The Sun Protection Guide for Athletes & How it Affects Recovery

If you quickly slap on a face lotion with SPF 15 just minutes before your afternoon run, and call it a day, you are not doing enough to protect your skin… or your training! Athletes who focus hard on taking care of their bodies with training plans, proper nutrition and adequate rest, but then go out and get scorched while training in the summer sun, can actually be interfering with their recovery process. Your skin is part of your body and your well-being, and so much of being a successful athlete is recovery. If you have a sunburn on the back of your legs or your shoulders, your body will be competing for recovery resources, rather than fully recovering from the hard training you just put in. PLUS, sunburns can be dehydrating, causing blood vessels to dilate and telling your body to send more blood to your skin, so you’re also more likely to lose fluid. And then, of course, there’s the biggest reason of all to properly protect yourself: According to skincancer.org, each year nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the United States, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. With these risks in mind, here are a few tips to help you stay safe during your toasty summer workouts.

  1. To prevent sunscreen from getting into the eyes when you sweat, apply a bit of thicker sunscreen on your forehead. The heavier consistency helps it stay put better when your cycling and sweating.
  2. Wilmington Dermatology Center advises patients to use SPF 45 or higher, since most research shows that people only put on a quarter of the amount that is recommended. To compensate, use a higher water resistant SPF as a base layer before going out for your workout and use a SPF spray to re-apply after about 90 minutes or sooner if you have been in the water (the biggest thing people do not do!).
  3. Remember these commonly skipped body parts that are most prone to sun damage: ears, nose, lips and scalp (where your hair parts).
  4. Watch your Watch: Avoiding outdoor exercise from 11 am to 3pm, will keep you out of the sun’s strongest UV rays. Always put sunscreen on 15 minutes BEFORE your outdoor workout, even when it’s cloudy outside.

In short, wear sunscreen 365 days a year. The sun’s UVB rays give us sunburn, but the UVA rays penetrate 365 days a year and can pass through windows and clouds to damage your skin.


Wilmington Dermatology Center recommends getting a Skin Check every year. Visit WDC’s website (https://www.wilmingtondermatologycenter.com/medical-services/skin-cancer/) to learn more about how you can check your skin and learn more facts about skin cancer.