The Best Skincare Regimen For Runners

Runner wiping sweat off face
Runner wiping sweat off face mihailomilovanovic / Getty Images

Your running regimen puts a lot of strain on your body—your skin included. Think of what happens to your face every time you run outdoors—whether you’re sprinting, blasting through intervals, or marathoning: For one, you’re dripping sweat, doubly so if it’s hot or humid. All that salt dries on your face and can clog pores, leading to breakouts. On top of this, you’re facing the elements, namely lots of UV exposure. You’re at an increased risk for dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines—unless you take a proactive approach against the matter.

You don’t need to compromise your hobby because of any skin concerns. Breakouts and sun exposure be damned: There are easy and effective ways to keep your skin clear. You need the right products for the short-term acne prevention and UV protection, and the long-term anti-aging. Here are our favorites.

1. Use a Gentle Pre-run Cleanser

Because you sweat so much when you exercise, you want to make sure your pores are as clear as possible beforehand, ensuring that nothing traps the sweat and leads to an unsightly pimple. It’s also not the time to use any overly harsh cleansing agents or abrasive exfoliants, since your skin will take such a beating during the run. The task at hand is just to rinse the pores, so stick with a gentle cleanser pre-run. We like Murad’s Soothing Gel Cleanser to calm the skin and flush out any gunk.

2. Apply Lightweight Hydration

For runners and everyone else, no skincare regimen is complete if you don’t moisturize after cleansing—in order to rehydrate the skin and keep it smooth and firm. Your instinct is to reach for a cream, lotion, or balm, but this is where you should switch to something lighter. I suggest hydrating with a serum, like DTRT’s Bright Idea, since it absorbs quickly and deeply penetrates all three layers of your skin. It’s less protective than a moisturizer, which sits on the outermost layer of your skin to defend against toxins. However, you’ll apply a defensive layer in the next tip. The reason you should apply a serum now is that you need the nutrients and hydration, but you’ll otherwise sweat off anything that sits atop the skin.

3. Top it Off With Sweat-resistant SPF

We usually tell you to combine your moisturizer and SPF into one, but runners should stick with two products that have specific, separate purposes. You’ve already applied a fast-absorbing serum, but you must also lather on a sport-friendly SPF on top. The sun’s UV rays are the main cause for dark spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and of course, cancer. So, shielding yourself from those rays—year round!—is imperative. And since you sweat so much while you run, you need a product that outlasts the excessive moisture. Kudos to you if you’re running for more than 80 minutes, but COOLA’s sport face sunscreen SPF 50 is sweat resistant for as long, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any product that outlasts it.

4. Cleanse With Pore-cleansing Wipes

It’s important to cleanse your face as soon as you can post-workout to unclog your pores—especially if you’re not showering immediately. Keep a pocket face wipe in a pocket or pack, so you can get the salt off your face. Our go-to is Ursa Major’s face wipes, which calm and balance the skin, wash away impurities, and nourish all at the same time. You won’t dry out your skin with any harsh ingredients.

5. Invest in a Retinol Night Cream

As a runner, you spend a lot of time outdoors, which increases your UV exposure. We’ve already addressed the need for high-grade SPF, but you should also add a retinol-packed night cream to your bedtime skincare regimen (in place of your moisturizer). Retinol is a vitamin-A derivative that fights signs of aging—like sunspots, wrinkles, and fine lines. You can also reduce the crow’s feet around your eyes. Another perk of retinol is that it shrinks pores and reduces acne, giving you a smooth complexion. (Results usually take two to three months to notice.) However, retinol does increase your sensitivity to the sun, which is easily neutralized by an application of SPF the next day. Talk to your doctor about a possible prescription dose, or get an OTC product, like ROC’s Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream.