Running in the winter doesn’t just mean the occasional numb feet, hands, ears and nose. It also means skin that’s, more often than not, just plain angry. You’re not getting as much vitamin D or sun exposure, so your summer glow is gone, and the harsh wind is quick to dry out your face, making it feel like the Sahara even though you’re shivering. However, with a little pre-run prep and post-run love, you can keep your skin supple and healthy even in the worst weather. For the younger and newer runners out there, trust me when I say that adopting these simple habits now pays off big time after a decade or two of running.
1. ALWAYS. USE. SUNSCREEN.
Just because the sun isn’t as bright in the winter, UV rays are still coming through. You absolutely should be getting out in the sun when it’s possible — get that vitamin D! — but when the sun is shining, or even when the sky is gray, slap a bit of sunscreen on the skin that is uncovered during your run. It’s just embarrassing to show up for work with a sunburn in December, especially if you haven’t taken a tropical vacation.
2. COVER UP
Everything will be drier, but the hands and face bear the brunt of the bad weather. You can avoid some of this by simply covering up with windproof gloves or mittens and a balaclava instead of a beanie, which helps by blocking wind and trapping your warm breath so your skin stays moist, not desert-dry. (Think of it as a personally powered humidifier!) Clear glasses also keep your eyes and eyelashes from freezing.
READ MORE > DRESSING FOR WINTER WORKOUTS
The cold weather can dry out your skin super fast, so if you’re not covering your face, slap on a moisturizer (or pick a sunscreen/moisturizer combo) before your run. Add a light moisturizer after your shower if you’re prone to skin that gets tight, dry, red or chafed during the winter.
4. APPLY LIP BALM
Your lips are almost definitely going to end up cracking or chapped during the most frigid of winter runs, and if you’ve been down this road before, you know it’s nearly impossible to come back from. Head it off by slathering on a thick lip balm before below-freezing or super-windy runs. (Your post-run, very-hungry self will thank you when it doesn’t sting to eat!)
5. AVOID HOT WATER
Repeat after me: You are not a lobster. It’s tempting to come back from a chilly run and take a long hot shower (emphasis on long). But sadly, the hot water is drying your skin out even more. Aim for warm, not hot, water — maybe enjoy a cup of tea or coffee before you hit the shower so when you do get in, you’re already a bit warmed up.
6. PRACTICE SELF (SKIN) CARE
A moisturizing mask for your face (and your hair if you’re prone to dryness in bitter
conditions) once a week isn’t girly or over the top. It’s simply smart maintenance. Skin can get flaky, dull, red or irritated if exposed to the cold and then not moisturized or treated with care. A quick face mask meant to calm and moisturize can go on while you do a quick stretching or foam rolling session, then come off in the shower. Zero time wasted, but your skin will be much better off.
7. APPLY EMBROCATION CREAM FOR RACES
Take notes from cyclocross racers. The cyclists who ride in the snow, sleet and mud swear by embrocation cream, a tingling cream that goes on legs and uses products like capsaicin to warm up your skin. Cyclists can’t wear layer after layer and be able to maneuver their bikes, and you can’t be expected to crush a 5K with three layers of thermals on. Give it a try: Rub some embrocation on your legs (make sure you wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly with dish soap after, and avoid your nether regions!) and wear a single pair of tights for your next race. You’ll still feel warm, your muscles will feel great, and even if it’s raining, you’ll barely notice.
8. SHOWER IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE TREADMILL
Lastly, you might find yourself indoors for treadmill sessions rather than braving the cold. That’s fine — but remember to shower ASAP after a sweat sesh. Otherwise, the dry air-conditioned gym can end up leaving you with clogged pores and a dreaded combination of acne from the gym time plus patches of dry skin from the days where you do run outside. That combination simply adds insult to injury.