Skincare tips: Runner w/ calluses, dry lips, early fear of wrinkles, etc
October 22, 2014 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Please help a 28 year old woman overcome her sundry skin terrors: I'm a runner who is tired of having ugly feet (callused skin, short and warped toenails). I also suffer from prescription medication-induced dry mouth that Biotene toothpaste/mouth spray only marginally help. The dry mouth contributes to my chronically chapped lips. My hormonal birth control causes vaginal dryness and I want to solve this potentially by changing HBCs instead of treating the systems with Premarin. Plus, I'm trying to take more action than ever to protect my facial skin and other skin from premature aging.

TL/DR: I need to make my feet pretty despite running 15 miles a week, get rid of my dry-mouth and chapped lips for good, overcome my hormonal birth control-caused vaginal dryness, and protect my skin from premature aging.

Otherwise, my blizzard:

- I'm a woman who just turned 28 as of today (your protips will be the best b-day present I could ask for!), and am starting to freak about how I should have done more at an early age to protect my skin from the sun on a daily basis. I am more motivated than ever to make the necessary nutrition and habit changes to improve my skin's moisture levels, texture, and cleanliness.

- Climate-wise, I'm in the midatlantic US - throughout the year there's high humidity, with just as much snow as there is rain as there are cloudless WOAH! the sun is BLINDING me days.

- I drink 3 liters of water a day and take daily liquid fish oil supplements, in addition to Vitamin C tablets, antioxidant tabletsm collagen tablets, and probiotics for digestive health. I've been eating too much salt lately, and recently decided to kick the high-salt foods and eat a more regular diet involving lots of spinach and apples. I'm not eschewing salt altogether - electrolytes! - but I don't need as much as I've been consuming.

- I have started using lightweight facial moisturizer with a 15 SPF rating (Wegman's store brand version of Oil of Olay's, because I'm on a budget and it doesn't seem to have any difference in the quality or ingredients - I'm very happy with it), as well as wearing 30 SPF sunscreen (Target store brand Sports sunscreen, which is highly rated) on my neck, ears, decollete, arms, hands and other frequently exposed skin. I'm not out in the sun a lot, but I like to go for an outdoor walk on my 15 minute break at work, do some gardening (less now that the season's coming to an end), and take walks on the weekends. I am not sure how often I really have to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day. If I'm just at the office and not active/sweating, I feel weird reapplying it over my make up - so I'd have to cleanse my face, reapply the sunscreen, and do make-up again. This may work at the end of lunch, when I usually go to our company's gym and workout. Or is it overkill?

- So, other than drinking enough water, getting my Omega 3's and using sunscreen daily, what else can I do to take care of my facial/neck/chest/other skin and prevent premature aging? I do believe in aging naturally and embracing it, and I accept that I will get wrinkles and thinner skin over time, but the point is to care for my skin rather than continue to participate in behaviors that accelerate the appearance of aging.

- I've had my running shoes professionally fit at my local runner's store, but recently made the mistake of buying a new, different pair of running shoes (same brand: Asics, but a different model) based on recommendations online from people with similar feet, and I think those new shoes have contributed to more blisters/calluses. I have fallen arches and supinate, which is unusual for people with fallen arches.

- I do change up my running shoes every 250-400 miles I run in them, and I do not use them for cross-training work.

- I am good and don't pull my running shoes off with the laces still tied (I realize that doing so would weaken the ankle support and contribute to more blistering/friction in the wrong places).

- I began using Kiehls' Cross-Terrain "Dry Run" Foot Cream and find that it works to some extent, but only in preventing new calluses/blisters from forming.

