As triathletes, we pay a lot of attention to our training, racing, recovery, injury prevention, hydration and nutrition, but sometimes forget to take care of the bodies largest organ… the skin.
Training and racing places a lot of wear and tear on our skin. Here are some of the most common triathlete skin issues and how to prevent or treat them:
5 Common triathlete skin issues
Chafing is damage to the skin caused by repetitive friction- the result of skin rubbing against itself or clothing. The skin becomes irritated, raw and tender, and feels particularly painful when water hits the chafed area!
When you sweat, the moist skin is more prone to damage. Evaporated sweat leaves behind salt crystals, which are gritty and add to the irritation.
Chafing can happen almost anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are the inner thigh, armpits, groin and nipples. Bra straps, heart rate monitors and hydration packs are all culprits for causing chafing. The neck is also very prone to chafing caused by wetsuits rubbing during the swim. Some people seem to be more prone to experiencing the dreaded chafe depending on body size/shape.
Chafing can be prevented by:
-Wearing well-fitting, seamless clothing which is sweat-wicking (avoid cotton)
-For inner thigh chafing, wear longer, compression shorts under your regular shorts to create a barrier between the skin
-Use plasters/tape over nipples for men, and a properly fitted sports bra for women
-Apply an anti-friction balm to areas prone to chafing
During the summer, we spent quite a bit of time training and racing outdoors. Sun exposure can cause one of the most common triathlete skin issues. Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to the skin’s outermost layer and appears as red, hot and sore skin which may peel after a few days.
Repeated sunburn raises your overall risk for skin cancer, which is why it’s important to take steps to avoid burning while training and racing in the sun.
Sunburn can be prevented by:
-Apply a sports specific sunscreen 15 minutes before going out into the sun, then reapplying throughout the day (leave a tube in transition on race day)
-Use a lip balm with SPF
-Cover as much skin as comfortably possible with clothing- some manufacturers offer garments that block UVA and UVB rays
-Protect your head by wearing a cap
Windburn is a skin irritation caused by prolonged exposure to cold, dry air. Symptoms are similar to sunburn- red, sore, sensitive skin which feels like it’s been burnt.
Low humidity, cold temperatures and blustery conditions strip the natural moisture from your skin, causing the blood vessels near the surface to dilate. Our faces and hands really take the brunt of the weather conditions when we’re running and riding outdoors. Plus when we are indoors, central heating and hot showers exacerbate the problem as they dry out the lipid layer which locks in moisture.
Windburn can be prevented/treated by:
– Cover up when training outdoors- a buff over the lower face, gloves, ear warmers to protect skin from the wind
-Moisture from the inside out- keep the skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water
-Apply a specially formulated weather defence cream to keep the skin protected, nourished and hydrated
4. Saddle Sores
Saddle sores include a range of skin conditions in the pelvic/genital region of cyclists. They are caused by a combination of friction, pressure, moisture from sweat and increased body temperature. They vary from abrasions to open sores and infections and can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable!
Saddle sores can be prevented by:
–Finding the perfect saddle to suit your anatomy and riding style, which may involve having a bike fit
-Wearing well-fitting cycling shorts with a good quality chamois
-Changing out of your shorts and showering as soon as you are finished your ride to prevent bacteria growth
-Applying antibacterial chamois cream before every ride
5. Chlorine irritation
Chlorine is a disinfectant used to kill bacteria in swimming pools. While it does keep the pool water free from germs, it can also be irritating to skin and airways, particularly when chlorine levels are high. The chemicals bond to the skin meaning that chlorine continues to irritate the skin even after you are out of the water.
Chlorine strips the skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling tight and dry. Chlorine rash can also develop, which looks very itchy and looks like red, inflamed bumps on the skin.
Chlorine irritation can be treated by:
-Rinse off before getting in the pool to remove sweat/oils on the skin which can react with Chlorine
-Shower immediately after coming over of the water using a Chlorine removing body wash
-Applying a thin layer of over-the-counter Hydrocortisone Cream to the rash
Premax skincare products were provided as part of an ongoing ambassadorship, but all opinions are my own. Use discount code Edwards15 to save 15% on Premax products.