Fact Or Fiction: Is 'Runner's Face' Real?

If you've ever panicked that running too much will give you "runners face," a gaunt, aged look that some believe is caused by all of the bouncing and up-and-down movement that runners do on an almost daily basis, stop worrying. Yes, there are some ways that running can impact how your face will look, but with proper skin care and appropriate fueling and hydration, your skin will be healthier thanks to regular exercise.

In fact, according to WebMD, regular exercise — including running — can actually nourish skin cells and help keep them vital for longer. The increase in blood flow when you pick up the pace helps your skin flush out cellular debris, and also helps relieve stress, which can contribute to skin disruptions like acne or rosacea.

Dr. Rachel Nazarian, of Schweiger Dermatology Group, explained to the Huffington Post that the idea that running could age you is largely based on outdated research that suggested exercise caused increased free radical production and oxidative stress, which could lead to a breakdown of collagen and elastin, which in turn could lead to sagging and wrinkles. However, Nazarian is quick to note that eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods — like brightly colored fruits and vegetables — can help combat those free radicals.

Are there any skin-based downsides to running?

If you're using running to drop a significant amount of weight, then there is a chance that a decrease in body fat will lead to a slightly sagging or gaunt face, Dr. Kiya Movassaghi, a triathlete and plastic surgeon, explained to Healthline. But running isn't to blame, it's the fat loss. "What we call 'runner's face' does indeed often correlate with a runner's body type and lifestyle, but running does not specifically cause one to have a gaunt face," he adds. 

The constant sun exposure linked to running can also lead to premature wrinkling and brown spots, Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist, told the Huffington Post, so it's important to wear sunscreen year-round and cover your face using a hat whenever possible in order to avoid sun damage. "Overexposure to the sun's damaging radiation can lead to uneven pigmentation, thickened skin, wrinkles, loss of volume, pre-skin cancer and skin cancer, so it's important to protect your skin with good sun protection and exercise in moderation," she added.

Ultimately, as long as you take proper precautions against the sun, running should be great for your skin. And the endorphin rush that you get will cause smiles, not wrinkles!