Ask Dr. Erin
Erin Moore, MD
Cold, sweaty, hot, clammy, chilled or dry...as a runner, your skin gets as much of a workout as you do. You can roll with the punches or take a few simple steps to fight back. Please welcome our friend and new Oiselle guest blogger, Dr. Erin, who will be periodically offering straight scoop on how to protect your skin while braving the elements. In addition to being a "derm" specialist, Erin is a runner, having competed in everything from 5Ks to marathons.
Sally: What can runners do to protect their skin through the winter?
Erin: Winter running can be hard on the skin. The combination of cold, wet and wind can really irritate the skin. Some basic tips that will keep your skin looking and feeling great: make sure to use a moisturizer during the day and at night. The elements can leave skin dehydrated and it is important to replace the moisture. Wearing a light moisturizer can also act as a barrier from the wind and wet. Make sure that you also wear a sunscreen if it isn't dark, There is significant UV exposure even on a cloudy day. Another area to remember is the lips- use a lip balm or even vaseline to protect the lips. If you have problem areas that get irritated (such as the eyelids) you can use a little vaseline to protect them.
What over the counter lotions or creams do you like/recommend? Do you differ your recommendation depending on whether it's snow, rain, or just dry cold?
In general, in dryer and colder climates you will need a heavier moisturizer. Some of my favorite brands are CeraVe, Cetaphil and Vanicream. These brands are all non scented and appropriate for sensitive skin. For the body it is important to use a true cream (in a tub) on the body. Lotions have a high percentage of water so are not as moisturizing. I use Cetaphil or CeraVe cream after the shower every day.
What about sunscreen? Do you have a favorite for running?
My all time favorite sunscreen is Elta MD UV Clear. It is a purely physical sunscreen, which means it only has titanium and zinc oxide. Sunscreens that are only physical (compared to chemical) are best for sensitive skin. This sunscreen also has niacinamide in it which is an acne treatment. At the drugstore there are many good brands such as neutrogena and cetaphil. The key to sunscreen is to reapply every 2-3 hours if you are in the sun. The sunscreen only lasts for that long.
I know to wear sunscreen in the summer, but I don't in the winter. Is this a mistake?
I recommend always wearing at least an SPF 30, even in the winter. There is significant UV radiation, even on cloudy days and if there is snow the reflection intensifies the sun. Studies have also shown that indoor lights and light through the windows can cause aging. Always wear that sunscreen!
Are there any daily vitamins you recommend - that you believe help skin?
A balanced diet and good sleep will improve skin tone. There isn't evidence to support oral vitamins for skin health. Some topical vitamins can help with certain issues. Vitamin C and vitamin E help with dark spots and are anti-oxidants. Vitamin C is available in many products, but the stability of the product can be variable, so all products are not equal. I use a combination vitamin C and E serum called Phloretin CF by Skinceuticals. Niacinamide has been shown to help with acne and rosacea and is included in some products.
Do you feel that wearing a running cap is beneficial in the winter, vs. a headband?
Hat, hat, hat!! I never run without a hat (unless I am on the treadmill) It is the best sun protector and also protects from the rain.
Do you think runners are more susceptible to skin cancer due to more exposure?
Definitely. Chronic sun exposure significantly increases skin cancer risk. Most long time runners show advanced photo damage for their age. I recommend having their skin checked by their primary care doctor or a dermatologist starting in the 40s, earlier if they have a family history of skin cancer (especially melanoma) or grew up in a very sunny climate.
Not really winter running related, but what do you recommend for chafing? If it should happen in the sports bra or inner thigh area? How would you treat it?
The best treatment is prevention- good clothing can help. I have never had chafing with my oiselle bratops, but I can't say the same for all my clothing. Using a product such as body glide can help prevent chafing. If you do have chafing keep the area moist and protected with a little vaseline or aquaphor to help it heal.
Anything in particular you recommend after an intense run where you're out in the elements?
After an intense run make sure to rehydrate- this can help the skin from looking tired. If you are in the elements remember to use the proper protection such as sunscreen, ointments on the lips and nose to protect from the wind and sunglasses.
Any other tips or ideas to add for winter runners - in terms of their skin and protecting it?
Remember to wear sunglasses. The skin around the eyes is very delicate and squinting can create severe signs of aging. Winter days can still be very bright. Also, change out of wet clothing quickly. Wet clothes irritate the skin and make chafing and eczema worse.