Posted on May 01 2021
Post by Pretty Athletic's advisory dermatologist, consultant Dr Charlie Mitchell
The days are longer, the sun actually feels warm, and the trees are turning greening... Spring is here finally! Especially as the bright and warm days are so much more enjoyable after a long lockdown-winter, I am sure your thoughts are now focused on undertaking more of your recreation and exercise in the great outdoors. Longer days are perfect to fit in a run, sport or game outside of the usual work hours during the week, and not just crammed into your precious winter weekend days.
So here are just a few tips for your outdoor runs or new park exercise regime, to keep your skin and you fighting fit together.
Protect your skin for the future - use good ultraviolet protection regularly
Being a dermatologist, unfortunately I do often sound like a broken record, going over the same advice to all I meet - the sun is nice, but should be enjoyed with care!
Excess ultraviolet (UV) light ages your skin, which will make you look older than your non-outdoor-loving friends, plus it puts you at higher chances of developing skin cancers, even if you are able to avoid burning1.
Both skin aging and cancer risks are lowered substantially by a few easy additions to your exercise plans:
1) Try to avoid the hours in the day when the UV Index will be at the highest level - this is usually between 11am and 3pm in the UK. Any weather forecast will also tell you when to be extra careful, as things like cloud cover, rain and the month will change how much UV gets to the surface of the Earth and your skin.
2) Protect yourself - use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30, or even SPF 50 if you are very easily burnt or visiting an overseas hot country. And reapply the sunscreens every 2 hours at least. Do not believe the "one-application" hype touted by several brands - all sunscreens will get wiped off, sweated off or washed off in your exercise routine. Repeated application keeps the SPF at the level it should be, not fading away with time/sweat/life! And you don't have to have an expensive brand to get a good product - just look for a 5 star-rated, broad spectrum product, which will block both UVA and UVB effectively, these are the two main ultraviolet lights to protect your skin from getting too much exposure to.
3) Cover-up - wear a hat, long-sleeves and leg coverings if possible. Not always fashionable but your future skin health will thank you for it! UV protective clothing is available from specialist retailers. A good rule of thumb - the looser the weave or knit for a piece of clothing, the more UV will get through. Hold your garment up to a light to see if you can see through it - if you can see easily then UV light will also get through easily, so be aware. And you can always put sunscreen on under a top, especially over your chest, upper back and shoulder areas which get the most light exposure even with clothing covering them.
From Cancer Research UK 2
Keep your skin and body happy - stay hydrated
Sweating is a natural process to allow your body to keep its core temperature at a safe level, and to help you to keep exercising effectively at the level you want to3. Failing to keep up replacing the loss of fluids during prolonged intense activity will stress your skin and body unnecessarily. Work out sensibly by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. Avoid excising during the hottest parts of the day, when the sun is out fully between 11am and 3pm (and unsurprisingly that is exactly when the UV Index is highest too).
It may seem obvious to some but it is very important to understand the need to stay hydrated. Your skin will have enough fluid to keep it cool, your muscles will burn calories effectively and flush away lactic acid quickly, your blood pressure will be maintained, and your heart will pump optimally. Which all means you get the best from your body when you need it most, doing what you love most - being active!
Moisturise your skin post-exercise
Once you've enjoyed your run, workout, gym session or Ultimate Frisbee game, do keep looking after your skin. Have a light shower, and soak off that sweat, grime and old sunscreen with a gentle skin wash like the Pretty Athletic Cool Down Gel Cleanser. Pat your skin dry then apply a nice light emollient to lock in the moisture and protect your skin barrier. Then you be all set to get back to relishing life all through this year's Spring, Summer and beyond!
So, enjoy yourself out there whilst taking good care of yourself and your skin,
Dr Charlie Mitchell
Note: The Pretty Athletic suncream is still in the R&D phase, but in the meantime if you would like any suncream recommendations, please get in touch.