As my mileage increases, I continue to spend more hours outside. A nagging question dances around in my head. How do I best protect my skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun? I have dealt with a variety of basal cell carcinomas over the years. My skin checks are now every 6 months because it seems like something new is always popping up. Most recently, I had a basal cell on my forehead hairline removed. I had to have a special procedure done, called Moh’s, to preserve as much of my hair as possible during removal. My biggest concern during the whole process was having a potential bald spot in the middle of my forehead, not the skin cancer itself. Vanity. Yes. And that is what is the foremost driver of my sun protection question. When I run my 50-mile race before I turn 50, I really, really would prefer to not also look 50. Or worse! Older than 50, because I was irresponsible and lazy with my skin care and let my skin be weathered and damaged by the sun.
When not under quarantine, I also play tennis several days a week. While I wear a visor and makeup with SPF35 sunscreen, I rarely apply additional sunscreen to my face. I would also say it is a 50/50 chance that I apply sunscreen to my arms and chest, unless it is an especially hot and sunny day. This is bad. Very bad. I already see signs of aging that I know could have been prevented. Nevermind the pockmarked scars from the basal cell removals. I need an overhaul. I need some professional help.
Thank goodness my friend, and fellow runner, Dr. Jyoti Mundi with the Dermatology Center of Ladera Ranch, is here to offer me some guidance and support.
Hi Dr. Mundi! Thank you so much for participating in this blog post and offering your advice.
First, can you tell us a little about yourself as a runner. How long have you been running? What is it you enjoy about the sport? Do you have any races or goals coming up?
Thank you for inviting me to participate.
I would most certainly classify myself as a beginner in the sport. I could not run a mile when I was a teenager, but I have completed two half marathons in the last year. I completed my first half marathon in honor of my father-in-law who succumbed to multiple myeloma (a type of cancer) last year. His memory motivated my first training, and now, running is more to me than just exercise. It is a part of my life now; a chance to put on my headphones and listen to Bollywood beats, a chance to be free and with my own thoughts and feelings, a solitary retreat. I was looking forward to experiencing a race in Europe later this year, but the spread of coronavirus thwarted those plans.
You have the most gorgeous skin. But I’ve heard running can be bad for your skin. What are your thoughts?
Thank you. Running, and regular exercise in general, has both beneficial and harmful effects on the skin. The weight loss alone can result in a loss of volume on the face and a more hollowed appearance. Our bodies make free radicals when they are under stress. These free radicals break down collagen and elastin and this leads to more wrinkles and sagging skin. In addition to an increased risk of skin cancer, chronic, repetitive sun exposure results in brown spots, discoloration to the face and neck, thickened skin, and wrinkles.
It is not all bad. Exercise is also really good for your skin. Regular exercise brings more blood to your skin. Blood carries oxygen to your skin and helps remove free radical waste from the your skin. Stress also affects the amount of oil produced by our skin. Since exercise can decrease overall stress, it may help reduce acne.
So, it is really important to exercise in moderation and maintain a healthy skin care routine.
What do you do to protect your skin while running? Is there a pre-run and post-run skin-care routine you have?
I try to run early in the mornings or in the late afternoon/evenings to avoid peak sun hours.
Before a run, I always wash my face with a gentle cleanser (Simply Clean by Skinceuticals). Then I moisturize with a light moisturizer such as Cetaphil daily hydrating lotion or Neutrogena hydroboost gel cream.
I cannot emphasize the next step enough. I always apply sunscreen, even on a cloudy day, to my face, lips, my ears, front/sides/back of my neck, and my upper chest. It is important to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading out and to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, at least. And, don’t forget runner’s sunglasses to protect your eyes.
I have combination acne prone skin so I prefer Elta MD’s UV Clear sunscreen. If I am planning on going for a longer run, I will take my Colorscience powder brush on sunscreen in my fanny pack so I can reapply. My lip balm has an SPF of 30 (Aquaphor lip protectant and sunscreen).
What if sunscreens burn when they get into my eyes or irritate my skin?
Sometimes the chemicals in sunscreens leak into the eyes due to sweat. If you experience this, it is best to use sunscreens that are mineral-based with active ingredients such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Formulations of sunscreen for babies are generally well suited for people with sensitive skin, such as Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby sunscreen, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, and Aveeno Kids Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen. Stick formulas, such as Cerave Sunscreen Stick with SPF 50, also tend to be free of irritating ingredients.
In addition, barrier protection is a reliable way to protect one’s skin.
I have a baseball cap that has UPF built into it and a pair of runner’s sunglasses. Skin cancers in and around the eye are rare, but they happen. Additionally, I always wear a long sleeves tee with a UPF of 50+, and I generally wear leggings to protect the skin on my arms and legs. Keep in mind that washing your sun-protective clothing can reduce the UPF over time, but there are products like SunGuard that you can add to your wash to help with that.
