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Summer running can be heavenly—the sun kisses your shoulders as visions of post-run margaritas dance in your head. Plus, there’s something about ending a run covered in sweat that makes you feel like you really put in the work. But if you’re not careful, all that heat, humidity, and salt can also wreak havoc and cause skin problems. Here’s how you can protect yourself from some common summer skin issues, without sacrificing any of your time outdoors.
Summer Skin Problem: Sunburn
Solution: Focus on prevention—SPF is your friend.
We know you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s important enough to repeat: Sunscreen is non-negotiable for runners, even on a cloudy day. “When you’re going to be perspiring, the key is to get a water-resistant formula that will stand up to your workout,” says Dr. Noelle Sherber, a Washington, D.C.–based dermatologist.
At the minimum, you need a 30 SPF rating, and a “broad-spectrum” designation on the package, which means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sherber also looks for a combination of mineral and chemical filters, which tend to be most reliable in terms of protection.
If you’re out for a long run, chances are that you’ll need to reapply. Most sunscreen packages will give you an estimate (e.g., 80 minutes, though two hours should be the max). Pro tip from Sherber: Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you remember when you need to re-up.
Summer Skin Problem: Blisters
Solution: Start protecting—and stop popping.
Nothing can turn a good run into a disaster like the biting pain of a sore spot on your foot, and blisters are particularly common in hot weather. According to Dr. Brian Adams, a sports dermatologist at the University of Cincinnati, the “perfect recipe for a blister is heat, moisture, and friction between the skin and a fixed object.”
To prevent blisters, wear moisture-wicking socks, which provide a barrier against friction and keep the skin cool and dry. For additional protection, use an anti-chafing ointment.
If a blister does form, resist the urge to pop it, which can create an infection. Instead, Sherber says to cover the area with a gel pad or bandage. “Try not to wear the same shoes once you have a blister,” Sherber says. “The sustained friction will perpetuate the blister and slow healing.”
Summer Skin Problem: Chafing
Solution: Baby your skin—literally.
You’ve just gotten back from a long, hot run, and nothing sounds better than a cool shower. Then the water hits and—surprise!—all of a sudden you’re a stinging mess.
Like blisters, chafing is the result of skin friction, which worsens the more you sweat.
To keep from rubbing yourself raw, invest in an anti-chafing stick or cream. Like sunscreen, apply early and often. Make sure to hit both spots where the skin rubs against itself (thighs) and where it rubs against clothing (under your sports bra, around the armholes of your shirt and at the waistband of your shorts or leggings).
If you do end up with some soreness, Dr. Barry Goldman, a New York dermatologist and marathon runner, suggests treating with an over-the-counter vitamin A and D cream—otherwise known as diaper-rash ointment.
Summer Skin Problem: Acne
Solution: Avoid stale sweat and fabric softener.
It sometimes seems like summer runs are served with a side of breakouts. But while the sweat may be unavoidable, Sherber says, the clogged pores don’t have to be.
When you get back from your run, wash your face immediately to remove any bacteria. “Kaolin clay and salicylic acid are ingredients that can get into pores and wick out the combination of oil, perspiration, grime, and sunscreen that can accumulate while running,” Sherber says.
Acne can also pop up on the back, shoulders, chest, and butt. To combat it, wear moisture-wicking clothing during your run and resist the temptation to lounge around afterward in your sweaty clothes—throw them in the washer and yourself in the shower immediately. Sherber also recommends avoiding dryer sheets and fabric softeners on sports bras in particular. “They leave a film on the fabric that can get into your pores when you sweat,” she says.
Summer Skin Problem: Bug bites
Solution: Don’t forget the bug spray.
Just like we emerge in the warmer temps, so do our not-so-friendly neighborhood mosquitos. And it’s easy to forget (until afterward), that you can get bit while out on the run. And while bug bites generally do not damage your skin, scratching them to the point of scabbing can.
Applying bug spray before going out on a run–preferably an athletic or sport-rated version that is sweat-resistant–will help keep the bites away. If you do come home with bug bites the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends a topical hydrocortisone cream or ointment or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch.