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Here’s The Real Reason You Need To Wear Sunscreen All Year

For all of the upsides of running, it’s a given that you’ll spend time in the sun—and that takes a toll on your skin. Exposure to damaging UV rays breaks down elastin, leading to accelerated signs of aging and a greater chance for skin cancer. Think you don’t have to worry about this now that autumn has arrived, or you’re safe because you hit the treadmill? Unfortunately, UV rays are a concern all year round regardless of the temperature, and sun exposure happens even as you drive to the gym. So what’s a runner to do?

One thing is for sure—don’t stop running! We took our skin care questions to Dr. Mitchell Chasin, a cosmetic surgeon and founder of Reflections Center for Skin and Body in New Jersey.

Is there a difference between generic sunscreen and name brands?

Dr. Mitchell Chasin: When it comes to sunscreens with physical block ingredients, the biggest difference people notice is the look and feel of the product on your skin. Many generic brands that contain zinc oxide tend to give a white cast and might have a gritty or greasy feeling. This doesn’t have anything to do with the effectiveness of the product, but if a better-looking and-feeling product makes you more likely to wear sunscreen, go with that.

What do you suggest for those who sweat a lot?

Dr. Mitchell Chasin: So-called “waterproof” sunscreens are a good idea, but you’ve got to be mindful that no product is “rub-proof” or “drenched-in-sweat-proof.” If you’re wiping sweat off, you’re likely wiping sunscreen off too. That means you need to think about reapplying. Also, be sure to apply a coat of sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to your run, so it has time to absorb fully before sweat washes it away.

What SPF level do you recommend?

Dr. Mitchell Chasin: SPF 45 seems to be the new standard beyond which physicians agree there is little added benefit. I always let women know that the sunscreen in makeup, which is usually SPF 15 or less, is not enough. You need to layer a real sunscreen for daily wear. Also, don’t neglect the neck, chest and hands—sun damage there is harder to correct or cover.

Allison Pattillo

Allison Pattillo

Allison played field hockey and golf while growing up, but always ran “just for the fun of it.” She completed and won her age group in her very first race, a 5K, when she was 26 so that she would at least know how to pin on her number before running her first marathon a month later. Those two races turned into dozens, from mile long sprints to ultras, running to triathlon with some ski and snowshoe racing mixed in as well. After earning a Boston qualifier and completing her first IRONMAN 140.6, this mother of two is now focused on seeing how much she can better her 3:48 PB marathon time, running the World Marathon Majors (Boston and Tokyo are in the books!) and tackling a 50-miler.