According to a medical review done in 2017, air pollutants are having major effects on our skin. In fact, some of these stressors on the skin include skin aging, pigmentation, allergic conditions — such as dermatitis and eczema — and even cancer. Protecting this organ should be a priority, but it is possible to overdo it.
After a run when you feel extra grit and grime on your skin, here’s all you should be doing to get your skin clean:
WHAT WE NEED TO WASH OFF
Air pollution is a major issue, and the World Economic Forum shares that a whopping 92% of the world’s population lives where air pollution exceeds what is considered ‘safe.’ The medical review above lists some of the pollutants that affect the skin in particular, including “ultraviolet radiation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, oxides, particulate matter, ozone and cigarette smoke.” Some of these things listed can’t be washed off — such as ultraviolet radiation — but you will be washing off the sunscreen you should be wearing to protect against it.
“When you think about exposures outdoors, the principal exposure that you should guard against is sun exposure,” shares Dr. Adewole (Ade) Adamson, MPP, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. “I recommend the use of sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and, if possible, a hat. Running in long sleeves or pants is a plus, weather permitting. For most people there are no other significant exposures outside to be concerned about.”
Even though you don’t need to be particularly concerned about harmful effects on your skin, there is still plenty to wash off after a run. Dr. Adamson adds that the grit and grime you feel after a run is the accumulation of sweat mixed with bacteria — don’t worry, it’s a normal part of what he calls the “skin ecosystem” — and you may be overcomplicating how you wash it off.
WHAT TO REMEMBER ABOUT SKINCARE
First things first, skincare is more than just taking care of your face; this is often the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word. Dr. Adamson reminds us the skin is the largest organ in the body, so you need to think of a skincare routine in terms of the entire epidermis.
“Your face is what you present first to the world, so many people put a lot of focus on their face alone,” he explains. “However, it is important to take care of more than just your face. Skin on other parts of the body can be susceptible to damage from sun exposure or become dry, flaky, or itchy from lack of moisturization.”
The skincare industry has led us to believe we need different types of products to clean, exfoliate and moisturize, but Dr. Adamson says most is unnecessary and may actually be harmful in the long run. Abrasive exfoliation, he notes specifically, can actually damage your skin if done too much.
HOW TO STOP OVERCOMPLICATING YOUR ROUTINE
You don’t need to go throw out the contents of your shower and medicine cabinet, but you can pay attention to how you clean your skin moving forward. Dr. Adamson isn’t saying masks and exfoliants will do damage if used sporadically, but they aren’t necessary to care for your skin properly.
“There is a tendency for people to believe they need a complex regimen for their skin cleansing; this is not the case,” he adds. “The best way to clean your skin is with the use of a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser/body wash.”
He notes that your body naturally exfoliates itself, so using a gentle cleanser and body wash as mentioned is enough to help that process. When looking for a cleanser — for face and full body — you don’t need to look for specific ingredients; just make sure there is no fragrance. Dr. Adamson also adds that alcohol-free cleansers are gentler on your skin and won’t dry it out.
So, next time you hit the shower after a long run, you can save time by adopting this new routine: one gentle cleanser. The second step should happen after you dry out, as you should reapply sunscreen if you’ll be headed back outside. No additional lotions and are potions required!