Sun Protection For Runners

Suncream for runners & how to protect your skin when running

With Coach Alexa, Online Running Coach for We Run and the We Run Virtual Running Club

Hi team, Coach Alexa here. I’m risking jinxing it I’m afraid; the sun is out, so I’m going to do a video on sunscreen, which will probably mess things up horribly for this bank holiday weekend weather-wise. So apologies in advance!

As runners, we often spend a lot more time outdoors than your average person. So I thought I’d do a bit of a recap on sun cream. Being a running coach and a sports massage therapist, I get to see people’s skin, and often notice the amount of sun damage that you can accumulate through your life. It’s worth just being aware of and taking the necessary precautions with.

Understanding Sunscreen For Runners: Types and Recommendations

There are lots of different types of sun cream out there. This is my favourite, P20, because it stays on for longer and offers really fantastic protection from the two key different types of radiation that we get from the sun. But most other products that you can buy, for example, in the chemist or shops, are all good, but it’s worth just understanding a little bit more about the two different key types of radiation that cause skin damage and what to look out for on the labels on the backs of these bottles.

To set the scene, the sun is a massive nuclear explosion. It’s a massive nuclear inferno. It’s just a very, very long way away, but it’s so big that we still obviously feel the effects of it in terms of its warmth. And as you will know, if you sit in the sun for too long, it will burn you still, even though it’s literally trillions of miles away (NB this is a slight exaggeration; it’s 93 million miles away!)

UV Radiation: UVB and UVA Explained

The thing that burns you is what’s called UVB, so it’s a higher intensity kind of frequency of radiation, so it doesn’t really go deep into the skin. But it will cause high-level burns on the skin. It’s what gives you that sunburn. And it’s also the type of radiation that’s more linked with skin cancers like melanoma.

So when you look at the ratings on a bottle, SPF is usually what ties in with your UVB protection, so you can get different ratings. You most people are familiar with SPFs, you know, 20, 30, 40, 50. You can also get a sort of star rating associated with those or kind of plus rating associated with those. So that’s obviously really useful to prevent burning and reduce your risk of skin cancers and melanomas.

UVA, however, is kind of a lower frequency radiation, but it penetrates deeper into the skin and that’s the one that’s more associated with aging the skin cells. So that is what will give you freckles, age spots. I know I accumulate a larger number of moles and little sort of different coloured patches on my skin and that is all coming from the UVA.

UVA protection is not actually something that’s covered in the SPF; it has its own separate star rating. So here perhaps you can see on the suncream bottle there’s a little round icon with UVA at the top, and a star rating. So two suncreams might have the same factor, both factor thirty for example, but the UVA rating in small print on the back might differ, meaning one will protect the skin from aging better than the other.

Final Thoughts on Sun Protection

Another thing to think about, which a lot of people sometimes don’t consider is the top of your head. So I’ve got a little bit where the hair kind of swirls out and exposes the scalp a little bit, and that exposed area can get sunburnt. Sunburn on the scalp is something, for example, that some hairdressers are trained to look out for; melanomas and skin damage on the scalp. Because of that, if you have thinner hair or if you’ve shaved your head, or got no hair at all, then obviously making sure that you cover up your head either with a hat or with some sort of decent sun cream is crucial.

Another thing it’s easy to forget is your lips. You can get SPF lip balms to make sure your lips are protected from the sun too. Also don’t forget the tops of your ears if you’ve got short hair like me.

So it’s all about staying safe on sunny days, but even when it’s a dull day, if you’re out for an hour or two, you are still going to be accumulating quite substantial UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. So I’m wearing a factor 15 all the time no matter what I’m doing these days. And if I’m going to be spending longer outdoors than my usual couple of hours a day, then I will be wearing a higher factor for brighter sunlight.

Happy Running and remember, sun protection is crucial, even on cloudy days!

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