Sun protection isn't just something to use at the beach. If you're a frequent runner, you could be at risk for exposure. Dermatologists at the Medical University of Graz in Austria conducted a study on marathon runners and found them to be at an increased risk for melanoma, a form of skin cancer. You can limit the amount of greasy sunscreen you'll need to use by wearing UV-resistant clothing, which reflects harmful rays from the sun and keeps you cool and comfortable.
Emancipation from Radiation
UVA radiation from the sun is the most important factor when selecting protective clothing. UVA radiation can't be felt like UVB radiation can, but it can cause damage to skin cells in the deep epidermal layers. UVA protection is necessary throughout the year, even during winter, and can penetrate cloud layers. If you're a runner who is training for long-distance runs like a marathon, you could be outside for hours during training, which can give you an unhealthy dose of UVA radiation.
Keeping it Light
UV-resistant clothing has a special rating called an Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF rating. The UPF rating is based on how well the clothing reflects sun radiation away from your skin, just like sunscreen. Most of the top running brands feature UV-resistant clothing, which come in a variety of styles and UPF ratings. For the best protection, a long-sleeved shirt with a high UPF is the safest against the sun. Long cuffs and high collars with a zipper to vent heat are ideal, and light colors reflect more sunlight to keep you cooler on warm days.
A specialized lightweight runner's hat can reduce face exposure to UVA radiation substantially. These hats have moisture-wicking linings to help manage perspiration, and are tight-fitting to prevent them from falling off from your constant motion. The most effective running hats have venting in the crown that allows heat to escape through the fabric, although a visor may be even more effective at venting heat. Running hats with a sun shade to protect the back of your neck are even more effective at reflecting harmful UV rays away from exposed skin.
Sun in Your Eyes
Running sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from radiation. Exposure to radiation can cause a sunburn on your eye known as photokeratitis, a painful condition that can lead to permanent vision damage in the form of cataracts. Running sunglasses fit closely to prevent readjustment during a run, and often feature a cord around the back of your head for a secure fit. These glasses come in a variety of styles, but the best running sunglasses have polarized lenses that cut glare for increased vision in bright sunlight.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.