Do You Suffer From Runner’s Face?


When we talk about running (which we do quite a lot), we often discuss leg muscles. Sometimes we talk about the upper body, like when we get into cross-training.

We write about the stomach and how it can affect your running. Mental health is another important part of it.

But we never talk about runner’s face.

No, it’s not the pained face you make when your leg muscles are cramping. It’s also not the grimace of happiness when you finally cross the finish line after a hard race.

Let’s have a look at the cause of this phenomenon and share some steps you can take to avoid it.

What is Runner’s Face?

Runner’s face is the name given to gaunt, sagging skin on the face.

It’s called runner’s face because it’s common in people who run, although it’s not the actual activity of running that causes it.

Why Do People Get Runner’s Face?

Some people believe that the bouncing of your face from the impact of running causes the skin to sag.

However, this is not likely to be accurate, and runner’s face is more likely to be caused by a combination of factors.

The most likely reason for the wrinkled, sagging skin on the face of experienced runners is prolonged exposure to UV rays.

People who have been running for many years are exposed to these rays much more often than those who don’t run. It’s not always possible to reapply sunscreen during a long run, and even cloudy weather can expose you to dangerous rays.

These UVA and UVB rays deplete the skin of moisture, increase inflammation, and speed up aging. All of this leads to the skin losing its elasticity and sagging, especially around the cheeks.

Intense exercise on a regular basis may also contribute to runner’s face as it may lead to increased free radicals in the body, or oxidative stress, which can have similar effects.

Also, many runners don’t stay as hydrated as they should when they’re out on the road or trail. This may be because they don’t carry enough water with them or because they simply don’t pay attention to when they need water as they’re running.

A lack of hydration in the skin can contribute to increased aging and increase the chances of runner’s face.

So Does Running Ruin Your Face?

No! Running in itself actually has a great effect on the skin. Exercise improves circulation, getting the blood flowing and boosting the immune system.

However, it’s the other little factors that come along with running as a sport that have the worst effect.

The constant exposure to harmful UV rays, wind, dust, sweat, and the elements is the true reason runner’s face exists.

If you ran only indoors, on a treadmill, you wouldn’t suffer the same exposure to the elements and therefore you wouldn’t end up with runner’s face.

How to Care for Your Skin Before, During, and After a Run?

You can prevent runner’s face by taking a proactive approach to skin care.

It may take some time to care for your skin, but it’s worth spending the time on it in order to keep your youthful good looks.

Wear Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the most underrated way of protecting your skin and preventing runner’s face. Choose a high SPF and make sure to apply it liberally before heading out for your daily run.

Also, make sure you don’t neglect to apply sunscreen when the weather is cloudy. On cloudy days, the UV rays can be as damaging as in full sun.

If you know that you’re going to be on the road for a long time, it’s a good idea to take sunscreen with you so you can reapply if your sunscreen has washed away with sweat.


Both male and female runners should be moisturizing their skin daily. Your skin becomes dehydrated during the day, especially if you’re running. Moisturizing your skin helps to rehydrate it and retain its elasticity.

See if you can find an anti-aging or a skin-plumping moisturizer. These have properties that will retain elasticity and prevent runner’s face.

You should apply your moisturizer at the end of the day, once you’ve cleaned your face. This will remove any remnants of sweat, dirt, and dust, and rehydrate your skin so it can rejuvenate overnight.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is another important part of keeping your skin healthy and tight. Poor hydration is one of the biggest reasons for skin-related conditions.

Make sure you drink adequate water throughout the day, not just when you’re running. Start your day with a glass of water, and make sure you carry enough water with you when you’re going for a run.

If you find it hard to carry a water bottle with you, you should consider investing in a hydration pack that allows you to carry much more water in a convenient way.

Continue to hydrate during the day, before, during, and after your run. You should also make sure to drink pure water, sparkling water, or water infused with fresh fruit if you need some flavor.

Coffee and tea still add to your hydration levels but can have a dehydrating effect. You should avoid sodas and store-bought fruit juices as they contain high amounts of sugar and don’t contribute much to hydration levels.

Wear a Hat

Wearing a hat or cap can shield your skin from the harsh effects of the sun. Take note that this doesn’t mean you can neglect sunscreen. The two should be used together for the most protective effect.

If a hat is something you use to protect yourself on a run, you should make sure to buy one that really works with you. A proper running hat will be moisture-wicking, UV-protective, and help to prevent sweat from running into your eyes.

Fix Your Nutrition

The food you choose to fuel your body with can play a huge role in your general health and fitness, and you may be surprised to learn that it can also either prevent or contribute to runner’s face.

Filling your diet with processed carbs, sugar, and empty calories can have drastic effects on the body. They say that the gut is the second brain, and when your gut is not happy, the rest of your body suffers.

Not only can this cause your running performance to decline, but it can also cause your health to become worse. Dehydration, inflammation, and toxicity are a few of the possible effects of an unhealthy diet.

If you choose to fill your diet with whole foods, lean meat, and fruits and vegetables, you can expect to feel and look good. Fruits and vegetables contain water, which means you’re also keeping yourself hydrated.

Lean meat provides a variety of amino acids, which keep the body and brain in optimal health.

Wear Sunglasses

Not only can sunglasses protect your eyes, but running without a pair of sunglasses may cause you to squint your eyes. This movement of the face can contribute to wrinkles, which may become more pronounced in the case of dehydration and sun exposure.

Wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen is the best way to protect your face from the sun and avoid the effects of runner’s face.

Photo of author


Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.