During outdoor runs at daylight, we are exposed to the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Sun protection is a year-round must, even on cloudy days. But what are the best sun protection products for runners?
Why is sun protection important for runners?
Being outdoors is good because natural daylight helps your body produce vitamins. But be aware of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. The UVA rays are mostly associated with skin aging as they cause fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburns. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, please check out this update on US skin cancer facts & statistics (October 2022). Protecting your skin from the sun is just as important as wearing the right pair of running shoes.
UV protective runners wear & accessories
It’s best to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 3:00 pm when the sun rays are at their strongest level. For your runs in daylight wear running clothes that offer high levels of UPF in the fabric. You can find UV pants, long- or short-sleeved shirts, and also UV protective arm sleeves, which will not only protect your arms from the sun but also provide compression and wick away moisture.
You can also find UV protective arm sleeves, which will not only protect your arms from the sun but also provide compression and wick away moisture.
To protect face, head, and eyes from the sun, wear a brimmed running cap. Good running caps are designed to pull away moisture and keep sweat from dripping down and affecting your vision.
Wear UV-blocking running sunglasses to protect your eyes. They are designed to be lightweight and durable, so they won’t fall off during your run. Choose a good quality pair that blocks 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays or that offers UV absorption of up to 400nm.
Sunscreen for (sweaty) runners
The biggest issue that runners have with sunscreen is, that it gets in the eyes when sweat starts dripping down the face. Other reasons not to wear sunscreen may be related to costs, acne or other skin irritations, and difficulty of applying it. To overcome the downside of wearing sunscreen during a run, its important to choose the right product. If your face is very sensitive, you might get a separate facial sunscreen.
Good quality sunscreen for runners should offer:
- Broad-spectrum protection: UV radiation comes in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVB is the kind that causes sunburn, and UVA can alter DNA and lead to cancer and visible aging. Many sunscreens only offer protection against UVB so one that protects against both is crucial.
- SPF 30 or higher: SPF is the average time in minutes it takes for skin to burn without protection.
- Physical sunscreen ingredients: Physical (or “mineral”) sunscreens contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which reflects the radiation and blocks both UVA and UVB. These are thicker, and they may leave a white residue on the skin, but they cause less skin irritation.
- Water- or sweat-resistance: these will make it less likely to drip into your eyes when you’re sweating, and its sun protection will last longer during your run. To avoid too much sweat dripping into your eyes, consider wearing a running cap or running headband too.
How to apply sunscreen?
There are rollers, sticks, lotions, creams, and sprays to choose from. Apply your sunscreen at least half an hour before your run to allow enough time for it to absorb. Be sure to cover all skin areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the top of your hands, arms, legs, and face. Don’t forget the top of your ears, your hairline, lips, and the back of your knees, as these areas are very prone to sunburns. It needs to be re-applied every 60-80 minutes, so if you have planned a longer run, take along a sunscreen stick.
For more information on sun protection and specific sunscreens, check these sites: Skin Cancer Foundation, Simply Sun Safe, Cancer Council Australia.
Our best sweatproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen choices for runners
- All good sports: zinc-based and sweat/water-resistant up to 80 minutes.
- Shiseido Wet Force: no white residue, water-resistant up to 80 minutes. Also available in stick.
- Coppertone Sport Clear: budget-friendly, stick, and lotion, no white residue, good sweat resistance.
- Blue Lizard Sport: Mineral-Based Sunscreen, waterproof, reef-friendly.
- Clarins UV Plus: perfect for a sensitive face.
- Neutrogena: oil-free, won’t clog pores. Good for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
- Clinique UPF50: mineral sunscreen for sensitive face.
I hope this article gave you some useful tips on what to pay attention to when choosing UV protection wear and sunscreen. Enjoy the sunshine and run sun safe! Please share this post through the social media buttons below. Thank you! If you have any questions or additional tips, please send me an e-mail at an*******@mo*********.com or leave your comment below.
Thank you for this information. I am doing research on skin sun protection and I am wondering if you know if higher SPF numbers mean better protection and if they are better for your skin? Also, does our body still get the vitamin benefits that we normally get from the sun when we block the sun with these types of products?
Hi Greg, Thank you for your interesting questions. I think moderation of sunshine is key. 10 minutes of sunshine on your skin isn’t too harmful. Another option is to take vitamin D supplements. Regarding the SPF numbers: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity. Above SPF30 the differences in blocking UVB are marginally: SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, whilst SPF 30 blocks nearly 97%, SPF 50 approx. 98% and SPF100 99%. Whichever you choose (above SPF30), you’ll still need to re-apply after 60-80 minutes. Wishing you a beautiful sunny summer with many sun-safe runs! 🙂
Wow! this is such an informative article. It offers so much to learn. I had no idea that sunscreen has so many factors that are to be considered before buying one. All the essential gears for runners have been mentioned here. And some of these are useful for other people too, in daily routine. The author has even mentioned their favorite products, which is great. It is an amazing piece to read. I am definitely going to send this article to a few of my runner friends. Great work is done by the author! Thanks, many for sharing with us. I learned more from this post.
Thank you! And Run Sun Safe!
This is a great article. I Start running due to Covid 19 and inability to go to the gym and your advice is just what I needed.
Thank you Yoana! Keep on running…..and run sun safe!
Heloo, I must say a big thanks to you for sharing this insightful and informative article on run sun safe, protect your skin. Over here the sun is so hot that it can burn off one’s skin, so I often make use of the brimmed running cap and the UV-blocking running sunglasses to protect my self, it’s been very helpful and useful.
Thank you for your message. Enjoy your next run again!
I must say you did an excellent job putting up such an informative article on run sun-safe to protect your skin.. considering the fact that we all believe that the sun is good for producing vitamins to a body a lot of us neglect the fact that heavy sun rays can as well cause harm to our skin. I’m really much impressed with the way you presented these tips and the products needed to protect our skin from the sun… thanks
Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. Runners can experience excess sun exposure acutely in the form of sunburn after running for a short to medium time, hence the need to have and used the UV protective wear is very Paramount for runners to use during Sunny periods to avoid the effect of sun on the them while on track
Thank you and enjoy your next sunny run!