Does Wearing Makeup To The Gym Damage Your Skin’s Health?

I have a confession to make. I wear makeup to the gym — that’s foundation, mascara, blusher and a little bit of eye shadow if I’m feeling extra fierce that morning.

Except, it isn’t much of a confession, because if you take a look around you, you’ll no doubt notice others doing exactly the same.

Some women will have come straight from work where thoughts of tomorrow’s presentation takes priority over painstakingly removing every single scrap of makeup, while others may feel just that little more confident under a slick of concealer and swipe of mascara—- but is it really as bad as everyone makes out?


“Ideally, it’s best to avoid wearing makeup to the gym,” says Dr. Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson. “Sweat and increased temperature brought on by exercise can lead to open pores which can become blocked by particles of makeup. This can easily lead to breakouts and, in turn, uneven skin texture.”

It isn’t just sweat, though. In constant contact with feet, hands and the floor, things like yoga mats, bicycle handles and weights are the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that causes acne. If you are wearing makeup, it gives this bacteria something to cling on to, especially as we tend to touch our face 3.6 times an hour on average — a little more if we’re sweating.

Long-term damage

So, we’ve established that working out in makeup can lead to the odd spot, but will refusing to get rid of your full face of products lead to long-term damage? After all, we spend fortunes shopping for serums and moisturisers that promise to lend our skin an otherworldly glow, and a lot of time applying them properly, so surely, gymming in makeup reverses all of our good work?

“Not necessarily,” says Dr. Mahto. “The body’s natural, physiological reaction to exercise is to generate sweat and heat, and even though working out in makeup can cause breakouts, there is no evidence that it will lead to accelerated or premature ageing.”

While wearing makeup may not cause damage to the skin in the long run, exercising outside could. “It’s so, so important to wear an SPF,” says Dr. Mahto, “even if you are prone to breaking out. This protects against sun damage, skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin.” So, which types should we be investing in?

“Mineral sunscreens may be better for the skin than chemical sunscreens, especially if you’re prone to acne or other skin ailments. For those using chemical sunscreens, though, gel-like formulations are likely to be better than cloying, richer creams.”

Correct cleansing

While the beauty sphere has also seen a huge trend for luxurious oil cleansers, Dr. Mahto advises us to steer clear of them, especially before hitting the gym.

“Unless you have really dry, sensitive skin, I do not recommend oil cleansers,” she says. “There are many different types of oil being used for this purpose and many are comedogenic and can cause blackhead formation in the initial acne lesion. There are better cleansing methods for skin that won’t clog pores.”

With that in mind, it is how you cleanse that could have a big impact on your skin’s health. “While it’s a good idea to remove makeup before the gym, one needs to be sensible about cleansing, ” Dr. Mahto says. “Over-washing can lead to dryness, sensitivity and irritation and even though it is popular, double cleansing is not necessary.”

Rosi Chapman, Skincare specialist and founder of Transformulas agrees. “I’d recommend gentle cleansing,” she says, “Mild foaming or gel cleansers that contain glycolic acid remove makeup and sebum more effectively, whilst also regenerating smoother and softer skin, without causing dryness.”

“Exfoliating will also help rid the skin of heavy makeup,” says skincare specialist and facialist Sophie Ace. “If your pores tend to get blocked, these lightweight acid products will break down sebum and stop inflammation.”

Anthony Glycolic Facial Cleanser

For those after an even quicker fix, face wipes have come a long way since the humble Wet Ones days. Clinique’s Take The Day Off Wipes whips off mascara and foundation without leaving a trace of residue behind, while Ole Henrikssen’s The Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths dissolves a full face of makeup in a matter of seconds — just be sure to cleanse until there is visibly nothing left on the sheet.

The same goes for products like Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution or Simple’s Kind To Skin Micellar Cleansing Water, which have gained popularity amongst gym-goers for their ability to remove makeup without water — swipe until the cotton pad shows up clean.


Barely-there make-up

If you just can’t bear to ditch the foundation during spin, NYX professional makeup artist Dean Smith recommends sticking to lighter-than-light textures that’ll give skin sheer coverage without causing congestion.

“The Colour Correcting Cream is virtually traceless but works wonders to give the skin a noticeable glow,” he says. “It is also packed with antioxidants such as Vitamin E which prevents free radicals like bacteria from attaching to the skin before they can cause any damage. Mineral makeup is also amazing because it doesn’t tend to clog the skin when mixed with sweat.”

Like gym equipment, though, make-up brushes also harbour dirt and bacteria, and heat generated from exercise can prompt said bacteria to multiply. “That’s why it’s important to clean your makeup brushes with a brush cleanser once every month at least,” Dean says.