What happens to your skin when you train for a marathon?

20/05/2020 — By Hannah Mepham

What happens to your skin when you train for a marathon?

If you’re a keen runner, you’ll know that your training regime can give your skin care a run for its money. Here we look at what really happens to your skin when you run, and our resident runners reveal how they care for their skin.

How can marathon training affect your skin?


Marathon runners can lose several litres of fluid through sweat and exhalationi. Regularly drinking water will decrease your likelihood of experiencing cramp and hyperthermia and to avoid dry, chapped skin runners should apply a moisturiser containing humectant (water retaining) ingredients.

Petroleum-based skin care is pore-clogging and while it will help prevent chaffing, it also prevents the skin from breathing and may cause irritation. For a protective skin barrier that won’t clog pores apply our Soothing Baby Salve. This contains Beeswax and creates a protective, breathable layer on the skin’s surface to helps lock in moisture.


Running a marathon is a sweaty business and whilst it’s perfectly normal to sweat when you exercise, long-distance runners might be surprised to learn that running can permanently alter the way the body releases heat through sweat. According to a scientific paper published in 2014 habitual long-distance running can increase the size of sweat glands and alter runner’s sweat glandular outputii.

To help keep the skin in balance we formulate our range of organic deodorants with soothing Shea Butter and Zinc ricinoleate. Extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant, Zinc ricinoleate won’t inhibit normal perspiration or interfere with the natural flora of the skin. Instead this works by locking onto or bonding with odour molecules to prevent them becoming airborne and therefore creating a smell. To further rebalance the skin we pack our deodorants with prebiotics which inhibit ‘bad’ odorising bacteria’.


As many as 24% of runnersiii reportedly suffer from dry skin on their feet. The College of Podiatry advises anyone experiencing pain to rest regularlyiv and if you are prone to foot pain a Podiatrist may be able to provide advice on managing your discomfort.

Something all marathon runners can do to care for the skin on their feet is establish a post-run foot care regime. We recommend soaking the feet in a bowl of warm water containing half a cup of Epsom salts. Doing this for 10 minutes once a week will help soften the skin and is a great way to draw tension and toxins from the body. Once the feet are clean and dry apply a nourishing body lotion and allow this to soak into the feet.


The average time it takes to run the London marathon is 3 hours 48 minutes for men and 4 hours 23 minutes for womenv. Few pro-athletes can complete the distance in less than two hours, and when you take training time into consideration, it becomes apparent that marathon runners are regularly exposing their skin to harmful UV rays for long-periods of time.

Without regular application of an effective SPF sun lotion you can be at risk of sunburn and increase your likelihood of hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. Research published in 2006 explored long-distance runner’s carcinoma risk and revealed that people training for marathons were more likely to develop skin cancer than others, with the risk varying with the intensity of the runners training schedulevi.

To protect your skin from sun damage, apply a water-repellent broad range sun lotion at least 20 minutes before going outside. For guidance on how much to apply be sure to check out our helpful guide to sun cream application.

Meet our marathon runners


Sarah is our Online Marketing & Website Co-ordinator and is currently training for her fourth Marathon. Here she shares her skin care secrets:

When I’m training for a marathon my biggest skin care concerns are sun protection and dehydration. The long distances involved in training can mean I’m outside for 3 hours at a time so before I run I apply our SPF30 sun cream to my arms and legs, and our Day Solution SPF15 moisturiser on my face. I’d read somewhere that running long-distances can age the skin and whilst I’m not sure how true this is, it gives me peace of mind to know that this hydrating SPF moisturiser also contains antioxidants that help prevent premature ageing.

Running gives my skin a healthy glow but I’m conscious that building up a sweat can cause breakouts. To avoid this, I wash my face as soon as I return from a run. My preferred cleanser is the Foaming Face Wash as I like how the foaming action helps to lift dirt and sweat from the skin surface.

What happens to your skin when you run a marathon


Ross is our IT Support Administrator and he will be running his first ever marathon in Brighton this April. Here he tells us how his training regime has changed his skin:

Running a marathon in April means that you need to start your training during the cold weather months. Clocking up the miles means you soon warm up, but your skin can really feel the burn from the wind. My skin soon started to feel chapped and raw so now I protect with Green People for Men- No. 3 Cooling Moisturiser. This helps my skin to cool down after training and keeps it feeling healthy and hydrated.

what happens to your skin when you train for a marathon

Shop marathon skin care essentials

Scent Free Facial Sun Cream - SPF30 50ml

Scent Free Facial Sun Cream - SPF30 50ml

High factor, scent-free SPF30 facial sun cream for sensitive skin


Nurture Body Lotion 150ml

Nurture Body Lotion 150ml

Luxurious, rehydrating lotion for all skin types


Green People for Men - No. 3 Cooling Moisturiser 100ml

Green People for Men - No. 3 Cooling Moisturiser 100ml

Soothing moisturiser for face and neck


Aloe Vera & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Aloe Vera & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Refreshing Aloe Vera deodorant for all skin types


Are you taking part in a marathon this spring? Join the conversation at @GreenPeopleUK.

[i] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43211447

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3977973/

[iii] https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/fitness/a28876/caring-for-active-feet/

[iv] https://cop.org.uk/foot-health/common-foot-problems/heel-pain/

[v] https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/athletics/london-marathon-average-best-finishing-12373419

[vi] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/nov/21/health.healthandwellbeing

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