Warmer weather means it’s time to get back outside and enjoy the sun. Whether that involves playing tennis, rock climbing, running or bicycling, weekend warriors and serious athletes alike can’t resist getting outside and making the most of the longer, warmer days.
Experts say that, just as athletes put a lot of thought into what gear they use for their sports, they also need to consider how they’re preparing their skin for all that time spent outside.
“Outdoor athletes have to prepare themselves for all the conditions they face,” says Dr. Amy McClung, a board-certified dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas. “They take special precautions to make sure they stay hydrated. They have to eat a certain way to have the right amount of energy for training. But they might sometimes overlook the importance of preparing their skin, too.”
The more time you spend outside, the greater your skin’s risk for sun damage, which can lead to everything from wrinkles to skin cancer. There are ways to safeguard against sun damage, and outdoor athletes should put these four practices at the top of their priority list.
Start With Sunscreen
Nothing is more important for outdoor athletes than a good sunscreen. While everyone should use sunscreen when they leave the house, it is particularly important for athletes who are going to spend several hours outside under the blazing sun.
“Unprotected skin is a shortcut to problems like sun damage and skin cancer,” Dr. McClung says. “You need to put it on before you leave the house, and you need to make sure that you’re reapplying it regularly.”
Some sunscreen products are designed for athletes and are water resistant for 80 minutes. These are often formulated not only to be water resistant, but they may also be lighter weight and not sting the eyes. Adding in an antioxidant serum in the mornings may also help repair and prevent sun damage as well.
“It’s also important for athletes to remember their lips, too,” Dr. McClung says. “They get overlooked but need protection as well. Find a lip balm with at least SPF 30 and remember to apply it every time you put on sunscreen.”
Lose the Sweat
Sweat is a natural byproduct of outdoor exercise, but it must be managed if you want to maintain healthy skin. In addition to the salt produced by sweating, you’re picking up dirt, pollen and whatever else might be in the air. If you don’t clean your skin properly after sweating, you can end up with clogged pores that lead to breakouts.
“As soon as you go inside, wash your face with a cleanser,” Dr. McClung suggests. “If you already have skin problems and inflammation, you might also want to carry face wipes with you, so you can clean your face right away.”
Also, be aware that sweat removes sunscreen, so you’ll need to reapply it more frequently when you’re sweating.
Remember to Cover Up
If you’re going to spend a lot of time out in the sun, invest in some good protective clothing.
“This is the time of year when people are baring lots of skin, but if you’re going to be out in the sun for long periods of time, it’s actually a good time to cover up,” Dr. McClung says. “Sunscreen can wear off or sweat off, but protective clothing keeps you covered all day long.”
Hats with a brim shield your neck, face and ears from the sun and also protect your eyes. Sun-safe UV protection clothing helps block the sun’s rays from passing through your clothes.
Clothes are rated by UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, and the rating tells how much protection you’ll get. The number tells how much of the sun’s rays can get through the clothing; for example, if a shirt has a UPF 30, it means 1/30th of the sun’s rays can get through the clothing. Look for clothes with a minimum UPF 15, but go for higher ratings if you can.
“Next to sunscreen, this is the most important thing you can do for your skin,” Dr. McClung says. “If you can find clothing with a UPF 50 or above rating, it’s going to block more than 97% of UVA and UVB radiation.”
Don’t Forget Your Eyes
While you’re protecting your skin, remember to take care of your eyes, too. Shielding your eye area from the sun does more than help prevent sunburn and wrinkling around the eyes; it also can block out harmful UV radiation that can cause age-related macular degeneration and even cancer of the eyelids.
Look for sunglasses that provide 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays and are polarized to help reduce glare and reflections caused by the sun. Dr. McClung especially likes Goodr brand sunglasses, which she finds on Amazon.
Caring for your skin means keeping it nourished with moisturizers, feeding it properly with good nutrition and taking proper precautions to keep it safe from sun damage. If you’d like to learn more about how to protect your skin from sun damage or address damage that has already occurred, contact U.S. Dermatology Partners today to make an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists.