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What All Runners Should Know About Sun Damage

Dr. Mitchell Chasin, a cosmetic surgeon and founder of Reflections Center for Skin and Body in New Jersey, is quick to dispel the myth that runners age faster due to the impact from running.

According to a comparative study of 186 pairs of twins published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2009, it’s sun exposure and failure to use sunscreen—not exercise—that cause premature aging. In fact, running can help you maintain a youthful glow!

We took our skin care questions to Chasin, to find out the best ways to prevent and treat sun damage.

Women’s Running: What steps should runners take to minimize sun damage?

Dr. Mitchell Chasin: We’ve all heard Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The use of preventative measures cannot be overstated. Physical sunblock in addition to UV-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses should be worn during outdoor activities. You can also time your runs to minimize UV exposure. We recommend you run either in the morning or evening, with 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. being the worst time to run. If you’re sweating profusely, remember you need to be mindful of wiping away sunscreen along with sweat. Reapplying sunscreen every few hours, or as you towel off, is important.

WR: Are there any home remedies that work for refreshing skin and repairing sun damage?

MC: Sun damage is really oxidative stress playing out in the loss of collagen and elastin in the skin. You can minimize oxidative stress by eating a diet full of antioxidant-rich foods and staying properly hydrated. Retinols, vitamin C and products containing growth factors can all work to speed cell turnover, which can minimize sun damage. However, you can’t expect products to do the heavy lifting. Skin care is mostly about prevention.

WR: What skin changes indicate sun damage and skin cancer?

MC: There are really obvious skin cancers, and then there are those that look like pimples or little red dots but linger too long. Dermatologists recommend you perform monthly skin exams, looking for any changes. Of particular concern are moles with asymmetry, irregular borders, weird colors (red, blue, black, purple), a large diameter and spots that are changing. A physician should evaluate any new lesions or moles.

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.