Running in the winter presents a lot of challenges. As if the cold, dark, snowy and icy conditions aren’t enough of a problem, you can add one more item to that list: skin issues. Winter weather conditions can be tough on your skin, particularly for runners, who spend more time than most braving the outdoors. For this reason, a good skincare routine is even more important than usual this time of year. We spoke with dermatologist Jane Wu from the Cleveland Clinic Canada to learn how runners can best take care of their skin during the winter months.
Wu explained that running in the cold weather, particularly when it’s windy, can cause your skin to lose a lot of moisture. This leads to dry skin and irritation, and can even trigger eczema or cause it to flare up. To avoid this, Wu recommends applying an emollient moisturizer, which will help to maintain your skin barrier. She adds that it is best to use bland skin care products that do not contain any unnecessary fragrances or preservatives.
The winter weather is not the only thing that can irritate your skin this time of year. Your hats, headbands and face coverings can irritate your skin through friction, and they can also harbor dirt and bacteria if they’re not properly washed. When looking for headbands or masks, Wu says you should choose 100 per cent cotton whenever possible, and to wash them frequently. If you’re sweating a lot, she says to wash them after every use.
The other key ingredient in your winter running skincare routine is sunscreen. Although many runners don’t think they need to wear it in the winter, if you’re running while the sun’s out Wu insists it’s a must.
“UV can be very strong in the wintertime on a sunny day,” she explains. “In addition, snow can reflect up to 80 per cent of UV rays, which means you are likely getting much more UV than expected. Sunscreen should be applied daily in the winter, even on a cloudy or rainy day.”
Finally, Wu recommends applying an ointment like Vaseline or Aquaphor to help prevent chapped lips. If simple strategies like moisturizing and over-the-counter products aren’t working and you’re still experiencing skin issues, Wu encourages you to speak with a board-certified dermatologist who can figure out what is causing your skin troubles and find a solution that works for you.