at an even higher risk for malignant melanoma.
How To Avoid Sunburns When Running In The Sun
Here a few safety measures to help you protect your skin throughout your summer workouts.
1. Choose the Right Sunscreen
Recent surveys have revealed that just over 14 percent of American men and only 30 percent of American women slather on the sunscreen before going out. This simple measure might be the easiest way to prevent millions of cases of cancer each year.
Not all sunscreens are created (or made) equal. Some are significantly better than others. For the best protection, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields you against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure it’s water resistant and has an SPF of at least 30 and preferably higher. This will greatly reduce your risk of sunburn while running.
2. Put On Your Sunscreen the Right Way
Once you get your hands on a strong sunscreen, use it properly. For starters, to get the lotion to bind with the skin, you need to apply it at least 20 to 30 minutes before heading out.
To err on the side of caution, make sure to cover all of your exposed skin. Slather it on your face, ears, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs, plus anywhere else that’s at the mercy of the sun.
Sunscreen is not bullet-proof. It’s going to wear off eventually, which puts you at risk as the day goes by. To avoid this, make sure to reapply your sunscreen, especially when planning to run for more than 60 to 90 minutes.
Skipping this step results in many runners complaining about sunburn despite having used a strong sunscreen when they first set out. Don’t make this mistake — reapply!
3. Run Early Or Late
I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but the easiest way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure, but unless you’re a dedicated nighttime runner, that’s not always possible. (To learn about nighttime running, check my full guide here.)
As a general rule, try to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p. m. That’s when the sun is directly overhead and at its greatest intensity.
Even in the hottest days of summer, early in the morning or late in the evening is drastically cooler, so get your run done then and you’ll feel pretty damn good about it all day.
If you have to run outdoors during the time when the sun is strongest, take cover in the shade as much as you can and slather on the sunscreen, then hope for the best.
4. Wear the Right Clothing
Another helpful measure for limiting the risk of sunburn while exercising outdoors is to wearing the right clothing.
Choose items that meet these three criteria:
(1) Tightly woven, as this prevents the penetration of ultraviolet rays through fabric
(2) Darker in color, so less UV radiation reaches your skin
(3) Made from the right materials (usually nylon or a nylon-polyester blend)
Want more protection? Look for clothing made with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) fabrics. The higher the UPF rating, the less UV radiation that reaches your skin.
Also, wear sun-protective sleeves for exposed arms and a visor or hat with a brim to protect your scalp and face. Visors are especially helpful since they protect your face without trapping heat.
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Here you have it! The above guidelines are you all need to protect your skin and prevent painful sunburns while running in the summer. And it’s not rocket science, really! All you have to do is take action.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have any sun-protection tips for us? What’s your favorite sunscreen? Cmon, talk to us.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong