3 Ways To Save Your Skin When Running
Remedy running-related ingrown hairs, weathered skin and chafing with these handy tips. – By Rachael Woolston
Our sport causes many unsightly afflictions, in spite of all its benefits. Here’s how to tackle troublesome symptoms and up your confidence.
Problem: Ingrown hairs
The cause: These painful red bumps on the skin afflict women and men equally, the only difference being location: legs, bikini line, chest, jaw or under the arms. ‘Ingrown hairs are the result of sweat and dead skin blocking the follicle, trapping hair beneath the surface so it grows back in on itself,’ says medical director, Dr Stefanie Williams. ‘Friction from running kit can then add bacteria, causing folliculitis, where the pore becomes infected and forms a pustule.’
Fix it: If the hairs are visible beneath the skin they can be coaxed out with tweezers, but if a boil has formed, treat it with a gel containing the antibacterial ingredient benzoyl peroxide, which will kill the boil in two or three days.
Prevent it: Waxing removes the hair from the root (shaving merely cuts it below the skin surface). Apply a body lotion containing salicylic, glycolic or a light fruit acid. This exfoliant will remove dead skin and keep hair follicles free while promoting new skin cell renewal.
Problem: Weathered skin
The cause: We agonise over our kit but often neglect the most important barrier of all, our skin. Result? A red, dry and cracked outer shell that can add years to your appearance. Cold air is dry, and with the added irritant of wind and rain can strip the skin of its natural moisture. That’s even without thinking about the damaging effects of UV light.
Fix it: The best treatment is a nappy-rash cream. Try an ointment that contains vitamin B5 to aid skin recovery and has a waterin-oil formulation to trap moisture. Apply a thin layer to the affected skin every night before bed and you should see an improvement within a week.
Prevent it: ‘Always wear SPF and use a moisturiser rich in ceramides – a fatty acid found in skin cells – before every run,’ advises Williams. ‘This will form a protective film on the skin’s surface to prevent water loss and should be repeated after you run and shower.’
Problem: Chafing skin
The cause: Chafing is caused by skin rubbing against clothing or other skin, stripping off the top layer of the dermis and leaving it raw and red. It typically occurs on the nipples, bra line, inner thighs, under the arms and even on the testicles. Moisture from sweat or rain can make it even worse.
Fix it: This only lasts for a few days, but it can be painful and unsightly so if you want to speed your recovery, keep the skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water and use an emollient moisturiser on the affected areas. ‘The antibacterial ingredients soothe and heal the skin, promoting the repair of the epidermis,’ says Williams. If you’d prefer a natural remedy, try rubbing on coconut oil twice a day. Its anti-inflammatory properties will soothe the skin, keep it supple and reduce pain and irritation.
Prevent it: Make sure your kit doesn’t have any seams, stray threads or harsh fabric in the vulnerable areas, and invest in some lubricant to rub on before you run. Normal petroleum jelly is fine to apply to both to skin and clothing.