A Runner’s Guide to Skin Protection

Running outdoors in such weather can harm your skin more than you think. Find out how to protect your skin.

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Runners have 99 problems: how to increase strength, avoid runner’s knee, cope with rising race fees, etc. – not to mention that running in Singapore’s hot and humid weather is like hell on earth. 

We have learnt a new meaning of being “sun kissed” in the past few months. Instead of a gentle, warm peck on the skin that turns us into bronzed gods and goddesses, the sun decides to give the Voldemort “kiss” that melts (rather, peels) away the very life of us. Unless you were born with durian-thick skin, you might have noticed little bumps and blisters after your runs.

Although our running experience isn’t exactly rainbows and shades (obviously, we don’t need more sunshine), we have some tips to protect your skin while running.

Don’t Chase the Sun

If you can’t beat it – block it. Sunscreen to some people is what clothes are to most of us: an absolute necessity they would never step out of the house without. But many of us still neglect the importance of sunscreen - runners in particular.

In fact, because of this reason, runners were chosen to be the subjects of a research study that investigated the risk of skin cancer due to sun exposure. Spoiler/scare alert: the runners were found to have an increased risk of skin cancer since most did not use sunscreen.

Even if we do use sunscreen, it may not be enough to protect us from the sun. So, what exactly should we look out for when buying sunscreen?

A rule of thumb: the lighter your skin tone, the higher SPF you’ll need. For a typical Asian skin type, it’s recommended that you use SPF 30 and above. Look out for ingredients such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide as they make great barriers against sun rays.

Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside, and that means waking up even earlier in the morning for your run (but we promise it’s better than looking like a boiled lobster).

And don’t forget to include sunscreen in your running pack because you’ll need to reapply when running long distances under the sun. If this is really too much hassle for you, then running before sunrise or after sundown is your best bet for protecting your skin. For the more kiasi runners among us, you can look for clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating (yes, these things do exist).

Sock It Up

Mention ‘blister’ in a room full of runners, and you may hear not-so-subtle groans and grunts. While it’s not life-threatening, blisters can be annoying because there’s nothing much you can do about them. And if you’re thinking about it, you shouldn’t pop it or pick on it because you risk delaying the healing process.

You should only cover it up with a plaster and pray that it will heal quickly before your next race or training session. Take one step in the wrong direction and you will find yourself dealing with a full-blown fungal infection (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

While treating blisters proves to be challenging, beating it takes little effort. Try to wear socks made with the same materials as your shoes to reduce friction, which is the main culprit of blisters. Wools and Polypropylene work great as well to absorb excess moisture. Having your shoes in the right size is also important. The shoes should be about a half size larger than your feet to make room for the swelling that happens during running.


Given that Singapore’s weather swings from rain to sun as swiftly as a girl’s ponytail oscillates during a run, the  aptest response is just to give it the cold shoulder, figuratively and literally. Cold showers after a run can help ease heat rash, which appears as small, red bumps on the skin that are set off in hot and humid surroundings. These bumps are an FYI notice from your sweat glands that they are suffocating.

To prevent heat rash, you can rest in an air-conditioned area after an outdoor run or skip your outdoor training session altogether if the temperature is extremely unforgiving -- opt instead to work out indoors.

Wearing loose clothing made of Polyester, Dri-Fit or Coolmax materials is also a good idea to give your skin more room to breathe. The same tips would also work to prevent body acne caused by sweat-and-dirt clogged pores.

Go Against the Friction

Considering that friction is such a bane for runners, why is this not a running motto (yet)? Constant skin-on-skin or skin-on-clothes rubbing could cause rashes that would be aggravated when moisture, from sweat or rain, comes into play.

Fret not, though, since chaffing can be prevented easily by applying petroleum jelly or chaffing sticks onto the area where friction is most likely to happen, such as under upper arms, between thighs and nipples. Also, wearing clothes that fit properly and comfortably fulfils the same purpose. As much as those running clothes with cute cut-out details or fancy performance boost claims are tempting, if they don’t fit, it’s best to leave them on the mannequins.

Spoiler/scare alert: the runners were found to have an increased risk of skin cancer since most did not use sunscreen.


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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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