Runner’s Face: What It Is And 13 Ways To Avoid It

If you are a runner, especially one with lots of miles under you, then dealing with injuries and setbacks is just par for the course.

** I may earn a commission when you purchase through a link on this page. **

Recently, the term “runner’s face” has been in the news. Is it something to be concerned about or just another phrase of the week?

What is runner’s face?

“Runner’s face” is a term used to describe the appearance of some long-distance runners who have a gaunt, sunken, or drawn facial appearance.

It is suggested that as people who run long distances, their bodies burn through fat stores, which can result in a loss of facial fat and a more pronounced appearance of bone structure.

Additionally, the repeated motion of running can lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging on the face.

It is worth noting that not all runners will develop a “runner’s face”. Many long-distance runners maintain a healthy weight and have full, youthful-looking faces.

However, if this is of concern to you, or you’d just like to learn more about prevention, I have put together a list of easy ways to prevent runner’s face listed below.

13 Tips to Avoid Runner’s face

Healthy foods for skin

Focus on eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. This helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent your face from looking gaunt.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids. This helps to maintain healthy skin and prevents dehydration. An easy rule of thumb is to drink your age in ounces or 6-8 cups each day. Proper hydration is a great way to keep your skin firm, and reduce sore muscles.

Use sunscreen

Limit sun exposure by wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from sun damage, and UV rays, which can lead to damaged skin and skin cancer. It is recommended you apply sunscreen whenever you are outside, whether you are running or not. If you plan on being active, choose a sweat-resistant sunscreen for the best results.

Wear a hat

A hat protects by providing shade for your face, scalp, and neck. These are the areas of your body that are most vulnerable to sunburn and skin damage.

Use moisturizer

As a runner, skincare should be a top priority. Your skin is exposed to the elements, including sun, wind, and pollution. This can all contribute to dryness, irritation, and as well as wrinkles. Moisturizer helps to keep your skin hydrated and nourished, improving its overall health and appearance. This can also include night cream.

Avoid smoking

Avoiding smoking is important for maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin because it helps prevent collagen breakdown, improves circulation, and prevents damage to the lips and mouth area.

Use a gentle cleanser

Using a gentle face cleanser is important for runners to maintain healthy, clear, and hydrated skin. Look for a cleanser that is free of harsh chemicals or fragrances, and suitable for your skin type. In addition to cleaning clogged pores, it’s also important to follow up with a moisturizer to help restore any lost moisture.

Get enough sleep

Getting plenty of rest is important for maintaining healthy, glowing facial skin as a runner. Adequate rest can help promote collagen production, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, reduce stress, and promote skin cell renewal

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption:

Limiting the amount of alcohol you consume is important for maintaining healthy skin, Excessive alcohol use can cause dehydration of your skin cells, inflammation, and other skin issues. If you do drink alcohol, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help reduce any negative effects on your skin.

Consider strength training:

Strength training can have positive effects on your facial skin and muscles. It increases blood circulation, collagen production, muscle tone, bone density, and stress levels.

Take rest days

Making sure to add in rest days is key for maintaining healthy skin as it helps reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, promotes skin repair, reduces stress levels, and helps with hydration.

Use proper form when running

While improving your running form may not directly prevent “runner’s face,” it can help reduce the likelihood of it occurring by reducing the impact on your body, improving posture, promoting overall fitness, and improving hydration levels. .

Don’t overdo it

Avoid over-exercising, and listen to your body to prevent negative effects on your skin and overall health. This means maintaining a balanced approach to your workouts, including rest days and proper hydration, and prioritizing your overall health and well-being.

Does Running Damage Your Face?

You may have heard that running can cause wrinkles and sagging skin, but that’s not true. The truth is that running actually helps your skin stay youthful and resilient! Running strengthens your muscles, which helps to prevent sagging skin. It also tones up your body overall, making it look more toned and firm.

However, if you don’t take care of yourself after a run—especially if you’re sweating or working out in hot weather—you could experience some dehydration or sunburns. So, for you outdoor runners, make sure to drink plenty of water and use sunscreen to preserve your beautiful skin.

What causes runner’s face?

“Runner’s face” refers to the loss of facial fat that can occur in some runners due to the repetitive impact of running. Here are some of the causes of “runner’s face” and ways to avoid it:

Repetitive impact

The repetitive impact of running can cause a breakdown of the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, leading to loss of volume and saggy skin. To avoid this, you can incorporate low-impact exercise into your routine, such as cycling or swimming, to give your face a break from the repetitive impact of running.

Sun exposure

Running outdoors exposes your skin to UV radiation, which can lead to the growth of pre-cancerous spots. To avoid this, applying sunscreen every 2 hours, with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended. UV protection should also include a hat and sunglasses.

The sunscreen I currently use is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 45. Also, consider using UV-protective clothing.


Running causes you to lose fluids through sweat, which can lead to dehydration and make your skin look dry and wrinkled. Staying hydrated is the best way to avoid this. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your runs to stay properly hydrated.

Poor nutrition

A diet that is high in sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats can accelerate the aging process. To avoid this, make sure to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.


While some people may be more prone to “runner’s face” due to genetics, incorporating healthy habits like those listed above can help minimize the effects.

