As the year starts dwindling down, there are many different things to be excited for—special holidays, yummy food, and the changing of the seasons. There’s nothing better than nestling by the fireplace as the snow falls outdoors. However, for runners who prefer hitting pavement than hopping on a treadmill during the late fall and winter months, there’s more preparation that goes into your daily runs than slapping on workout clothes and heading out the door. One thing to be mindful of: our skin. Windburn is no joke and in order to protect the largest organ (and not let the cold temps ruin your runs), follow a proper cold weather skin care routine to keep the skin moisturized and safe.
Below, we review six ways that runners can protect their skin from the cold. From preparation to paying attention during runs, and recuperating after our runs, there are key rules to follow to keep skin glowing and healthy.
Avoid taking hot showers.
It’s so tempting after a cold run to undress and treat yourself to a nice, hot shower, or a relaxing, hot bath. But, while making you feel all warm and cozy, rinsing off in hot water can be harmful to the skin. According to Baylor College of Medicine, after taking a hot shower or bath, the rising temperature on our skin causes the water to evaporate and leaves our skin drier than when we entered into the shower or bath. Doctors at Baylor recommend that you take a lukewarm shower instead of taking a hot shower. To ensure skin’s health, limit your showers to under fifteen minutes during the winter months. Additionally, once you hop out of the shower, be sure to pat dry instead of rubbing yourself down. This will avoid the towel from collecting necessary oils that lock in moisture on our skin.
This probably goes without saying, but moisturizer is your best friend in the winter months. Because cold weather runners are typically covered, it’s tempting to assume you only need to keep your face moisturized. Not true. The body needs a full rub down with lotion, too. The reason why moisturizer is so crucial is that the natural oils are mostly stripped away during the winter months. This is due to a mixture of cold weather, hot showers, and harsh soap being used to cleanse the skin. To ensure that moisture is locked in, and to avoid unnecessary patchy skin (which can lead to skin inflammation and irritation like eczema), moisturize as soon as you step out of your shower or bath. This will give the skin time to absorb the formula and create a fundamental base before stepping outside on your run.
Many believe that avoiding SPF is okay just because it’s winter—this is not the case. The sun is in full force (even during winter). Make sure to apply a moisturizer that includes a minimum of SPF 30 if you plan on running for over fifteen minutes outdoors. Don’t forget!
Stay away from harsh anti-bacterial soaps.
Colder months can bring on common colds, flu, and some nasty sniffles. So it’s understandable that you’d want to be heavy-handed with antibacterial soap when out and about or on a long run. What we don’t realize is that, while avoiding encounters with germs and bacteria, we’re stripping away natural oils on our hands. To kill two birds with one stone, before heading out on your run, Vanderbilt University recommends substituting anti-bacterial gel with antibiotic ointment (applied three times a day). Plus, apply hand cream underneath your running gloves. This way you’re combating germs while also restoring the hand’s natural oils.
Use humidifiers at home.
Harvard Medical School recommends keeping a humidifier in your home during the cold months. This will help to restore lost moisture in the air, which assists in protecting the skin’s natural oil base. This insightful tip can apply to anyone, even those who don’t run outside. But, the reason this is a crucial step for outdoor runners (in the winter months) is that a humidifier moistens the room or home and helps seal in moisture in the nasal passages and skin. Before stepping outside, runners should do everything they can inside the home before exposing themselves to the cold elements. A humidifier will help even out the playing field, giving you more protection to the cold climate.
Watch out for early cold responses while running.
More than just drying out your skin and leaving it itchy and patchy, cold weather can add more serious implications to your epidermis (such as frostnip and frostbite—ouch!). Before the skin reaches these two stages, it goes through what is known as early cold responses. As an outdoor runner in winter, make sure to watch out for the signs of early cold responses. These can include a cold feeling to your skin, slight pain to the touch, and the skin turning red. If any of these symptoms arise, head indoors to the heat immediately.
Just like we change out our wardrobe for each season, the same should be done for our workout gear. During the late fall and winter months, workout outfits should consist of long pants, long sleeve shirts, and outerwear. Additionally, gloves and ear warmers should be worn if the temperature is under 40 degrees, as external extremities do not receive as much as the body’s core warmth. This can lead to both dryness and early cold responses. Here’s more on how to layer your clothes for cold-weather running.
The winter months don’t need to mean an end to your outdoor running season. Stay moisturized and mindful of how the cold weather impacts your skin and body and don’t ever push it past your limits. Know when to take it inside and hit the treadmill instead.