Working Out in Makeup: Is it bad for skin?

Female Gym Makeup

woman wears makeup in the gym for any number of reasons.  Maybe she’s insecure about her appearance or maybe she’s just come straight from her job.  There could be someone in the gym she’s trying to impress or maybe looking fabulous on the Stairmaster is just something she likes to do.  She might have forgotten to take it off. She may have better things to do than stand in a poorly lit changing room removing and then reapplying what she already did that morning.

Why women wear makeup when working out isn’t important.

Although, if you type that question into Google then you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of the world’s big mysteries.  Reddit has a number of interesting threads where women explain what motivates them to wear cosmetics when working out. And maybe they’re onto something.  

Enclothed cognition is the idea that when we look good we workout harder.  It’ll make a lot of sense to most of us.  When we’re self-conscious about our appearance, worried about what we look like, about the rip in our leggings, the stain on our shirt or the rosacea blossoming over our cheeks three reps into a circuit, we can’t mentally commit to what we’re doing, and without focus how can we smash our targets.

It’s not about being a peacock in the gym, but it’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin.  For some of us that just takes a little more effort than it does for others.


Makeup During Exercise Colour Run Paint


Beyond scientific proof is the commercial proof: companies like Gym Shark, and Lululemon make money from designing and manufacturing durable gym wear that makes us look good.  It’s the workout aesthetic and it’s an industry worth billions.

And the gym can be a tough crowd.  It’s intimidating whether you’re a man or a woman.  If you ever want to see what toxic masculinity looks like, then we’d recommend the Men’s Bodybuilding forum on the subject of male leggings.

If we care about what clothes we’re wearing, then it may mean that we’re going to care about what we put on our skin, too.  So women who wear makeup to the gym, is it good for your skin when you do?


Will Wearing Makeup to the Gym Ruin Your Skin?

Most dermatologists and facialists suggest that it’s not a good idea to wear anything on your face during exercise, and we’ve summed up some of the reasons why below.

Makeup Stops Sweat Cleaning Out Pores

Sweat is one way that the body regulates temperature.  It’s a vital system that cools us down when we get too hot. The brain does this by signalling to the pores in our skin that they need to start producing sweat. Sweat is actually pretty good for our skin as it cleans out dirt and grime trapped inside each pore.  Makeup, therefore, creates a barrier that stops the body from being able to flush them out efficiently, leaving you at risk of a breakout.


Makeup Might Age Your Skin

This is pretty horrifying if it’s true. A number of dermatologists believe that by wearing makeup and exercising, you’re doing long-term damage that will increase the signs of ageing.  Which is a pretty scary thought because younger looking skin is something we’d probably all like to keep hold of.

We’d all like to think, too, that by staying active we’re doing right by our bodies and if wearing cosmetics during exercise is hurting us then it could be a very good incentive to wipe off any product before hitting the gym. Fortunately, we found a number of sources (including the one we’ve linked to), that argue that any issues from wearing cosmetics during exercise is only short term.  Phew.

Makeup Gives Bacteria Something to Hold Onto

Makeup also provides a surface for bacteria to cling onto.  Think about how often you touch your face when you’re working out.  You probably do it more than you think. Think, too, of all the surfaces in the gym that can carry bacteria: the free weights, the static bike handles, the treadmill display, the yoga mats… it’s easy to wipe the sweat off your forehead with your hand, scratch your nose or swipe your palm over your eyes.  Cosmetics are one way that germs can stick to the skin facilitating a breakout of spots. 


Cosmetics Gym Makeup

Makeup Stains Your Headphones

Foundation can be a nightmare for leaving marks on clothing.  During exercise, it’s even easier to transfer cosmetic products from the skin onto headphone cushions.  If you’re proud of your Beats or Bose, then you won’t want unsightly stripes on the leather.

Dermatologist Annie Chiu told The Klog website that sweating increases oil production. This means there’s more moisture on your face, more product for the bacteria to cling to and, therefore, more bacteria on your headphone cushions.  Fortunately, EarHugz can help with this. Ear Hugs are antibacterial sweat resistant headphone covers that slip over your cushions to protect your skin and headphones from moisture damage and bacteria, and they provide a barrier between your makeup and your cushions.  Ear Hugz are fully washable, too, so they’re easy to reuse time and time again.

Is it Really That Bad?

The general consensus appears to be that wearing makeup during exercise isn’t advised and that if you do exercise in foundation, blusher, mascara or concealer then you’ll increase the risk of spots and irritation.  

Not everyone agrees, however.

Dr Caitriona Ryan is the Consultant Dermatologist at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin and an internationally renowned expert in Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology, and she told The Daily Edge that she wears makeup when she works out.  She says it’s more about the type of makeup that you wear rather than not wearing it all but she does say that’s it’s important for everyone to cleanse well after a workout as moist skin is ‘an ideal breeding ground for bacteria’.

So if you choose to keep wearing makeup then at least you can do something to help prevent breakouts.

  • Use a sweep of waterproof mascara over the eyelashes

  • Use a cleanser after exercising

  • Try to avoid heavy foundations and opt for a lightweight BB Cream, tinted moisturiser or concealer.

  • A tinted lip balm is ideal as it will keep your lips from drying out during exercise whilst adding a little colour.

  • If you can take care of your skin before you begin exercising then even better.  The better your skin is the less makeup you’ll need to apply to allow you to keep it light.

We’d love to know your thoughts.  Do you wear cosmetic products during exercise or do you insist on being fresh-faced?

Related Posts

Can I Change the Pads on my Beats Headphones?
Can I Change the Pads on my Beats Headphones?
You can change the pads on Beats headphones but it’s not a simple swap. Beats didn’t design the c...
Read More
Can Sweat Break My Headphones?
Can Sweat Break My Headphones?
Many of us are now wearing headphones more often.  We wear them for work and for leisure. We use...
Read More
Tips for going back to the gym after COVID.
Tips for going back to the gym after COVID.
If there’s one thing sure to mess up your workout schedule, it’s a global pandemic. The gyms are ...
Read More