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Skin protection for workouts

Despite the obvious health benefits that come with working out, your risk of skin cancer may increase if you spend lots of time exercising outdoors. In fact, more than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S. — meaning 1 out of every 5 Americans will develop the disease. Here’s what you can do to keep safe in the sun!

Woman running on the beach by ocean

Why skin is at risk during outdoor workouts

The stats are staggering. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, and melanoma is listed as the third most common cancer in women aged 20 to 39 years old. And if you spend time exercising outdoors, your odds for sun damage only increase. 3 pairs of sport sunglassesIn fact, a recent study revealed that sweat actually contributes to UV-ray skin damage as it pumps up the photosensitivity of your skin, making you more prone to being sunburned.

On top of that, more challenging outdoor workouts may suppress your immune system as well, meaning your skin could be even more susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects. 

Also be aware that several medications — even those as common as ibuprofen, doxycycline and promethazine — may heighten your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.


There’s some sunny news amidst these gloomy stats: The vitamin D you receive from natural sunlight may play a role in increasing your bone density and protecting you against hypertension, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Plus, the more you work out, the less flab you have, and the lower your risk for a variety of cancers.

But you will still need to protect your skin as much as possible when you are doing anything outdoors in the sunny seasons — especially exercise. So, if you are a fan of working out outdoors, consider these tips.

Proper sun protection

White sunblock pants

Sheild your skin with sweat-proof SPF

Before every workout, slather on sweat-proof SPF 30 or above and shield against damaging UVA and UVB rays. Try Damage Control by Arbonne or Banana Boat’s Sport Performance line. Note that, even though most formulas are designed for all-day protection, you should still reapply often, especially during the hours while the sun is at its peak (typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Toss out any tubes left over from last summer, because most sunscreen products lose their effectiveness over time.

More sunscreen smarts>>>

Clothing with built-in sunblock

A typical cotton t-shirt will offer sun protection of only about SPF 7 — even less once it becomes sweat-saturated. If you are going to spend the entire day outside, or if you are just super sensitive to the sun, get gear that offers built in UV protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation sells t-shirts that block 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays, or check out Coolibar for an entire collection of sun protective clothing. (See their Women’s Fitness Pant in white at left.) You can also opt to add SunGuard to your laundry; colorless dye gives your clothes an SPF of 30 or more.

Accessorize wisely

A hat with a visor will shield your face and keep your scalp (where cancers can develop more aggressively) safe from the sun. Go for lightweight baseball-style caps with mesh panels that will absorb sweat and keep you cool.

And if you are going to splurge on your workout wear, spring for a solid pair of sporty sunglasses that will protect your eyes, staving off cataracts and fight fine lines around your peepers. Look for lenses that block out 100 percent of UV radiation as well as both UVA and UVB rays.

Finally, don’t forget one last item that’s important for good skin and overall health, and is vital when exercising: Fluid intake. Be sure to stay hydrated with water and electrolyte-boosting sports drinks throughout your workout as well as after.

More summer fashion accessories>>>

When it come to exercising outdoors you should protect your skin even in the colder monthes. Just because you can’t see the sun, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So, wear SPF and dress appropriately whether there’s rain, snow, sleet or sunshine!

More advice on working out in the heat here>>>

More skincare tips

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