Sun Protection Tips for Exercising Outdoors

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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Sun Protection Tips for Exercising Outdoors

Leggings or running shorts? Visor or hat? SPF 15 or 50? What is the right choice for sun protection when spending long hours exercising outdoors? These experts provide answers to top sun-protection questions:

If weather permits, Dr. Caroline A. Chang, FAAD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, advises wearing running pants. “Physical protection from UV light is always better than sunscreen alone because sunscreen can run off with sweat.”

However, when temperatures soar, shorts are acceptable — with conditions. Chang recommends wearing lighter colors to help avoid overheating and says you should apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before hiking or running. “Try to run early in the morning or late in the day when it is cooler and the sun is not as strong,” she advises.

“I’m personally a big fan of breathable fabric hats. Most are sweat-wicking and lightweight enough to make you forget it is even there,” says Clarence Hairston, certified personal trainer. He says that if you do not have hair, you should absolutely cover your head. “Visors are problematic for folks with thin or no hair, and canvas hats are too hot,” says Hairston.

Try zinc oxide, a mineral ingredient, which is one of the first healing agents in history. Dr. Ben Johnson, founder of Osmosis Skincare, says it contains anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, aids in wound healing and offers protection from UVA and UVB rays and doesn’t break down with sun exposure. “When used as a sunscreen, [zinc oxide] provides natural, broad-spectrum protection while nourishing the skin,” Johnson says.

Look for products with a high SPF. The Skin Cancer Foundation says it takes 20 minutes for skin without protection to begin reddening. However, a sunscreen labeled SPF 15 can potentially prevent your skin from turning red for 15 times longer. So, for athletes who spend hours outdoors, high SPF matters.

According to Dr. Kenneth Mark, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs’ skin cancer surgeon practicing in New York City, the Hamptons and Aspen, Colorado, athletes who experience prolonged sun exposure with a strong likelihood of sweating should also look for a key differentiating factor in their sunscreen purchase: DNA repair enzymes. You can find these listed as photolyase, plankton extract and micrococcus lysate. “This affords an extra mechanism of protection,” he says.

In addition, Mark also recommends looking for the aforementioned zinc oxide in the ingredients list because it “is a physical blocker, as opposed to chemical and covers the entire UV spectrum.”


“I prefer Eryfotona Actinica with SPF 50. It has both of the benefits of zinc oxide and DNA repair ability and is lightweight in texture and easy to rapidly apply,” says Mark.

1. Hydrate from the inside out. “Drinking plenty of water is obvious, but it also ensures a good balance of electrolytes so that the hydration is properly utilized by your body,” says Jordan R. Plews, PhD, chief science officer for FACTORFIVE Skincare.

Not only does water help rehydrate your body, but it can aid in repairing your skin’s natural moisture, which the sun and wind wick away. “The UV rays will likely have caused at least some damage to your skin’s collagen and other supportive skin proteins,” he says.

2. Use aloe. Plews says aloe remains the tried and true post-sun ally, as it provides natural vitamins and minerals to your skin, as well as causes a cooling effect.

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.


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