Ask An Adult: How Bad Is It To Wear Make-Up To The Gym?

Athleisure’s ugly truth

Ask An Adult: How Bad Is It To Wear Make-Up To The Gym?

by Lucy Morris |
Published on

Skin is a delicate thing, but so is the ego. Sometimes it’s hard to face the world barefaced, especially when you’ll be surrounded by a crowd of body-worshipping gym bunnies hooked to the clean eating craze. As beauty companies cotton on to the possibilities the fitness world offers them, they’ve begun launching sweat-proof make-up ranges.

Recent research by The NPD group suggests that the prestige make-up market has grown by 9.8% thanks to the trend for #gymselfies. Their director June Jensen explains, ‘The trend for wearing make-up in the gym has certainly increased in popularity over the last year. We are seeing a definite increase in make-up sales which we attribute to this trend, especially with foundations that are long-wearing and that are formulated with moisturising or oil-controlling properties.’ But, what are the repercussions to your pores when you break a sweat in a full-face of make-up?

There is a lot of confusion out there about how much hitting the gym in a slick of foundation can affect your skin. Some reports suggest the sweat traps toxins into your pores, others say it will cause dry skin, but conversely, some suggest it’s a fast track to a full-scale acne breakout. Obviously, everyone’s complexion is different, and the amount, type and formula of the make-up you wear will play a huge part in the effect it has on your skin. To help separate the truth from the fiction, we asked leading skincare expert and facialist Vaishaly Patel to shed some light on the situation.

‘When we get hot, several things happen to our skin. The first is sweating and the second is a slight relaxing and enlarging of the pores. Add a layer of even the best make-up on this, and firstly you'll end up with streaky make-up, but you're also increasing the likelihood of a breakout.’ Vaishaly said, ‘Your skin needs to breathe - during a good workout - even more so. Mix in sweat, heat and open pores, and over time the skin will become blocked. Not everyone will get spots, but most will get blackheads coupled with dulling and possible uneven skin texture.’

Dr Sajjad Rajpar, Consultant Dermatologist and Aesthetic Dermatology and Dr Harryono Judodihardjo at Belgravia Dermatology agree. Adding, ‘The key risk from wearing make-up whilst exercising relates to the fact that inevitably, make up will occlude hair follicles and skin pores. Even in the absence of exercise, this can lead to acne - causing black heads, skin coloured bumps (comedones) and red spots.

‘In the presence of exercise, the risk of acne from make-up is made worse. There is also the added risk of folliculitis – inflammation of the hair follicles. This occurs for two reasons, because sweat can’t escape very easily and becomes trapped and because a sweaty environment allows normal bugs on the skin such as Pityrosporum to become problematic. Folliculitis looks a lot like acne and presents with pus heads. Pityrosporum folliculitis from occlusion due to make-up is probably more common than we think – it looks like acne but doesn’t respond to the usual acne treatments and needs to be treated differently, usually with prescription medication. It's worth seeing a specialist if you find yourself in this situation.'

Vaishaly advises staying away from concealer as its thick consistency sits on the surface on the skin and stops the pores from breathing. ‘As we exercise and perspiration increases, the sweat will want to come out but can get blocked underneath.’ Conversely, a little moisturiser before a workout will leave the skin looking supple but gives it a chance to sweat without restriction.

Cleansing should be part of your pre-workout ritual as it will help your skin recover quickly from exercise. ‘It’s important to cleanse skin thoroughly so that your skin is clean and apply a light moisturiser only. Exercising is good for your skin as it boosts blood flow, nourishing the skin with oxygen. Sweating cools and detoxifies the body cleansing pores of dirt, so it’s important to choose products that will allow our skin to do its job easily and properly. If you’re training outside make sure you wear an SPF,’ Viashaly said.

As it turns out sweat-proof make-up is total BS. Though advertised as a gym solution, Dr Rajpar and Dr Judodihardjo explain, 'sweat proof make-up ironically is more likely to trap sweat, as it is more likely to have a greater occlusive effect and be more impervious. It is therefore more likely to aggravate acne and folliculitis.’

It’s what you do after that matters too. In her final bout of advice Viashaly added, ‘Always cleanse and wash your skin straight after your workout to remove sweat, bacteria and dirt and clean the pores efficiently, even if you apply make-up before heading out. This will help to minimise break outs.’

Liked this? You might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult: Is Soya Really Fucking With Our Hormones?

Ask An Adult: What’s The Difference Between An Intolerance And An Allergy And How Do I Know Which Is Which?

Ask An Adult: Why Do I Feel Stupid When I’m On My Period?

Follow Lucy on Instagram @lucyalicemorris

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us