- I wear high quality, sweat-wicking runner's socks. But how often should I change them up? The ones I use now were a Christmas gift from last year, and while they aren't falling apart, I get the feeling that they're losing threads

- The medication I take causes dry-mouth, which in turn causes me very dry and chapped lipps. YANMD and I believe the benefits of my rx meds outweigh the cons, so I won't be changing my meds just because of the dry mouth. My question then: how to best beat dry mouth and the way it makes my lips super chappy and white whenever I lick them (my bad habit)? I use Biotene, which I know recently underwent a change in chemistry and there are complaints from other users that it's not as effective. I find that the toothpaste helps (regular toothpaste ensures my mouth gets extremely dry), but my mouth still isn't what it was before I had dry mouth. I find my dry mouth is at its worst (and my lips the most chapped) right after a run. I try to breath in through my nose and out through my mouth, but sometimes I just breath through my nose. I'm working on breaking this habit. I don't know if it's the breathing issues or the lip-licking issues that make this worse, and I'm bad about remembering to use my chapstick. When I do, I tend to lick it off... ugh. Habits!

- Unrelated, but I also worry that my dry mouth = bad breath. I brush and floss twice daily but I feel like I develop bad breath more quickly than most... ? I don't just want to rely on altoids in between my morning and evening brush 'n' floss.

- I keep my toenails cut short (not to the quick, but short) to avoid bruising while running, but my toe nails tend to look uneven/warped no matter what the length. I assume this could be a result of my other footwear, or just the running itself. I cannot tell if I have a fungal infection, but some nails are faintly (very faintly!) yellow and the cuticles look oversize and rough.

- What the heck do you other runners do to keep your feet looking beautiful? I use Yoga Toes to stretch my toes out, and occasionally go at them lightly with a damp pumice stone and some Dr. Bronner's moisturizer, but I can't afford expensive pedicures. What are your feet beauty rituals? How do I get rid of these rough toenail cuticles and keep my nails looking even?

- (TMI warning): The hormonal birth control I take (depo provera) has also taken away my necessary feminine properties for healthy lady bits (read: lubrication). I've been using it for about five years and had this issue for the last three. My doctor reluctantly prescribed Premarin (for postmenopausal women) after I refused to change HBCs. I refused to change because 1) I like the convenience of a once-every-3-months shot, and 2) I don't have periods. Now I'm reconsidering. I want to keep my periods low or non-existent if possible, but also want something that will be easy to administer and not promote vaginal dryness. (I've done Nuvaring in the past and that only gave me discharge). Can anyone recommend a great HBC that eliminates or reduces the number of periods annually, without causing vaginal dryness? I do not like relying on lube any more than I like relying on the Premarin.

In summation: I'm aware that the overarching theme here is that my stubbornness about the medications I'm taking (the non-HBC ones, anyway) puts me in a position where I'm fixing one issue in my life, but creating a watershed of other, skin-care related problems that now require additional medicating or fixes. I accept this and do want honest advice on what the best long term habits and solutions are for mitigating or resolving all of the above. All of these issues make me feel 'not sexy', and it's impacting my confidence and my sex life. I know some of these issues are only visible or known to me most of the time, but knowing they exist is a downer.

I'm grateful for any help, tips, links to resources, or useful anecdotes that the hivemind can provide. Thank you in advance.
posted by nightrecordings to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
1) Have you considered an IUD rather than depo? I had the terrible nether-dryness when I was nursing and the only thing that helped was when I stopped nursing. I've now purchased everything in the menopause section at CVS so I get a lot of brochures about being "in the prime of my life." That was the only impact my purchases had, though. A more localized hormone -- or hormone-free- method might help.
2) I also have medication-induced dry mouth. And I hate it when I run. Sometimes I run with a cough drop, which is probably a choking hazard. Mostly I just drink a ton of water, which it sounds like you already do.
3) Try retinol (OTC strength, like ROC or Olay Total Effects) for the skin; it's one of the few scientifically-proven anti-wrinkle remedies. It's not magic, but it apparently helps. (I feel like it helps me, but I don't have a control face to compare it to.)
4) Consider makeup with a significant SPF.
5) You might want to talk to a podiatrist about your feet issues. It does sound like you might have a fungal infection, and s/he might be able to prescribe you Am-Lactin or some other acidic cream to help the dead skin slough off.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:19 PM on October 22, 2014

Birth control - I would look into the Mirena IUD. Many (most?) who use it have either no periods or drastically lighter/shorter periods. It's even easier than Depo, since it lasts for many years. I don't think it usually causes dryness.

