The most dangerous skin issue in athletes is skin cancer. Outdoor training, especially in the Texas sun, puts athletes at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Among the reasons is that athletes who train for multiple hours outdoors have a difficult time reapplying sunscreen for many reasons (sweat, availability, timing) and finding a sunscreen that works well when sweating can be a challenge. I recommend at least an SPF 30 or higher and broad spectrum sunscreen or sunblock. SPF-embedded clothing, hats, and eye protection all help as well. The most pressing issue sometimes differs. I’ve had patients concerned about everything from rashes and odors to acne and calluses. For many athletes, the long-term effects of sun other than skin cancer are often what brings them into my office. This includes freckles, wrinkles, red spots, and texture changes (what we think of as “aging”). We sometimes forget that not only does UV radiation cause skin cancer, it also causes us to age. While there are plenty of more personal options that your dermatologist can inform you about, prevention is the key—and starting from a young age is even more important.
Acne and rashes (including fungal infections) are two common conditions that can occur with heat and moisture—the epitome of post-workout. The sooner you can get your sweaty clothes off, the better. However, dry-fit gear can help because it wicks away sweat from your skin. There are gentle cleansing wipes that I often tell people to put in their gym bag or car so you can at least wipe off the sweat to troublesome areas almost immediately after your workout. There is no magic number of minutes that will keep you clear, but I would say within the first 30 to 60 minutes would be ideal to wash off the sweat and change clothing.
Sun damage is technically considered actual DNA damage to your skin cells that is caused by UV radiation. The results of this are damage like sunburns (and tans!), freckles, moles, red/brown spots, wrinkles, sagging, and eventually skin cancer on the skin. I love Australia’s prevention slogan: Slip on a shirt (or SPF clothing), slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade, and slide on some sunglasses. These are the best ways to prevent the harmful radiation of the sun.