You can find performance sun-protective clothing through several retailers including REI, Solbari, and Coolibar, amongst others.
What about your post run skin care routine?
It is so important to wash your skin after a run. Sweat mixed with dirt and makeup can clog your pores and cause acne or inflamed hair follicles on your face and body.
I try to shower within 30 minutes of completing a run. I cleanse my face again with my Simply Clean cleanser by SkinCeuticals. I am acne prone, so I wash my chest and back with Panoxyl foaming wash after a run.
After cleansing my skin, I apply SkinCeuticals Vitamin CE Ferulic serum to my face. This helps protect the skin against damage caused by free radicals. Then I apply Alastin’s Restorative Skin Complex cream (which stimulates collagen and elastin production) mixed with SkinMedica’s HA5 for extra hydration, and finally I apply sunscreen again (Elta MD UV Clear) if I have the rest of the day ahead of me, even if I plan on staying indoors.
Once sun damage has occurred, what are some of the best ways to remedy the damage?
I think a good routine that incorporates a sunscreen, a hydrating moisturizer, products that help repair damage such as a Vitamin C and E serum as well as restorative cosmeceutical grade products such as Alastin’s Restorative Skin Complexcream or SkinMedica’s TNS Essentials serum are crucial to repair damage.
Intense Pulse Light therapy (aka IPL) can be very helpful to treat uneven skin pigmentation that results from chronic sun exposure.
If you find yourself squinting or frowning while you run, stay ahead of those wrinkles with Botox.
And, please take the time to get a full body skin check to screen for skin cancer by a board certified Dermatologist.
How important is hydration for healthy skin?
Hydration is very important for healthy skin. Of course drinking water is important to maintain healthy blood flow and this in turn helps bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin and helps flush out toxins. However, drinking a lot of water is not enough to hydrate your skin.
It is important to hydrate the skin topically, directly. You can do this by using a gentle cleanser, keeping your showers short, and using hydrating moisturizers, with hyaluronic acid for example, especially to the face and neck (I use SkinMedica’s HA5 moisturizer daily) and creamy or oil-based emollients to the rest of the body.
Do you have any other recommendations for skin care in general – especially during this time of COVID-19 when people are washing hands more frequently, and wearing masks and gloves? What should we be doing during this time to protect our skin?
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hand washing throughout the day. However, frequent hand washing can leave your skin dry and cracked. This can then lead to a higher chance of picking up germs. It is really important to moisturize the skin of your hands after every hand washing, on damp skin. If you are using hand sanitizer, be sure to rub it on the skin of your hands well, let it dry, then apply moisturizer. I personally really like Aveeno’s Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm, but Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment is also a really nice fragrance free and dye free emollient.
Face masks, when worn properly, are supposed to create a pressurized seal so air does not come through. While this is imperative to minimize the spread of the virus, it can lead to problems in the skin around the nose and mouth. Heat and sweat can cause irritation and flare-ups of rosacea and acne. Some people get bruises and skin discoloration.
To try and minimize mask related skin problems, always wear a clean mask on clean, well-hydrated skin. Please wash your hands first! You may want to avoid heavy make-up because this might clog your pores, especially under your mask. I would recommend removing the mask as soon as you can when you return home, and again, Please wash your hands first! Then clean the skin with a gentle cleanser and apply a hydrating moisturizer. Cool compresses may help reduce swelling and irritation. And if someone is prone to bruising, topical arnica cream may help.
This also may be an opportunity for people to experiment with some in-home skin care routines. Any fun make-at-home masks or skin products you recommend?
I would like to share my mom’s signature mask recipe. This is great for acne prone skin and to help reverse the signs of aging and sun-damage. Please consult with your dermatologist before trying this at home, especially if you have more sensitive skin.
Turmeric powder (1/4 teaspoon)
Gram flour (2 teaspoons)
Tomato (1/4 to ½ of tomato pulp, as required to make a paste)
Lemon juice (1/4 teaspoon)
Use a gentle cleanser to clean your skin first. Mix and make a paste and massage it gently with clean fingers onto damp skin. Leave the mask on the skin for 5-10 minutes. When you start to feel the mask dry, rinse it off with cold water. Pat-dry your skin gently with a towel. Then apply your normal moisturizer and sunscreen.
Thank you so much for this valuable information Dr. Mundi! This definitely gives me some direction on how to better protect my skin during runs. I look forward to seeing you out on the trails – and in the office for my next skin check soon!
You can contact Dr. Mundi at:
The Dermatology Center at Ladera
600 Corporate Drive Suite 240
Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
Fax: (949) 364-8511
Tel: (949) 364-8411