HGetting outside for a winter workout can be fun. Whether you’re hitting the slopes or running through the flora of your own neighborhood, it can feel bad to conquer the elements no matter how bad it is out there.
But winter weather can be rough on our skin. Strong winds, winter sun, rain and snow and cold temperatures can leave us with dry, burnt skin and even rashes or frostbite.
So how can you protect your skin and still enjoy a workout in the fresh (if chilly) air?
Don’t underestimate the winter sun—especially during hard work
Sunscreen has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of squamous cell and melanoma skin cancers. A recent review Canadian Medical Association Journal Children and adults are advised to use lotions with at least 30 SPF all year round to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
It can be easy to forget to apply sunscreen in the winter, says board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD. Yet we sometimes get more exposure—especially when we’re working
“With winter sports, it’s not just direct sunlight but also indirect sunlight reflected off the snow. This reflection can cause some sun damage, and if you’re at a high altitude, the atmosphere isn’t as thick and so you’re at a higher risk of sun damage,” explained Dr. Yadav. do
High-intensity exercise can damage the skin by causing oxidative stress, which depletes its antioxidant concentrations, a study of male cyclists and runners revealed. European Journal of Applied Physiology. This means the first line of defense against the sun is weakened.
Dr Yadav says the general advice is to always apply sunscreen as part of your daily routine. He actually recommends using 45 to 50 SPF because most people don’t apply 30 SPF enough.
And if you come back from a training session outside and discover that you are sunburned? “There’s mixed evidence that using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like Advil can help, or applying aloe, which can be soothing and have some hydrating effect,” says Dr. Yadav.
Protect from cold, wet and wind
When the temperature drops below freezing (or, you know, you just don’t want to be miserable) the right clothing is essential to prevent frostbite. According to a review Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology Running, a combination of cold weather and wind, reduces clothing’s ability to insulate your body by about 10 percent, so factor that into when you’re considering how many layers to wear.
While you may prefer more form-fitting clothing the rest of the year, when it freezes, layers of loose clothing allow trapped air warmed by your body heat to act as an insulator. You should also protect your neck with a synthetic, breathable garment. A warm, moisture-wicking sock can also protect your feet from chilblains, a painful, itchy skin inflammation.
Of course, it’s usually not practical to cover it per inches of skin To protect your face (or anywhere else that’s exposed), apply an oil-based lotion, cream, or ointment to act as a barrier and seal in moisture and heat. “I’m a really big fan of Vaseline in the winter. But there are also many barrier products that contain lanolin or petrolatum mineral oil that act as windbreaks,” says Dr. Yadav Apply your sunscreen first so it absorbs better.
Also, wait to shower and shave until after your workout, since the skin’s sebum acts as a natural barrier.
Rehydrate once you get home
In addition to covering skin with a barrier before heading outside, you’ll want to treat dry, weathered skin after your workout. “I tend to go for things that have ceramides or colloidal oatmeal like Aveeno products or glycerin or hyaluronic acid like the SkinCeuticals serum, to help bring that moisture back into the skin because it definitely helps speed up the healing process,” says Dr. Yadav.
Staying hydrated by drinking water and avoiding alcohol will also help hydrate the skin.
Be aware that hand sanitizer will dry out your skin even more, so if you need to use it, make sure you also use lotion. “A great trick is to keep a moisturizer next to your bed to moisturize your feet and your hands. They get the most abuse in the winter,” says Dr. Yadav.
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