Woman running outdoors

A Runner's Reference For Sun Protection

You’re serious about your running routine.You’re at it every day. And you want to see some serious results. You want to look in the mirror and see those biceps bulging. You want to see those glutes flexing and those quads defined. What don’t you want to see? Sun damage.

Running is a great way to stay in shape, but if the terrain is your domain, you have to deal with the elements, and the sun is a large element. All those miles in the sun increases the risk of malignant melanoma and associated abnormalities. If you’re skipping the sun screen, here are some things your dermatologist may want to tell you.

Don’t Skimp on Protection
According to Amy Mc Clung, MD, sweating in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. Even if you are starting in the dark hours of the morning or in cloudy weather, there is no reason to throw caution to the wind. The darkest days can always give way to sun, and you can also burn on an overcast day. McClung recommends a generous application of sunscreen, a hat, and a pair of sunglasses, regardless of how the weather looks when you set out.

Apply Sunscreen with a Heavy Hand
Before you start patting yourself on the back for applying the sunscreen, make sure you have plenty on. Brooke Jackson, MD, and once dermatologist for the Chicago Marathon, says that if you are using a cream or lotion formula, aim to apply enough of the stuff to fill a shot glass. That translates to about an ounce and a half, which means you should go through an eight ounce bottle in about two days.

Woman applying sunscreen

Don’t Get A Base Tan
If you’re thinking gradual exposure will protect you from sun burn or damage, Jackson would like you to think again. She warns that tans and burns are not buffers, but rather the body’s built in way of telling you you’ve had enough sun. “As a dermatologist,” she says, “when I see tanned skin, I see damaged skin. It doesn’t at all look healthy to me.”

Don’t Run Shirtless
Or in a very small top, sports bra, or similarly sized contraction. While it is tempting to disrobe in the heat, doing so will increase the surface area of skin exposed to the sun. Look for the “UPF” label on clothes, which indicates that the item has sun protection built in. Even if there is no label, Jackson says that even regular tanks and shorts can provide an SPF of about 8.

Don’t Omit Your Head and Lips
Scalps with thinning hair are very vulnerable to sun damage and are known to be the first area on which cancerous growths first appear. As Jackson points out, the spot can be particularly dangerous, because remaining hairs can conceal the appearance of cancers, making them easy to overlook.

Apply sunscreen to the top of your head, and, if you have a full head of hair, remember that your part is also a target for sun damage, and should be protected appropriately. A hat will provide even better protection than lotion, and can also help to shade your forehead and spare you from the possibility of getting irritating sunscreen in your eyes.

Don’t forget about your lips, which are also subject to burn. Give them a coating of sunscreen or use a lip balm with SPF and wear your shades to protect your eyes from cataracts and cancer.

So take special care if you are running and let us know what you do to keep your skin from burning. We wish you good luck and great skin.

Woman applying sunscreen

SPF 30 vs SPF 50

When you shop for sunscreens, you’ve probably noticed products available with SPFs ranging from 15 to 100. You would think an SPF of 100 would be more effective than one of 15, but it’s not as simple as that. So, what exactly do all these numbers mean?

SPF refers to a sunscreen’s ability to block UVB rays, but not UVA rays. UVB rays cause sunburns while UVA rays are more closely linked to deeper skin damage. Both kinds of rays can contribute to skin cancer. The SPF rates measure the amount of time it would take for you to sunburn without sunscreen as opposed to the amount of time it would take you to burn with the sunscreen on. But Florida dermatologist. James M. Spencer, MD, explains, “SPF is not a consumer friendly number. It is logical for someone to think than an SPF of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15, but that’s not how it works.”

Spencer further explains that SPF 15 will block about 94% of UVB rays while an SPF 30 blocks 97% and an SPF 45 blocks about 98%. “After that it just gets silly,” says Spencer. Doctors like Farah Ahmed, general counsel for the cosmetics industry group Personal Care Products Council, tends to agree, but adds that high SPF products may protect better against long term skin damage and exposure related skin cancers. Generally, an SPF of 30 is recommended.

Dr. Steven Q Wang, MD and director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, points out ways in which using sunscreens with a higher SPF can even have negative effects. Since SPF protects against UVB rays only, and UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, individuals may not burn while using these sunscreens. However, this does not mean they are not susceptible to damage from UVA rays which cause premature aging. To these lengths, Europe and Australia have adopted UVA testing guidelines and measurement standards and capped the SPF of sunscreens at 50. The U.S. Food and Drug Association may follow suit.

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Wang also points out that people who are wearing an SPF of 50 or higher, may adopt a false sense of security and may stay out in the sun longer. They may not make wise choices like seeking shade or wearing sun protective clothing. Sun damage can take place even if skin is not becoming tan or reddening.

No matter what produce you choose, water resistant sunscreen should be applied liberally a half hour before you go outdoors and should be reapplied every two hours or after you are swimming or sweating. Look for broad spectrum sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are less likely to wash off and effectively protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid avobenzone products which are not stable and oxybenzone, which is absorbed into your skin and has demonstrated to be a hormone disruptor.

So, what’s your number? Let us know in the comments section below!