Is Your Face Paying the Price for Your Athletic Body?

January 8, 2016 Updated: October 8, 2018
FONT BFONT SText size

Athletes are known for diligence in their workouts and commitment to improving body strength, stamina, and endurance. What they may not realize, however, is that certain types of exercise adversely affect facial appearance, which board-certified dermatologist Dr. Estee Williams refers to, tongue-in-cheek, as “race face.”

Dr. Williams, who works at Madfes Aesthetic Medical Center on the Upper East Side, explains that running and other endurance sports certainly get you in shape, but also put you at risk for premature facial aging, due to low body mass index (BMI), hormonal imbalance, and environmental exposures.

Male and female runners alike tend to have lean bodies and low BMIs, which translates into loss of the desirable facial fullness.

Patients believe that by working out, they’ll lose fat in their thighs or abdomens, but in reality, they may also lose fat in their faces, causing hollowing and sagging.

“Patients believe that by working out, they’ll lose fat in their thighs or abdomens, but in reality, they may also lose fat in their faces, causing hollowing and sagging,” Dr. Williams said.

Studies demonstrate that running decreases hormones like testosterone, DHEA, and estrogen. Estrogen acts directly on the skin via special estrogen receptors, thereby promoting thickness, collagen synthesis, wound healing, and protection from the sun.

“Ever wonder why women start looking older around the time of menopause? Low estrogen. Runners and other hardcore athletes experience a decline in estrogen and testosterone after prolonged periods of training, which may explain the premature facial aging we see, akin to menopausal women,” Dr. Williams said.  

After approximately two hours of sustained running, both male and female athletes experience a drop in sex hormones (until that point, they rise.)

Aging is a slow process that does not happen overnight and affects everyone differently. Genetics, sun exposure, diet, history of smoking, and general health all factor into how well we age.  

Saving Face

Dr. Williams has created a new cosmetic procedure to help athletes who are bothered by accelerated facial aging. The Runner’s Lift incorporates radiofrequency energy, injectable fillers, and a skin-care regimen, all in one visit. 

“Runners and hardcore athletes have particular needs that stem from their daily lifestyle. These must be addressed when correcting past skin damage as well as preventing future damage,” Dr Williams says.

Dr. Diane Madfes, a dermatologist who works with Dr. Williams at the center, notes that the Runner’s Lift is suited for many athletes, not just runners.  

“Soul Cyclers, Barry’s Bootcamp devotees, and others have had great success with the Runner’s Lift as it reverses signs of mechanical stress that hours in the gym may add to the face,” she said.

What Runner’s Lift Does

Radiofrequency energy uses heat to stimulate collagen contraction and boost new collagen growth over time. Since radiofrequency works beneath the surface of the skin, it is safe for all skin tones, unlike some lasers.  

Next Dr. Williams injects collagen-boosting fillers into the face to add volume, focusing on the patient’s individual needs.

“Runners tend to lose volume in the temples and mid-cheek,” she said.

The final step is a skin-care plan designed to protect the skin from environmental exposures and normalize cell turnover.

“The Runner’s Lift procedure gives that immediate ‘wow’ effect, but the results build over time, allowing your body to do some of the work by building natural collagen,” Dr. Williams explained.

This combined now-and-later approach means that the treatment only gets better with time. Runners, take note.

The interior of Madfes Aesthetic Medical Center. (Courtesy of Dr. Williams)
The interior of Madfes Aesthetic Medical Center. (Courtesy of Dr. Williams)

Madfes Aesthetic Medical Center
1 E. 69th St.
New York, NY 10021
212-249-8118
RunnersLift.com