Dry mouth - water, gum, & mints/hard candy (sugar free if you prefer) are the only things that make much of a difference for me.

Dry lips - exfoliate your lips (gently!) at night with a washcloth, soft toothbrush, or sugar scrub. Put on lots of good quality lip balm. Since running dries out your lips more, I'd use Vaseline on them prior to a run - it's an excellent occlusive and should seal out the dry air.

Sunscreen - I'd use a higher-SPF product on your face. If you don't use sufficient sunscreen (about a quarter teaspoon for your face), it provides less protection. I know that I don't usually use enough, so I try to make up for it by using something with higher SPF. You do need to reapply chemical sunscreen if you want good protection, but you don't need to reapply physical sunscreen unless you wipe or sweat it off.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:33 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a suggestion for chapped lips that has changed my life: lanolin. I started using it on my lips while I was doing a course of Accutane, which REALLY wrecks your lips for the duration. I continued using it, mostly at night, after I finished Accutane because it seriously improves my dry lips. It's marketed to pregnant/breastfeeding women to soothe sore nipples. You can buy it at most pharmacies; my Costco pharmacy even has it behind the counter.

Seriously give Mirena IUD a thought; I'm on my second one (so I've had a Mirena for seven years) and I adore it. It's imperceptible as far as the hormones go, except I don't have periods either. Win-win!

I'm not a face-makeup wearer, but I use Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer that's SPF 15. It's non-greasy, unscented and prevents further damage.

I have no advice for your feety questions. I hike and walk a lot and my feet probably look like yours. I generally wear closed-toe shoes, though.
posted by workerant at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2014

Feet - you can see a doctor to rule out infection, but I thought I would write a maintenance ritual. Soak feet for 10-15 min. Mix olive oil and sea salt (from the cheap big bag at the drugstore bath aisle) and use as foot scrub. After that, do the pumice but don't be shy. Only clip your nails once per week, use a nail file to deal with unevenness. Consider pushing back/trimming cuticles as well. Then heavy duty moisturizer and put feet in socks.

Sun - wear a hat! I cannot stress this enough. Large sunglasses help as well. Stay in the shade as much as feasible. Avoid the outdoors from 10-4.

Lips - try applying face moisturizer with spf to your lips, you will remember to do it that way and you won't lick it off cause it will taste bad.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2014

For dry feet: Before you go to bed, put a generous amount of vaseline on your feet, and put on some cotton socks. And, happy birthday! :)
posted by gemutlichkeit at 1:22 PM on October 22, 2014

You might want to explore the aging effects of different types of exercise. I'm not sure how much you're running, but women who run a whole lot tend to be (anecdotally in my experience) a bit... sinewy? And I think it's hard on you in other ways. Of course you're doing your research and working to counteract the effects, and running may give you some irreplaceable gifts, but if you're just doing it to look good you might want to look around a little.
posted by amtho at 1:32 PM on October 22, 2014

I run about 7 miles, average per day, as many days a week as possible. New running socks are always good.

1. Dry messed up feet result from running regardless, so either embrace them to be proud of, or go for a professional pedicure periodically, but make sure the pedicurist doesn't remove any of your calluses. The cuticles may be trimmed by you using a cuticle trimmer. Regardless, in my experience, lovers do not care a whit about your toes. YMMV.

2. Vaginal dryness was an ongoing problem for me a few years ago, and I was misdiagnosed with yeast infections. A wonderful Nurse Practitioner told me to use generic medical lube (whether running or not) and it is amazingly helpful. I'm not clear on your objection to lube, to be honest.

3. Wrinkles...I'm 40, and I use a good moisturizer with sunscreen built-in that I buy at Sephora. It's one of the only things I spend $$ on, but I only need a tiny bit, and it lasts forever.

