Do you wear makeup while you exercise? New research reveals the effects on skin and pores

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Regular moderate physical exercise is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, there is no clarity on whether it is wise to wear makeup while exercising, even though more people appear to be making up their faces before exercise. A new study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reports the results of an intervention study on skin changes following the use of makeup while exercising on a treadmill.

Study: Influence of cosmetic foundation cream on skin condition during treadmill exercise. Image Credit: Andrew Angelov/Shutterstock.com
Study: Influence of cosmetic foundation cream on skin condition during treadmill exercise. Image Credit: Andrew Angelov/Shutterstock.com

Background

The skin forms the largest organ in the human body. It has barrier and protective functions, which are best performed when the skin is healthy. Healthy skin has specific attributes such as moisture, oil level, elasticity, the number of pores, and the area of sebum production. Unhealthy skin may cause lesions such as pimples, whiteheads and blackheads, papules, and nodules to appear.

Apart from local care, it is important to eat a healthy diet, sleep 7-9 hours, and exercise regularly. A healthy gut microbiome also plays a key role.

Skin changes with exercise

Exercise causes changes in healing production, boosts metabolism, and indirectly alters the condition of the skin. For instance, each increase by 0.2 degrees in the internal temperature associated with exercise causes more blood to flow to the skin as a compensatory regulatory measure, along with the expansion of skin pores to discharge more waste products and sebum, which have to be cleaned before they accumulate and potentially damage the skin. 

A recent study reported the use of face makeup by up to 60% of people at the gym. How would this practice affect skin health? The researchers sought to find out, focusing on the use of just one component, a cosmetic foundation cream.

About the study

This pilot study obtained data from a group of 43 college students without a history of chronic illness. All were 23-26 years old. None of them reported previous allergies to cosmetic ingredients.

Each participant had two face areas on the same side cleansed before cosmetic foundation cream was applied – the MT and MU areas. Two corresponding areas on the other side of the face – the T and U areas – were left untreated to serve as controls.

All the participants exercised on the treadmill for 20 minutes after the cream was applied, and the skin condition was assessed according to the protocol.

What did the study show?

Moisture levels in T and MT went up, from 25 to 39 and from 19 to 40, respectively, but not in either U or MU. Elasticity was boosted in T and MT after exercise, from 26 to 42 and from 21 to 42, respectively, but not, again, in the U or MU zones.

Pore enlargement was observed in the T group after exercise but not in the MT, U, or MU groups. Sebum was also higher post-exercise in T and MT, as well as U and MU.

The levels of oil rose in the T and U areas, where makeup was not applied, after exercise. In the T areas, it rose from 6 to 12, and in U from 7 to 12. Interestingly, oil levels fell after exercise in both makeup areas. It declined from 13 to 7 in the MT and from 22 to 3 in the MU areas.

Skin changes with makeup during exercise

The study shows an increase in skin moisture irrespective of makeup application, but more in the areas that were made up. This may be because the foundation is locked in the moisture, preventing evaporation. The mean moisture was 60.

Exercising with makeup on could adversely impact skin health, but in this study, skin elasticity improved both in makeup and non-makeup zones. However, the increase in the former was greater, perhaps because the elasticity and moisture of the skin depend on each other. This could be an area of future research.

While pore size and number went up somewhat following the exercise, it was not significant. This could be due to pore blockage by makeup. This could force sebum and skin waste to build up on the skin and trigger skin conditions.

Sebum levels rose in the MT and U areas but not in the no-makeup areas. This could demonstrate the way in which makeup blocks the pores, causing the sebum score to decrease.

Again, post-exercise oil levels went down in the makeup areas, while they increased in the no-makeup areas. This may indicate that wearing makeup during exercise could cause skin dryness. Overall, the oil score was 60, a favorable score.

Implications of the study

Remarkably, these results were demonstrated with the use of foundation. This is often cited as a moisturizing cream and is said to be safe for extended periods of use. In this study, a water-based non-oily foundation was used. Further research should explore how other kinds of foundation creams act on the skin during exercise.

The possibility that the use of makeup during exercise may dry out the skin and perhaps block the skin pores while increasing sebum production, means that people with dry skin, at least, should not, perhaps, use makeup when they exercise. “This research offers important insights to the public, encouraging them to consider the possible consequences of using makeup while exercising.”

Journal reference:
Dr. Liji Thomas

Written by

Dr. Liji Thomas

Dr. Liji Thomas is an OB-GYN, who graduated from the Government Medical College, University of Calicut, Kerala, in 2001. Liji practiced as a full-time consultant in obstetrics/gynecology in a private hospital for a few years following her graduation. She has counseled hundreds of patients facing issues from pregnancy-related problems and infertility, and has been in charge of over 2,000 deliveries, striving always to achieve a normal delivery rather than operative.

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