Those miles you log will prepare you for a great race day, but throughout your training you will also increase your exposure to the sun, which over time can increase your risk of skin cancer, premature wrinkling, cataract formation and other skin damage.
But don’t worry, it is possible to train for a race AND minimize your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by adding a few extra minutes to your pre-run routine. As a board certified dermatologist and avid runner, here are a few of my top sun safety tips:
Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Sun rays are the strongest during these hours. Best to start those long runs early so that you are finished by 10 a.m.
Consider any medication you’re using.
Certain ones make you more exposed to sun damage. Many topical and oral medications including those for acne, high blood pressure and birth control can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Absolutely wear a hat and sunblock to minimize discoloration and potential sunburn.
Use broad spectrum sun protection with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater each and every time you train.
Try a “sport” sunscreen, which tends to be lighter in texture and less occlusive. If you choose an alcohol-based spray product, which allows you to spray those hard to reach areas, make sure to rub the product in after you spray it on to ensure you have full coverage. Apply to every sun exposed area, remember the rims of your ears, back of your neck, legs and arms. If you have thinning hair, remember to either wear a hat or apply the sunblock to the top of your scalp. Protect your lips by wearing a lip balm with SPF.
Apply your sunscreen 20 minutes BEFORE you hit the trail.
Even on cloudy or hazy days, you should do this, plus reapply every 2-4 hours while out running. You can still get a sunburn on cloudy days, so get in the habit of reapplying your sunscreen. Pick up a sample size of sunscreen that you can carry in your running shorts or fanny pack or convince your training group to have some at water stations and reapply it on those long runs.
Keep your clothes on!
We know—it’s hot outside. Having a shirt on will give you some protection (about an SPF of 8) so although you may be really hot, try not to run in a sports bra only.
Wear a hat and sunglasses.
A hat will protect your scalp if you have thinning hair. Get one made from coolmax fabric, which will keep you cooler on hot days. Sunglasses with UV protection will protect your eyes from sun damage and cataract formation—plus you’ll look super serious running!
Share your sun block
Remind your group members to put sun protection on just as you would remind them to hydrate.
Bonus point #8—don’t forget to enjoy your run!
Dr. Brooke Jackson is a board certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. An avid runner and budding triathlete, Dr. Jackson has completed 10 marathons and 8 triathlons, was on the the board of directors of Girls on the Run, and is a frequent speaker for running groups on sun safety and skin cancer awareness.