4. Avoid the mints and chew sugarless gum for about 1 minute if you feel like your breath is weird and you just want to "correct" it.

6. Very important, in my experience: avoid hormonal birth control. It does make your system act wonky sometimes, which can be exacerbated by dietary limitations and other herbal/vitamin supplements.

7. Seriously, don't limit your diet too much. I don't eat a lot of carbs, especially after running, but you need some... but it is crucial to get enough protein.

Best wishes! I hope at least some of this helps.
posted by miss tea at 2:43 PM on October 22, 2014

Feet: See your doctor to check for fungal conditions, and if you have one, skip topical creams and go straight to oral anti-fungal medication (I cannot believe how much nicer my feet look after a course of these). Also, get some urea-based heel balm and slather your feet in it before bed.

Face: Running doesn't age your skin any more than any other activity that involves sun exposure. You're doing all the right things now. However, running does tend to keep you lean, and your face will lose fat as you age anyway. At some point, you'll have to choose between your face and your butt re where you want some body fat. Also, make sure you're getting enough protein in your diet - your skin and muscles need it to heal.
posted by Gwendoline Mary at 2:49 PM on October 22, 2014

RE balancing sunscreen reapplication with makeup: I have gotten into the habit of wearing a sunhat pretty much whenever I go outside instead of messing with sunscreen. You probably won't want to quite so assiduously, but it could solve your walking at lunchtime problem.

RE birth control, I know you won't like this suggestion, but I strongly recommend trying a non-hormonal method for 3-6 months and see how you like it. You've been on Depo since you were pretty young, and you may find that you enjoy sex more and are less bothered by your period than you were when you were younger. Even if you decide you want to go back on it, you'll get an adult baseline for how you feel without it, which may help you decide what symptoms you want handled differently. (Since birth control pills kill my sex drive, I use condoms, withdrawal, and partners' vasectomies.)
posted by metasarah at 3:17 PM on October 22, 2014

I can't recommend Kiehl's lip balm (in the tub) highly enough and I have converted many people to it. It's the only thing that can heal my lips once they get horribly chapped. Your lips will feel so much better once you use it that you will want to use it and remember to. Seriously, it's the only thing that gets me through the winter.
posted by whoaali at 5:06 PM on October 22, 2014

I rely on a really thick, goopy lip gloss for dry lips. It stays on forever, mostly because after I put it on, I feel like licking it off is a gross alternative. :)

As far as skin, 1) sunscreen, definitely, every day on the face and neck (I really like Clarins products for this), and 2) moisturizer in the morning before makeup (if you wear it) and in the evening before bed.

Something I've noticed that really has done a lot of good for my skin that I absolutely will not live without again is micellar water (Caudalie's is outstanding, but there are others out there). It's advertised as a makeup remover, which it's great at, but I'm a fan because cleans my skin without making it feel like I've got a peeling, desertified, sandpaper-face.

Good luck!
posted by schooley at 7:56 PM on October 22, 2014

Bad breath can start way back in the throat/tonsils/sinuses where brushing and flossing won't reach. Try gargling with antiseptic mouthwash.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:36 PM on October 22, 2014

I have dry feet, and the only thing that works for me is cream with a high urea content. Minimum 20%, but I recently found a 50% urea cream that's a wonder. It's highly moisturising without being greasy, and if you massage it in for long enough, it gets keratolytic. Warning if you have a sensitive nose : some people say it smells like piss; I can't smell it myself.
posted by snakeling at 2:43 AM on October 23, 2014

I want to second workerant's suggestion for lanolin - I use it in the evenings all winter long. Or, you know, starting around now....

Depending on how serious you are about all this, and your tolerance for looking goofy, a parasol and lightweight gloves to shield your hands go a long way. You can wear the gloves in the car when you're alone (um, not that I know anyone who does that, or anything). I find that I wash my hands too often for sunscreen to stay on. A giant hat is slightly less embarrassing than the parasol option.
posted by chocotaco at 4:50 AM on October 23, 2014

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