I Gave Up Running For My Skin

By Minji

  • The theory behind “runner’s face” is that repeated bouncing/pulling of the face during vigorous running can result in a saggy face
  • Experts are split in their opinion on whether runner’s face is a real thing
  • Coupled with knee issues and risk of runner’s face, I’ve given up running for good

I’ve loved running for most of my life.  Nothing too strenuous, but a 30-minute to an hour run/walk combo has been one of my staple workouts for as long as I can remember.  I love that feeling of blood pumping through my body, and coupled with good music, there’s nothing more energizing – I guess that’s why they call it a runner’s high?

Recently though, a few things have popped up that have made me virtually give up running.  One of them is just standard knee issues, but the more interesting reason is fear of “runner’s face.” Yup - I’m afraid running will sag my face.  The last time I was in Seoul, my sister sternly warned me against any running and listed a bunch of female celebrities known for their youthful look in Korea who apparently have publicly disclosed that they never run for this reason. 

The theory behind “runner’s face” is basically that the repeated bouncing or pulling down of the face coupled with fat loss in this area that happens during vigorous running can result in a saggy face. Could this be true?  I had to admit, I did feel this bouncing and pulling sensation when I ran.  I assumed it was a good thing though.  Wouldn’t more blood pumping through my face result in better circulation and my face muscles perhaps even getting a work out?  Or was it something that was actually ruining all of my skincare efforts?  I had to investigate.

Surprisingly enough, I found a ton of existing information out there already on this.  And like most other topics related to skincare, there’s doesn't seem to be a clear answer all the experts agree on.  There were some doctors saying that this definitely was a thing so people over a certain age should stay away from vigorous running.  Then there were a bunch of other experts saying this was a myth, and any bad skin runners had was more likely the result of exposure to the sun during running, or smoking and other causes. 

I had to ask Dr. Yoon what he thought.  His answer, "there is no conclusive study on the relationship between long runs and skin, and there are many factors to consider, making it difficult to analyze.  Inferring from the existing data though, certain levels of exercise helps the skin, but excessive exercise can damage the skin by causing oxidative stress.  Especially as we get older, skin becomes less resilient so this could be something to watch out for."  

All in all, it seems as long as you are meticulous about applying sunscreen properly or run indoors on a treadmill, and don’t run for over an hour in a strenuous way more than 3-4 times a week, you should be fine.  Especially considering all the positive effects of running, depending on your personal situation, maybe even more gain than loss. 

Having said that, I have to be honest – I think I’m done with running.  This was kind of the last straw for me.  Now whenever my face bounces up and down during running, I feel like I need a face bra or something to stop the sagging.  Especially coupled with my knee issues, whether it’s all in my head or true, it just isn’t worth it. 

I still run maybe 3-5 minutes a day 3-4 times a week since running is incorporated into most of the workouts I do.  If I were somewhere with amazing scenery, I could imagine going for a light 30-minute jog or something too.  But the days of hour-long runs just for the sake of working out are over for me.  So many other fun workouts out there anyways, I don’t think I’ll really miss running…and why take the risk of ruining my skin!