Do I need to take my makeup off before exercising?

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Introduction
The impact of makeup on skin during exercise
Benefits of removing makeup before exercising
Tips and best practices for skin care and exercise expert opinions
Conclusion
Resources


While working out is known for its beneficial effects on the skin, exercising while wearing makeup may be detrimental for the wearer, with significant impact on their skin.[1]

​​​​​​​Image Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com​​​​​​​Image Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Introduction

The debate among fitness enthusiasts and beauty experts on wearing makeup during exercise has been discussed at length, with the science siding with having a bare face, which will be further explored in this article.[1]

There is a growing trend of wearing makeup while exercising, which may be due to the increase in fitness influencers, with millions of followers that look to them for fitness recommendations, or advice.[1,2]

This means that the priority of fitness influencers would be on being camera-ready rather than following best skin-related practices whilst in the gym or during exercise.[2]

Grace Day, an esthetician and skincare expert at the makeup and beauty company, Beauty Bay, disclosed her own thoughts on this debate, that refraining from wearing makeup during exercise may not be feasible for many people.[3]

This may be due to individuals potentially wanting to conceal breakouts out of feeling self-conscious or wanting to look nice when around others during a fitness class or at the gym.[4]

The impact of makeup on skin during exercise

Wearing makeup during exercise can have detrimental effects on the skin because makeup clogs pores and causes increased skin dryness. This is also why it is recommended to remove makeup before going to sleep, as the makeup can combine with oil and dead skin cells, blocking pores and promoting acne formation.[1]

Being the largest organ in the body, the skin functions to protect against the entry of environmental microbes, which can be detrimental to the person. Various factors, such as moisture, oil levels, elasticity, number of pores, and the distribution of sebum can characterize healthy skin.

Insufficient moisture and oil can have a detrimental effect on skin health, resulting in acne.[5]

Exercise can stimulate many physiological and thermal changes that can lead to thermal homeostasis changes in the body, metabolic rate, and a higher internal temperature, which can cause variations in skin conditions.

With the skin being an internal temperature regulator through the process of perspiration, the pores can expand to release waste and sebum, and if left untreated on the skin surface, it can proliferate and potentially cause acute and chronic skin issues.[5]

A private sector survey of 2,201 people in the UK has found that up to 60% of people reported wearing makeup while in the gym. The application of makeup may block pores with a negative impact on the skin during exercise, affecting skin health.[5]

However, a 2024 study has reaffirmed the lack of scientific knowledge on the effect of makeup on the epidermis during exercise. As a result of this premise, the researchers aimed to investigate the influence of cosmetic oil-free foundation cream on skin conditions during treadmill exercise.

The findings of using foundation cream during aerobic exercise reduced skin oil, which can cause dryness. Additionally, it was also confirmed to clog pores and increase the production of sebum.[5]

The study concluded that wearing makeup during aerobic exercise may not be recommended for those with dry skin conditions, with further studies being required to test different foundation creams, such as oil-based, water-based, and water-free.

This is due to these variations comprising different primary and secondary emulsifiers, which may affect skin conditions.[5]

Dr. Brendan Camp, a dermatologist based in New York, commented on this widely discussed issue, stating that wearing makeup while exercising can lead to clogged pores and the development of acne due to makeup trapping sweat and bacteria in pores.[1,3]

These health concerns are mainly focused on the use of foundation while exercising, however, Camp explained that other types of makeup may not be regarded in the same light, “Mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick may present less of an issue during exercise because they are not applied to the entire face.” However, more research is required to understand how specific types of makeup can impact the skin during exercise.[1]

Benefits of removing makeup before exercising

An esthetic doctor and educator in cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Amie Vyas, recommended to remove and cleanse your face before exercising, this is because makeup that is worn all day can collect pollution and microbes.[4]

The aforementioned 2024 study investigating the impact of foundation on aerobic exercise recommended against wearing makeup for those with dry skin conditions in order to ensure that waste and sebum is removed from the skin.[5]

This is especially significant as previously mentioned, with the skin regulating temperature through perspiration, and exercise changing thermal homeostasis in the body. If waste and sebum is left untreated on the skin, it can lead to acute and chronic skin issues.[5]

Cleansing the skin and removing makeup can also enable the skin to breathe, without being clogged by thick foundations that are comedogenic, whilst also ensuring excess sebum, sweat, bacteria and product residue are removed.[1]

Tips and best practices for skin care and exercise expert opinions

Some people decide to wear makeup while in the gym or during exercise in general due to several reasons, such as feeling self-conscious about their skin when in a public area. However, with thicker foundations being more comedogenic, causing negative impact on the user’s skin, many will be happy to know that experts have provided foundation alternatives to use while exercising.[1]

Foundation alternatives can include using a BB cream or beauty balm, with BB creams falling between a foundation and skincare product. Camp commented, “[BB creams] are often formulated to be non-comedogenic and are intended to improve skin tone and the overall appearance of skin. CC or color-correcting creams are intended to reduce redness and uneven skin tone. They may have a lighter consistency than BB creams.”[1]

Avoiding heavy makeup such as full coverage foundations can help to reduce post-workout breakouts.[3] Additionally, after exercising, it is important to cleanse the skin, including both the face and body, in order to remove excess oil, sweat, bacteria and product residue, which may otherwise work to contribute towards the formation of acne or folliculitis.[1]

Conclusion

While wearing makeup during exercise can be the difference between going to the gym or fitness class and staying at home, informed choices of what type of makeup you wear can be of utmost importance to ensure the skin condition stays healthy.[1,5]

As makeup causes clogged pores, it is recommended to wear lighter products on the skin, such as oil-free skin tints or BB creams. However, this may not be without its own effects, with a recent study investigating the impact of using oil-free foundation cream during aerobic exercise demonstrating a higher level of skin dryness.

Due to this, the use of oil-free foundation creams may not even be a recommendation for those with dry skin conditions during exercise, as they would be at a higher risk for further dryness. [1,5]

With a lack of information on how the epidermis responds to makeup during exercise, additional studies are required to understand how other foundation products impact the skin when exercising.[5]

References

  1. Vogel K. Why you should avoid wearing make-up when working out. Healthline. March 8, 2024. Accessed March 28, 2024. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-happens-when-you-wear-make-up-while-exercising#How-to-help-your-skin-post-workout.
  2. The rise of fitness influencers. Action Group. October 16, 2023. Accessed March 28, 2024. https://action-group.co.uk/the-rise-of-fitness-influencers/.
  3. Is it ok to wear make-up during exercise? The Independent. March 6, 2024. Accessed March 28, 2024. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/is-it-ok-to-wear-makeup-during-exercise-b2507732.html.
  4. 10 gym-proof make-up products that won’t slip, slide or Break you out. Accessed March 28, 2024. https://www.elle.com/uk/beauty/make-up/articles/g32531/makeup-you-can-wear-to-exercise/.
  5. Yoon E, Kwon EH, Kim JH, et al. Influence of cosmetic foundation cream on skin condition during treadmill exercise. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Published online March 6, 2024. doi:10.1111/jocd.16205

Last Updated: Apr 3, 2024

Marzia Khan

Written by

Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is a lover of scientific research and innovation. She immerses herself in literature and novel therapeutics which she does through her position on the Royal Free Ethical Review Board. Marzia has a MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine as well as a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working in the NHS and is engaging in a scientific innovation program.

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