You already know running is one of the best ways to melt pounds and do a solid for just about every part of your body. It even does amazing things like stop you from grabbing seconds from the buffet line!

Over and over, we hear our clients asking about "Runner's Face." If you haven't heard the term, the scary-sounding idea behind it is that your cheeks will start to sag from all the bouncing while you run, or that you'll get a skeletal, premature-aging mug from burning off too much fat beneath the skin.

In every way, being fit is the best anti-aging investment you can make for your brain, heart, lungs, circulation, mood, productivity, even your skin. When you exercise regularly your complexion is better, your breakouts improve, and even your puffy under eye circles diminish with regular exercise.

One thing that will make runners look 100 years old and contribute to the hollowing, drooping, sunken face? Skipping out on sunscreen! Excessive sun exposure from outdoor pavement pounding can lead to early aging, because it breaks down our collagen and elastin. 80-99% of the physical manifestations of aging (known as extrinsic aging) are caused from the sun.

Runners who enjoy exercising outdoors get an average of 50% more sun exposure than those choose to exercise indoors. Think you only need to wear sunscreen during that mythical 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. time frame? Think again! UVA (ultra violet aging rays) are present from sun up until sun down are responsible for the majority of skin related aging. 

The esthetic challenge that most runners are faced with is the breakdown of muscle and connective tissue in the face. When a person has a low BMI the fat pads in the face aren’t nearly as prominent and with aging we also experience muscle loss. Couple these two factors together and the result is the dreaded “skeleton” face that we so commonly hear about.

As amazing as running is for the muscles in the arms, legs, back, and abdomen it wrecks havoc on the muscles of the face. Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a workout specifically designed to target facial muscles and prevent muscular breakdown.

So what is a person to do who wants to enjoy being an avid runner and avoid their faces heading south? Here are a few simples strategies that will help keep your face supple and youthful for years to come.

 1.       Wear sunscreen, always! Ideally choose a physical sunscreen (titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide) that provides full spectrum protection for 2-4 hours. Sunscreen metabolizes on the skin after that time frame so reapplication is necessary.

2.       Workout your face. Utilize strategies like microcurrent technology and facial exercises to improve muscle tone and to slow down the degradation of collagen and elastin (the youth proteins) in the skin.

3.       Saturate the skin with antioxidants both internally and externally.  Our skin receives less the 7% of what we actually consume so even with a healthy diet, application of antioxidants is necessary to slow down the aging process.

4.       Eat your water! Drinking copious amounts of water is less than optimal for overall health as regular water is not able to actually get inside of the cells where true hydration begins. The best way to get hydrated?  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and consuming at least 10 servings per day.

5.       Take Vitamin C, Calcium, and Glucosamine every day. The cell in the body that produces collagen and elastin (youth proteins) is called a fibroblast. The aforementioned supplements help the fibroblast to optimize production of connective tissue.

6.       Take care of your skin. Cleanse, moisturize, treat, and protect everyday both morning and night to drasticallyslow down the extrinsic aging process.

Stephanie Criscone has been in esthetics for fourteen years, owning her own wellness studio for ten years. Stephanie is also a certified massage therapist. She currently is certified as a health ambassador and is working on her certification in holistic nutrition. Specializing in clinical skincare, she has been an esthetics manager and educator at the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics for the past four years. She is passionate about combining her clinical and wellness background to provide clients with the ultimate results oriented experience.