Love Your Skin: Suncreen and Summer Running

Summer fun – sunscreen required.

Like many women, I love some summer sun.  The warmth on my skin, the outdoorsy color, the sound of beach waves crashing in the distance as I lay stretched out on a towel or lounge chair.  Sun is fun, healing and happy, bringing forth memories of happy summer days past and present.  It is a good thing.

But like many good things, it is good only in moderation, and only when approached with the proper knowledge.  After all, while I love a good glow, I’m certainly not out to be a Snooki – or even worse, tan mom Patricia Krentcil.  And beyond the fear of the “oompa-loompa” look comes another, stronger fear:  melanoma.

How much is too much? Snooki demonstrates here.  Image via US

While we can’t let fear dominate our lives, we also need to take the proper precautions to protect ourselves – and our skin.  And I’ll be the first to admit that I had some lax sunscreening habits – and some worse tanning habits – back in the day.  But age, knowledge, and having a mole removed a few years back have all been a very real wake up call.  Sunscreen saves lives – and yours is worth it.

Sunscreen.  It is a greasy, messy inconvenience.  Optimally, you need to put it on 30 minutes before heading outside (an inconvenience), and it gets your hands and the edges of your clothes greasy (messy).  It makes my face seem to sweat more and faster, and I’m always worried I’m going to get an ugly, nasty breakout on my chest.

Then I just remember running the Philadelphia Marathon one year with four stitches in my hamstring, waiting for the pathology on that mole to come back.  I was lucky; it had irregular qualities but was not cancerous and had narrow, but clear margins.  DB has had a few moles removed as well, and now we both have a yearly dermatology scan to keep everything in check.

I could tell you the ABCD’s of melanoma (asymmetry, border, color and diameter), but this link from the American Melanoma Foundation does it much better.  Check it out, and check yourself out.  The removal of a suspicious mole is generally a very quick, painless, out-patient office procedure.  In our experiences thus far, it has been nothing to be frightened of.  But the more important lesson I want you to take from Clove’s shortest blog ever is this simple sentence:

Your skin doesn’t know the difference between three hours on the beach and three hours of running.

Think about it.  Most of us wouldn’t even consider laying out on the beach or poolside for that long without sunscreen.  And we certainly wouldn’t let our children do it!  Yet how often have you headed out for a long run, several hours in duration, and maybe just slicked a little on your face or shoulders?  If that?

Sunscreen.  It is a greasy, messy inconvenience, but it can save your life.  It doesn’t have to be expensive – as a matter of fact, my favorite brand is a generic!  Something about the smell that just works for me.

My skin’s best friend – plain old CVS brand.

I would be remiss in publishing this blog if I didn’t call proper attention to the recent debates about sunscreen, and the new FDA rules for sunscreen labels that are scheduled to take effect in December.  USA Today published a great overview of the concerns and the new labeling rules that you can find here:, but in summary, you should consider the following in selecting the most effective sunscreens:

  1. Choose SPF 15 or higher, but not higher than 50.
  2. Choose “broad spectrum” sunscreens to ensure protection from both UVA and UVB rays
  3. Ignore “hype” – No sunscreen can completely block harmful sun rays, nor is any sunscreen completely waterproof or sweatproof
  4. Do not rely on sunscreen alone; rather, use it in combination with proper clothing, hats and sunglasses.  You should still aim to avoid the worst of the sun’s damaging rays between 10 am and 2 pm.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and in honor of that, I’ve recommitted to sunscreen before each and every outdoor run longer than an hour in sunlight.  Join me – and show your skin some love!

What’s your favorite sunscreen, Salty readers?  Do you prefer a spray or a lotion?  Any tips for making the sunscreening process more palatable?  Let’s hear them!

Trail and adventure enthusiast. Girl who swears like a sailor but not when she's teaching Sunday School. Survived infertility without a successful pregnancy. Self-employed, primarily working for Clif Bar and Company. Thirteen 100-mile race finishes with seven top 3 placements. An original Saltine.

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  1. So true. I just reminded my Girls on the Run girls of this last night and brought in my favorite sunscreens so they could see them. My preferred choice is the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunscreen (or generics of this you can find at Walgreens). It is lighter and I have less problems with it running into my eyes if I am sweating. They make great sunscreen sticks for your face that work really well too. It is expensive and annoying, but so worth it.

  2. I have lots of moles and usually forget the sunscreen. I’m screwed! Well, hopefully it’s not too late for me. In my defense I have never ever been a tanner. I am too antsy to lay out and I’ve never even been inside a tanning salon. Hopefully that will be my saving grace! Although, I did just buy a sport sunscreen spray after hearing about your idea for this post and I applied it TWICE! on Sunday, so you definitely impacted someone for the better with your nagging 🙂

  3. I appreciate this post. Thanks. Being red-headed and freckled, I’m prone to skin cancer. While I don’t burn all that often, I get really dark without even trying. I’m like Salty, I’ve never been a sun worshiper per say and I’ve not purposely sun tanned. Running has introduced my shoulders, neck and back to quite a bit of sun exposure. This is a good reminder. I don’t mind having sunscreen on my body, but it drives me nuts on my face! I’m going to try the brands suggested here. Thanks!

    1. As a fellow ginger I’ll second that! Lydia, if you want something that’s a little less icky on your face, look for something with a high content of Zinc Oxide in it, which is the most serious sun-barrier you can get. The best part about zinc oxide though is that it’s really really thick, which is a pain when you’re putting it on but at least it doesn’t run in your face!

      Another option for your face is powdered sunscreen. When I’m at work I use one that I found at Sephora. I have to re-apply often, but it never runs in my eyes and it also helps me reduce shininess!

      I get brown every summer from running and working outdoors, but I really like my pale, delicate ginger skin and want to keep it from getting leathery and gross when I get old!

    1. Greg has a valid point. My problem is the predawn is earlier and earlier as the summer goes on. Most of our running occurs during the predawn hours, that’s for sure, but I can’t do it all the time. Is it possible to have ill effects from the moonlight? lol

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