Is it bad to wear makeup when you’re working out?

shot of a beautiful athletic brunette resting on the bench and smiling into the camera
Is it bad to wear makeup when you’re working out?gorodenkoff - Getty Images

It could be a new pair of Lululemon leggings or state-of-the-art gym. Or maybe, simply, a fresh lick of mascara and glow-y makeup base. Whatever the driving force, motivation or helping hand in getting those endorphins running and your body moving is always a good thing. But if you’ve been wondering whether the latter might not be doing your dermis any favours it’s worth doing a little research - be it thinking about the makeup formulas that won’t irritate your complexion after a sweaty spin sesh or the best ingredients to support your skin post-workout.

Should you wear makeup when you work out?

Of course, you can wear makeup while working out - it’s entirely your decision, after all. But, says Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist for La Roche-Posay, it’s important to ensure that the makeup formulas you’re using are not too occlusive as sweat and oil in makeup can block pores.

‘Bacteria associated with acne (C. acnes) will proliferate in a blocked pore,’ she warns, leading to something experts refer to as ‘gym acne’. ‘Warm damp skin is the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast both of which will cause breakouts,’ she adds. ‘Blocked pores can look white and bumpy where the so-called closed comedones contain oil that isn’t exposed to air. This blocked pore can eventually become inflamed and this is where you’d start to see papules ( red bumps ) pustules, and sometimes deeper cysts.’

Ruby Hammer, makeup artist and founder of her namesake beauty brand, agrees. ‘Honestly, I am not a fan of makeup during workouts. It’s not bad but ideally, it’s better to let your skin breathe and to help avoid blocked pores,’ she says, adding that exercising makeup-free has skin-boosting benefits too.

What’s the best makeup for workouts?

If you do still want to wear makeup when you’re working out, there are a few things to consider. First up, start with sunscreen, says Hammer. Then look for light-weight, non-comedogenic (non-clogging) formulas and always opt for a waterproof mascara - to avoid panda eyes post-burpees. ‘Too much coverage and a heavy-handed application can aggravate the skin,’ she adds. ‘Keep things light in texture and coverage and opt for skincare-makeup hybrids.’ These formulas will add light coverage all while feeding the skin with ingredients that support skin health - from hydrating hyaluronic acid to moisture-locking squalane.

‘If wearing makeup look for water-based products or mineral powders for your base and avoid oil-based occlusive makeup that can be comedogenic,’ agrees Dr Hextall. ‘I like light bases such as Nars Sheer Glow. The light reflection here reduces the appearance of blemishes, but it is not heavy and potentially occlusive of pores,’ she adds. ‘I also like By Terry’s Light Expert brush foundation which is light and fluid and the Bare Minerals Original Loose Powder.’

How to take care of your skin post-workout

‘After a workout, the key is to remove any excess sweat, oil and skin cells which, if left, may block pores. For this reason, I recommend cleansing [your skin] immediately after,’ says Dr Hextall. ‘The same applies to the body - leaving sweaty gym gear on can lead to blocked pores and subsequent breakouts.’

‘For the face make sure any makeup is removed; sometimes this requires a 2-step makeup removal followed by a gentle cleanse,’ adds Dr Hextall. ‘I always stress the importance of gentle hydrating products if doing a “double cleanse” followed by a light hydrating moisturiser,’ she adds. ‘Look for an oil-dissolving addition such as salicylic acid which can help penetrate deep into pores too.’

Both experts agree that going makeup-free is the best bet for your skin while exercising. If you do, however, choose to wear makeup always make sure your gym kit is clean, add a ‘double cleanse’ to your post-workout routine and do so with lightweight, water-based formulas that aren’t occlusive and won’t block your pores.

Makeup-skincare hybrid products

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