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What is runner’s face? Causes + 10 prevention tips


Running has many physical and mental benefits, but every now and again something comes along in the running community that has runners stumped. 

Runner’s face is exactly that. What the heck is it?

You may have heard of the term over the years, probably from people who don’t actually run!

Typically characterised by a gaunt face and jiggle jiggle skin, runner’s face is essentially the result of lots of sun exposure and lifelong miles.

We all know that the sun can cause untold damage to your skin and cause you to look older.

As an outdoors sport, runners have to take extra precautions to protect their skin from the sun and other elements. 

But what exactly causes runner’s face and how can you prevent it?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • What is runner’s face?
  • What does runner’s face look like?
  • What causes runner’s face?
  • Runner’s face Q&A
  • 10 ways to prevent runner’s face


Let’s go!

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runners face

What is runner’s face?

No one knows who actually came up with the term “runner’s face”, but it was probably coined by people in the cosmetic surgery industry whose job is to market anti-ageing treatments like Botox and fillers.

Anti-ageing treatments and procedures are becoming increasingly popular nowadays in our youth obsessed culture.

Some companies will resort to all sorts of marketing tactics to try to get you to buy their products and treatments. 

So it’s safe to say that runner’s face isn’t a medical condition, but a made up term used to describe the face of a lifelong runner with a gaunt face and sun damaged, leathery skin.

Related: Run happy: 6 mental health benefits of running

What does runner’s face look like?

Your age, gender, weight, lifestyle and genetics all play a factor when it comes to how you age.

There isn’t one exact cause of ageing, and depending on how you live your life, you will be doing things that either prevent or accelerate ageing.

However, runner’s face is typically characterised by the following:

  • A thin, gaunt face
  • Sagging and jiggling skin
  • Wrinkly and thickened skin
  • Leathery and sun damaged skin

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runner's face

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What causes runner’s face?

You may be wondering: “What causes runner’s face?”

You are more at risk of developing runner’s face if you:

  • Have low body fat
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol
  • Run in the sun regularly
  • Don’t wear sunscreen
  • Don’t wear sun protection like sunglasses and a hat
  • Don’t moisturize regularly
  • Don’t eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in antioxidants 
  • Don’t drink enough water

Related: Walking 2 miles a day: 12 benefits + how to start

Runner’s face Q&A

Q: Why does my face get so red when I run?

A: When you exercise, your heart beats faster which increases blood flow to your muscles.

Your blood vessels will enlarge in an attempt to deliver more oxygen to your muscles. It is this widening that causes the flushing of your skin when you exercise.

Q: Does running help with acne?

A: Exercise can help prevent breakouts.

When you work out, you increase blood circulation which is definitely helpful for getting that post-run glow.

Q: Does running accelerate ageing?

A: Running itself won’t age your skin.

In fact, it can actually help to exercise regularly to improve circulation and boost your immune system which may give your skin a more youthful appearance.

Related: Can running make acne worse? 4 skin secrets to help prevent runner’s acne

runner's face

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10 ways to prevent runner’s face

Now you know all about runner’s face and what causes it, here are 10 ways to prevent runner’s face.

#1 Don’t run in the sun

One of the best ways to avoid runner’s face is to avoid the midday sun when running. 

Try to run early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding the hours between 10am and 2pm where possible. 

If you have to run between the hours of 10am and 2pm, make sure you find a shady route and keep out of the sun as much as possible.

#2 Wear sunscreen 

If you do run in the sun, make sure you wear sunscreen!

Investing in good quality sunscreen is one of the best things you can do for your skin and to prevent ageing.

But be warned! Not all sunscreens were created equal. 

According to the NHS, when buying sunscreen, the label should have:

  • a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB rays
  • at least 4-star UVA protection

And as you will be sweating a lot on your run, it’s also good to find a sunscreen that is sweat-resistant.

After all, you don’t want to be re-applying sunscreen on your run because it’s sliding off your face and stinging your eyes.

Brands like Thinksport, Blue Lizard and Coppertone offer ‘performance’ sunscreens that are designed to be worn when exercising. 

If you have an old bottle of sunscreen lying around at home, make sure it is still in date before using it. 

Yes, sunscreens do have expiry dates! Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. 

#3 Wear sun protection clothing

Sunscreen alone often isn’t enough to protect your skin from the sun.

Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and wear a hat to protect your head and keep the sun off your face.

You can also invest in sun protection clothing with built-in UV protection to shield your body from the sun’s harmful rays.

Brands like Solbari offer a range of sun protection clothing, including sun protection sleeves, visors and base layers.

#4 Protect your skin daily

As mentioned earlier, wearing sunscreen daily is one of the best steps to protect your skin.

A daily moisturizing habit will also go a long way to help prevent runner’s face. 

Look for anti-ageing moisturizers enriched with antioxidants, pollution blockers, moisture plumpers, free radical battlers and powerful plant actives. 

Products with Retinol and Hyaluronic Acid are known for their anti-ageing and complexion clearing properties. 

Related: Why do my legs itch when I run? How to prevent runner’s itch

runner's face

#5 Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Beautiful, glowing skin starts with your diet.

After all, there’s only so much a skin care regime will do for you. 

The more vibrant foods you include on your plate, the more antioxidants, healthy fats and water you’ll be giving your body.

The following foods are known for their anti-ageing properties and will help to nourish your body inside and out:

  • Watercress
  • Red peppers
  • Papaya
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Pomegranate

#6 Reduce your sugar intake

When you eat foods high in sugar, the sugar reacts with chemicals in your body and causes skin to be wrinkled and cell structures to harden. 

While all forms of sugar should be consumed in moderation, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners are normally where the problems are.

But all is not lost if you have a sweet tooth!

While sugar speeds up the ageing process, adopting healthier habits will in turn start to slow this process down, whatever your age.

#7 Drink plenty of water

About 55-60% of your body is made up of water and water serves a number of important functions in your body to keep you going.

There haven’t been a lot of studies on the links between water and its anti-ageing benefits.

In a small study conducted in 2007, researchers looked at how water intake affected skin.

They found that drinking 2.25 litres (9.5 cups) of water daily of ordinary tap water for 4 weeks did have some effect, but the results were mixed. 

While drinking lots of water won’t banish wrinkles, it will help you stay healthy, and if you’re healthy, your skin will look better.

#8 Take supplements

Scientists have identified substances that may slow certain ageing processes and help prevent age-related disease:

Here are supplements that may help slow the effects of ageing:

  • Curcumin (the main compound in turmeric, has antioxidant effects)
  • Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) (found in green tea)
  • Collagen (a protein that helps your skin maintain structure) 
  • CoQ10 (essential for energy production and protects against cellular damage)
  • Nicotinamide (found in every cell in your body, helps with DNA repair and energy metabolism)
  • Crocin (found in saffron, has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects)
  • Vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) 
  • Vitamin E (helps to regulate inflammation in the body)
  • Theanine (commonly found in green tea and may help to improve brain function)
  • Rhodiola (a medicinal plant with anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Astragalus (a stress-reducing herb found in Chinese medicine, helps to promote immune function)
  • Resveratol (found in grapes, berries, red wine, may help to increase lifespan)

#9 Stop smoking

Nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes may contribute to wrinkles and premature ageing of the skin.

This is because nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing oxygen flow and nutrients to skin cells. 

#10 Limit your alcohol consumption

Studies have shown that alcohol causes oxidative stress and this process damages DNA in a way that can lead to premature ageing. 

Oxidative stress is a natural part of your body’s functioning.

However, it can become imbalanced if you consume too many substances like alcohol that generate more free radicals than your body can handle. 

Caroline Geoghegan