How to avoid runner’s face

Can overdoing it lead to sagging and wrinkles?

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By Sarah Royce-Greensill

After quizzing me on my running regime, my older sister warned me not to go overboard, else I’ll ‘end up with runner’s face’ (which she helpfully demonstrated by dragging her cheeks downwards with her hands, Macaulay Culkin style). Thanks, sis.

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It turns out she’s not wrong, though. Yesterday I had a fascinating chat with dermatologist Dr. Nick Lowe, who explained how our lifestyle affects our skin. Not only do our genetics and skin type (dry, oily, combination) affect our skin condition, but our lifestyle choices do too: from dehydrated post-party skin to stress-induced breakouts.

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One thing he talked about was so-called ‘runner’s face’. The silver lining of fitting into smaller jeans appears to have a cloud attached: losing fat from our faces can make us look gaunt and older. As Dr. Nick explained, there's a reason why rounder people have fewer wrinkles: a layer of fat plumps out the skin.

When we lose this facial fat – in medical terms ‘facial lipodystrophy’ – the skin starts to sag, wrinkles appear (especially between the nose and mouth) and we can develop the dreaded jowls. What's more, Dr. Nick warns that few runners apply adequate SPF sunscreen or wear sunglasses, so the combination of exposure to UV rays and squinting at the sun (or perhaps just grimacing in pain) increases the rate at which wrinkles develop.

So what's the solution for those of us not ready to hang up our trainers? Dr. Nick suggests:

  • Using a day cream which contains UVA and UVB sun protection – such as his Secret Is Out Lifting Day Cream, which also contains antioxidants to repair the skin.

  • Wearing a visor or sunglasses while running.

  • In extreme cases, fillers could help combat sagging and loss of volume in the lower face, but Dr. Nick specifically warns against untested fillers that haven't been FDA approved.

His simpler, safer and altogether cheaper advice for those who really want to avoid saggy runner’s face? Vary cardiovascular workouts with resistance training or yoga, and consider putting on a bit of weight. An excuse to reach for another Quality Street if ever I heard one: doctor’s orders.

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