Free radical exposure

Free radical damage is caused by unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to premature aging and other health issues. Runners can fight free radicals and protect their skin in the following ways.

What are they and where do they come from?

Free radicals are generated in the body as a natural byproduct of metabolism. They can also come from external sources such as environmental toxins (such as air pollution), radiation, inflammation, and lifestyle factors.

Best food for skin glow

The USDA published a list of the top 20 foods with the highest antioxidant values. Consider adding these to your diet.

FoodAntioxidant Content
Small red beansHigh in flavonoids and polyphenols
Wild blueberriesHigh in flavonoids and anthocyanins
Red kidney beansHigh in flavonoids and polyphenols
Pinto beansHigh in flavonoids and polyphenols
Cultivated blueberriesHigh in flavonoids and anthocyanins
CranberriesHigh in anthocyanins and other flavonoids
ArtichokesHigh in quercetin and other flavonoids
BlackberriesHigh in flavonoids and vitamin C
PrunesHigh in phenolic compounds and other antioxidants
RaspberriesHigh in flavonoids and vitamin C
StrawberriesHigh in vitamin C and anthocyanins
Red delicious applesHigh in quercetin and other flavonoids
Granny Smith applesHigh in polyphenols and other antioxidants
PecansHigh in flavonoids and vitamin E
Sweet cherriesHigh in anthocyanins and other flavonoids
Black plumsHigh in phenolic compounds and other antioxidants
Russet potatoesHigh in phenolic compounds and other antioxidants
Black beansHigh in flavonoids and other antioxidants
PlumsHigh in phenolic compounds and other antioxidants
Gala applesHigh in polyphenols and other antioxidants

Low body fat

There is a common misconception that having low body fat is the cause of “runner’s face”, which refers to hollow cheeks and gaunt appearance some runners may develop due to frequent and intense aerobic exercise. However, low body fat alone is not necessarily the cause of this phenomenon.

Runner’s face can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, age, sun exposure, dehydration, and loss of subcutaneous fat in the face due to a high volume of aerobic exercise. It is possible for runners with high body fat percentages to also develop a gaunt appearance on the face if they engage in intense aerobic exercise frequently.

It is important to note that having a low body fat percentage alone does not necessarily equate to better health or athletic performance. Runners should focus on maintaining a healthy body fat percentage that is appropriate for their individual body type and training goals and prioritize overall health and wellness over appearance.

How to prevent sagging skin

As runners age, they may experience a natural loss of skin elasticity and less collagen, which can lead to sagging skin on the face. While this process is a natural part of aging, there are steps runners can take to help prevent or slow down the development of sagging skin:


The importance of staying well-hydrated cannot be overstated. Not only does it help with new cell growth and deeper layers, but it also improves blood flow and reduces acne.

Limit running during the middle of the day

To reduce the risk of UV damage, consider moving your vigorous exercise sessions to the early morning runs or late afternoon.

Incorporate strength training

Strength training can help maintain muscle mass, but also by increasing blood flow.

Eat a healthy diet

Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea, and omega-3 fatty acids can help support skin health and reduce inflammation, which can contribute to skin aging.

Get adequate rest: Getting enough sleep and taking rest days as needed can help reduce stress levels and support anti-aging skin health.

Consider non-surgical treatments: In some cases, runners may choose to undergo non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as injectables or laser therapies to help reduce the appearance of sagging skin on the face. However, it’s important to consult with a qualified medical professional before undergoing any cosmetic treatments.

How to improve blood circulation naturally

Improving blood circulation can be achieved naturally by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients like vitamins C, E, and K, reducing salt intake, and avoiding smoking are some good first steps to take.

Additionally, staying active throughout the day by exercising regularly and moving around every hour strengthens the heart and blood vessels, promoting better circulation.

By implementing these changes, you reduce the risk of developing heart disease and conditions related to poor circulation.

Consume Nicotinamide Foods

Nicotinamide, also known as niacinamide or vitamin B3, is a nutrient found in many foods such as meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, and legumes. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Nicotinamide has been shown to have many benefits for the skin when consumed through the diet or applied topically.

Nicotinamide has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and irritation in the skin. It can also help to regulate oil production, prevent moisture loss and protect the skin from environmental toxins.

Finally, Nicotinamide has also been shown to have anti-aging effects, by minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production and promoting cell turnover.


Runner’s face is a condition that can be prevented by adopting a few simple lifestyle changes. Proper hydration, a healthy diet, sun protection, and good skincare habits can all help to keep the skin looking healthy, for all runners

Additionally, incorporating lower-impact exercise and strength training can help to reduce the strain on the face and prevent premature aging.

By being proactive, runners can continue to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of their sport while maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin.

If concerns do arise, it’s important to seek medical advice from a dermatologist, who can provide further guidance on the best skincare routine and treatments to protect your skin.

FitFab50 is your go-to active lifestyle site for women and men over 50! Whether you're a gym rat, a weekend hiker, or just looking for advice on what to wear to a pool party , we've got you covered. Searching for compression shirts or running shorts? Explore our top-notch reviews on the latest workout gear. We're also on top of the newest, best swimsuits for women and men that don't skimp on comfort or fit. We also share practical exercise tips and advice, specially designed for you.