There are a few universal truths about makeup and skin health that we’ve heard a million times. Wash all the makeup off your face before you go to sleep. Drink more water to look dewy and hydrated. You may have also heard that wearing makeup while you sweat — either while working out or just on a particularly hot day — is a bad idea.
Whether or not you choose to wear makeup to work out is a pretty personal choice. Some people feel more comfortable barefaced, while others want to maintain a polished look. However, we want to be sure we’re not damaging our skin or inducing breakouts in the long run. That’s why we spoke to a few seasoned experts who can give you the lowdown. Here’s everything you need to know about wearing makeup while you’re sweating.
What Effect Does Makeup Have on My Skin When I Sweat?
The most common consequence that could arise from wearing makeup is generally discomfort, but also could be blemishes. “Wearing makeup and sweating may cause skin irritation or acne, depending on the ingredients,” explains Edgar Macias, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Fresno, California. “A lot of makeup products contain oil, which can congest pores and prevent proper excretion of sweat, oil, and sebum.” Of course, clogged pores can easily result in breakouts or an increased number of blackheads.
Unfortunately, in this instance you can’t rely on a beauty product to come to your rescue. “There is no magical primer that will create a barrier between makeup and our pores,” warns Caroline Cayetano, makeup artist from the San Francisco Bay Area. She explains that our pores open up when we sweat, and unfortunately, there’s really nothing we can do to fight the buildup of makeup, sweat, and oil.
Cayetano also points out that many of the negative consequences of wearing makeup while sweating are caused by simply not cleaning our face right after we workout. Let’s not kid ourselves; most of us have a bad habit of going out for brunch after a morning workout — without washing our sweaty faces and necks. “Also, when we sweat, our makeup can run in our eye area causing us to touch our faces with our hands,” Cayetano says. “And we should never be touching our face, especially around our eye area, unless our hands are clean!” Mistakes like this can exacerbate breakouts even more, and even lead to eye infections. (You don’t know whose hands were on your spin bike’s handlebars before yours!)
Are Some People More Affected by Sweat and Makeup Breakouts Than Others?
Sadly, yes. “Every individual reacts differently to certain product ingredients and stressors on their skin,” Dr. Macias says. Cayetano agrees, noting that she sees this play out with all of her clients. “Healthy skin will always be determined by a multitude of factors such as genetics, diet, and environment, to name a few,” she adds. For example, some women can wear makeup every day without any breakouts or acne, while others need to stick to a strict skincare regimen. Knowing your own skin is key.
Rebecca Baxt, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey, says if you are acne-prone, wearing makeup while sweating can be a problem. Dr. Macias agrees, noting that if you have an oily or blemish-prone skin type, oil-based makeup especially could cause breakouts, as the formulas are more likely to block pores. “Or, if you have rosacea and very sensitive or intolerant skin, makeup can be irritating,” adds Dr. Baxt. However, if you have a dry or normal skin type, it’s less likely that your complexion will be irritated after sweating while wearing makeup — purely because your skin doesn’t breakout much in the first place.
Are There Any Makeup Products That Are Safe to Use If I’m Going to Sweat?
If you’re the person sweating it out at hot yoga with a smoky eye, this may not be what you want to hear. “For an indoor workout, it is ideal to not wear makeup,” warns Dr. Macias. It’s best if you work out with a clean, bare face (may we suggest packing some cleansing wipes in your gym bag?). However, if you absolutely must wear a little something, there are some specific products you should use over others.
“Mineral-based makeup is best, because it does not congest pores while working out,” suggests Dr. Macias. “Keep the makeup layering light.” He recommends using an oil-free primer, then applying a longwear foundation and/or oil-free matte CC creams, and is a fan of IT Cosmetics® Your Skin But Better® Oil-Free Makeup Primer ($39) and CC+® Oil-Free Matte Cream with SPF 40 ($39), respectively. Both products are formulated with skincare ingredients like bark extract, charcoal, and collagen to keep your complexion looking smooth, decongested, and firm. Dr. Baxt reminds us that all products you use should be labeled “non-comedogenic” for extra protection against pore congestion.
If you’re going to be exercising outside, Dr. Macias recommends wearing a physical sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, either via a cream formula under makeup or in a powder applied atop your makeup. “This allows you to protect your skin from harmful sun rays and still allows you to wear some light makeup while exercising outdoors,” he says. For a product to apply under makeup, we’re fond of Supergoop!® Unseen Sunscreen® SPF 40 ($32) because its clear, silicone-rich formula acts like a primer for foundation. Over makeup, we love the extremely portable, brush-on Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 ($65).
As for the rest of your makeup, Cayetano recommends keeping it simple with waterproof eyebrow pencil, mascara, and a tinted lip balm. “We can skip out on blush,” she says. “Most of us tend to get a little red from a workout.” (Discover more makeup to wear while working out here.) If you know you’re going to be under the direct sun, whether you’re working out or exploring outside on a tropical vacation, she suggests avoiding a full face of makeup in order to avoid the infamous “cake face” look. For extra insurance against caking makeup, steer clear of thick, creamy products, and press your makeup into your skin using a beautyblender® ($20) to lock it in place. But most importantly of all, wash your face after you’re done sweating so there isn’t irritating buildup. The sooner your skin can breathe, the better.
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