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Q&A: Do You Need to Protect Your Skin in the Winter?

Should I protect my skin against the sun while running in the winter?

The answer to this is simple: Of course you should! You should protect your skin from the sun no matter what time of year it is. We tend to shy away from using sunscreen during colder months; however, the dangerous rays of the sun—UVA and UVB—are just as strong this time of year as they are during the summer. Even if the sun doesn’t feel strong, those rays can affect you through clouds or off the glare of snow and ice.

Not only does protecting your skin help prevent wrinkles, leathery-looking skin, and sun spots, but it helps to protect you from skin cancer. Long-distance runners are one of the many groups that are susceptible to skin cancer due to the amount of time they spend in the sun and the lack of skin protection. Mixing sweat with sun increases your skin damage rate and can lead to issues down the road.

Here are some tips to help protect your skin:

  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to any exposed areas of your skin before applying anything else. You should be using a sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. For your long run days, you can find travel size sunscreen to carry with you on your run for when you need to reapply. You should be reapplying every 90 to 120 minutes. If you like to wear moisturizer or makeup, you can apply them after the sunscreen dries.

  • Wear tight-knit clothing. If you hold your long-sleeve shirt and long pants up to the light, you should not be able to see the light through them. Tight-knit clothing will decrease the amount of skin exposed to the sun and decrease the chances of skin damage. They even make clothes that have sunscreen in them!

  • Make sure you protect the not-so-obvious places. They have done research that shows your bottom lip, the tips of your ears, and the top of your head are some of the more common places to get skin damage. Wearing lip balm with SPF in it and covering your head and ears with a hat or ear warmers can help with this one!

Running reduces your risk of cancer and many other diseases, but if you are not careful, running outdoors can increase your risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Please make sure to protect your skin—no matter what time of year it is!


Erin Corbo

Erin Corbo, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center. She is a lifelong runner and has completed two marathons and numerous half-marathons. Erin specializes in runners’ injuries, as well as general orthopedic injuries.
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