The Truth About Skin: Does Running Cause Wrinkles, Jowls & Sagging Skin?

There is much debate as to whether running causes the skin, especially on the face, to lose its elasticity.

Conflicting Views
Conflicting reports say running categorically does not affect the production of elastin in the skin, sit alongside research that says running is chronically detrimental and will impair the production of elastin in the skin on a long-term basis. Whilst exercise is crucial, at a cellular level, for improving and maintaining our health, what I want to know is, is running bad for our skin?

Undeniable evidence
For me one thing is certain; I notice that many of my clients who are runners have loose jowls, loss of definition to their jawlines and sagging skin. It is this fact that drove me to think that there is something in the idea that running causes wrinkles and sagging skin.  In fact, the difference in runner’s skin is so pronounced that when clients have taken up running, there are occasions I have been able to tell before they have even told me of their new hobby.  I have even been able to tell in clients under 30 years old (when elastin production is still naturally fairly high). I have found the difference in the skin to be so radically different that it cannot be ignored.

In my experience as a Facialist and Skin Therapist, those who run have a certain, similar and clearly identifiable ‘look’ to their face.  As a general rule, the nasal folds are deep and cheeks loose, jowls are sagging and jawlines less defined.

Ironically, the ‘look’ of an older runner is often similar to that of an older smoker…very slim frames coupled with loose skin on the face.  Of course it goes without saying the health of the runner will be considerably better than that of the smoker…however, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two by analysis the turgor (firmness) of the skin alone.

Factors to Consider
There are various factors that must be taken into consideration when investigating whether or not running causes wrinkles and loose skin.   For example, most runners are of slim build and sagging skin is simply more evident on a slimmer frame.

The old adage that we “sacrifice our waist for our face, and our face for our waist” is true.  As we get older it is advisable to carry a little more weight that you would have done when younger, in order to avoid exaggerating the signs of premature aging on our faces.  It is common for me to see how wrinkles and sagging skin quickly worsen on clients who have lost weight, and it would be fair to say that those wanting to lose weight sometimes take up running.  So it could be argued that the looser skin is more related to the weight loss than the running – the running being simply an incidental part of the equation.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t be fit, healthy and a good weight for our age, of course we need to careful of our weight for our health.  However, I do strongly believe that it is equally important to not lose too much, especially as we tend to lose it in the wrong places, face, neck, collar bone…let’s face it, when we reach a certain age a scrawny neck is not a good look!

Running and loss of elasticity
In theory high impact aerobic activity could cause a loss of elasticity in the skin, and one way running may have a detrimental effect on the production of elastin in our skin is through the jarring of the body on hard surfaces (i.e. roads).

Running on hard surfaces has certainly been proven to have an injurious affect on joints, for example the knees.  The established link between joint problems and high impact aerobic activity means that it is common practice for people to be advised to choose low impact activities if they have joint problems, like bad knees.  Whilst there is some argument that running may not be as bad for the knees as it was once thought to be, it seems intuitively true that running, especially over long distances, will have some effect on the joints.  Common sense when you think that with each foot strike a runner’s knee has to cope with the impact of around eight times their body weight, step after step.  Stress factors are also a risk with running, where a bone will fracture after sustained pounding (usually the bones that bear the heaviest loads like the tibia).

It is also acknowledged that running can cause irreparable sagging to breasts.  There seems to be general agreement that the ligaments which hold up the breasts will stretch from the impact of running.

So given that it is acknowledged how running affects bones and breasts, why is there so much debate about whether it causes the skin to lose its elasticity?  Surely, if it pulls your breasts down, it will pull the skin on the face down.

Reduce the risk to your joints & breasts:  Investing in a good pair of running shoes to cushion the impact & a good sports bra

Running and Sun Damage
Another way running may indirectly the cause the skin on the face to lose elasticity is from sustained environmental exposure.  Exposure to the harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays has long been confirmed to break down the collagen and elastin fibres, causing wrinkles and skin sagging.   There is an increased risk here on the Costa Blanca due to the lovely, bright sunny weather we have for most of the year.

You will need to protect your face with at least an SPF 20, re-apply it every 90 minutes and pay particular care to re-application after heavy sweating.  If you run outside you should take your sunscreen with you just as you take your water, it is equally as essential.  It is not just wrinkles, but also sun cancer which you need to think about.

I would conclude that sustained exposure to the elements and harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays in daylight contribute to much of the accelerated premature aging seen on the faces of regular runners.

Reduce the risk:  Wearing a targeted sunscreen and reapplying whilst you’re out running

Reduce the risk to your skin by:  Walking not running!
In my opinion, if you are concerned about premature aging, approach any high impact aerobic exercise with caution.  Personally, I would be very wary of running regularly, simply from the overwhelming evidence that I see on my clients faces on a daily basis.  Regardless of the findings of research, nothing takes away from the fact that the faces of runners have a certain ‘look’, the skin is gaunt but droopy, loose on the lower face, a certain amount of sagging in the jowl area is always present.

There are other ways to raise your heart rate and keep fit…quite simply walk don’t run.  Or try cycling or spinning, both excellent ways to stay super fit.  Other exercise like Pilates and yoga are great ways to stay fit and healthy.  So my advice is ere on the side of caution and walk don’t run.

If you are going to run, wear a sunscreen of at least an SPF 20 or higher and don’t forget to re-apply it every 90 minutes, invest in a good pair of running shoes, the best, supportive bra you can find.  Don’t forget to keep hydrated too!  Replacing the water you lose when you sweat is crucial to keeping the skin plump.

Fiona Harlowe is fully qualified and gifted Facialist, specialising in the treatment of aging and sun damaged skin.

Fiona believes in a fully integrated holistic treatment, combining the latest, advanced equipment and product technologies with a hands-on approach rooted in massage and touch therapies.  Fiona is renowned for her forthright, dedicated, honest and open approach…she genuinely cares about each client and improving the health of their skin.

Based at Vanilla Hair & Beauty, Villamartin Plaza Fiona always offers free consultations.

To book your free skin consultation, please call 966765616.  You can also email Fiona via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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