Skin Care for Cyclists
Written by Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD @CadenceKitchen
Women don’t sweat they glow! Remember that nonsense? Yet the image of beautiful healthy glowing skin on a female athlete remains intact. Recently I’ve been thinking about this more and more. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting old (older anyway) and skin care is becoming a major concern. I thought being a fit female was supposed to HELP maintain my skin’s youthfulness, but does it really? I’ve spent a large part of this year in hard core races where my face is frozen into a painful grimace known as RBF ‘Resting Bike Face’. That can’t be good for lines! Apart from the facial expressions, those of us who train outdoors once or twice (or more!?) a day are exposed to excessive amounts of damaging sunlight and pollution. Limiting caloric intake, losing and gaining weight depending on the season, consuming high sugar foods during training and being in a constant state of borderline dehydration all work against the health of your skin. On top of this, endurance athletes tend to have chronically elevated levels of cortisol in response to constant training. For your skin, this means accelerated aging and inflammation. Think you can jump into your local dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon for a little help? Unfortunately, most serious athletes aren’t good candidates for botox or peels. Unless you want to take some time off to avoid all sun and potential repercussions. One woman cyclist suffered a month with a droopy eyebrow after returning to the bike a day after her first botox treatment; the pressure of the helmet messed with the treatment. So basically, being an athlete means you (and I) are screwed right? Destined to have toned legs and abdominals yet a wrinkly, saggy, sun spotted face? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some key tips to keep you glowing from the inside out.
Limit sugar – Sure those simple sugars (think gels, chews, drinks) are crucial on the bike, but outside of training, try to limit simple carbohydrates. Choose high fiber, slow digesting carbs like beets, squash, oats, banana, brown rice, quinoa, and legumes instead.
Up the Antioxidants – Not only do they help relieve muscle strength, but these powerful phytochemicals rid toxins from skin and prevent oxidation that leads to premature aging. Vitamin C, E and Selenium are three of the biggest antioxidants to improve skin health. Get 9 servings of fruits and vegetables in a wide range of colors along with a handful of nuts and seeds daily. Spices also pack a powerful antioxidant punch, so embrace the turmeric, spirulina, and cayenne trend!
Fats – Healthy fats work to maintain cell membrane structure which reduces visibility of fine lines and creates a healthy, supple look. The key is to skip greasy, low nutrient fats. Avocados, unrefined oils, coconut, sardines, salmon, nuts, seeds, and grass-fed proteins will add the most value to your diet and appearance.
Protein – Athletes tend to focus so much on carbohydrates that protein intake can drop off in heavy training blocks. Amino acids (the building blocks of proteins!) are what aids in collagen production and skin elasticity. Aim for a variety of plant and animal proteins to makes sure you’re getting all the 9 essential amino acids. Also try supplementing with branch chain amino acids, collagen powder and bone broths.
Detoxing – No, not in the sense of severely restricting intake, but in the sense of cleansing and ridding the body of negative substances. There are a handful of foods that have functional properties to assist with a skin boost such as: increasing blood flow to bring more oxygen to tired skin, helping kidneys function to better filter out waste and toxins, and even having antimicrobial properties. Some of these foods include herbs (especially basil, parsley, and cilantro), lemon, beets, and watercress. All super easy to add to your already healthful intake! Feeling more adventurous? Experiment with specialty items like dulse and activated charcoal.
Meat + Dairy – If you’re prone to acne or breakouts, you might want to limit these foods. The hormones in chicken, cheap meats (think ground chuck), and dairy can cause hormonal imbalances in your skin oils and lead to breakouts. If you aren’t interested in going vegan, try choosing quality cuts of red meat, organic dairy and limiting portion sizes.
Hydrating – Part of a glowing, radiant complexion is being hydrates. Sounds easy, but many athletes function in a constant state of mild dehydration due to excessive sweating and inadequate fluid replenishment. Combat this by drinking water liberally throughout the day. Give your skin an extra boost with aloe water, coconut water, electrolyte tablets, and consuming water rich foods such as cucumber and watermelon.
Of course, preventing skin issues from the inside out is only part of the equation. You also need to protect yourself from the outside with proper skin care.
Here are some top picks to help your skin.
Carrot Seed Oil (Earth Philosphy) – Rich in beta carotene, Vit A & C, this natural substance can leave your skin hydrated and glowing. Downfall (is it tho?...) your face will smell like a carrot! Link
Gimmie a Beet Lip Balm (Skin Food by AB) - Protect your lips on rides with this super food beet based lip balm. Link
Kale, Green Tea + Spinach Cleanser (Youth to the People) – This light cleanser is gentle enough to use daily but packed with strong anti-oxidants to rid your skin of free radicals to leave your face feeling clean and fresh. Link
Luna Sleeping Night (Sunday Riley)– Made without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, this retinol oil works to deliver smooth, radiant skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. The fact that it works while you sleep makes it an easy skin care add for any busy athlete. Link
Snow Patrol (EiR NY+C) – Made with coconut, cocoa, and turmeric this balm works to protect your skin from the elements. Cover your face (and any other exposed areas) before heading out on a brisk winter ride. Link
SPF 60 (Vichy) - The number one skin product every cyclist needs is a quality sun screen. Vichy's paraben & fragrance free, this sunscreen goes on so light and silky you barely notice it minutes later. Despite the light texture, this sunscreen lasts for a solid 2 hours and holds up well to sweat. Link