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Does Wearing Make-Up To The Gym Damage Your Skin's Health?

ELLE (UK) logo ELLE (UK) 09/01/2019 ELLE Beauty Team
a close up of a man and a woman wearing a hat: Does wearing makeup to the gym damage your skin? We asked the experts, and they gave us their best advice on the pros and cons of wearing makeup when you workout. © Matteo Scarpellini Does wearing makeup to the gym damage your skin? We asked the experts, and they gave us their best advice on the pros and cons of wearing makeup when you workout.

With a new year, in theory comes a new you...yeah, right. But, if you're one of the many people out there who have actually managed to drag yourself to the gym then a) we applaud you, and b) are you taking off your make-up before you go?

Weird question right? Actually no. If, like us, the only way you're fitting in a workout is to force yourself to visit the gym directly after work (with the thought of a post-class bowl of pasta driving you on, of course), then it's worth considering what the mix of make-up and sweat might be doing to your skin. Hint: it's not great. 

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a group of people posing for the camera: Tom Ford show, Backstage, Fall Winter 2018, New York Fashion Week, USA - 08 Feb 2018 © Carl Timpone/BFA/REX/Shutterstock Tom Ford show, Backstage, Fall Winter 2018, New York Fashion Week, USA - 08 Feb 2018 Can wearing make-up to the gym cause spots?

'Ideally, it's best to avoid wearing make-up 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 make-up. 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 make-up, 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.

a person wearing a purple hat: Max Mara - Backstage - Milan Fashion Week SS17 © Lorenzo Palizzolo Max Mara - Backstage - Milan Fashion Week SS17

What's the long term damage of wearing make-up to the gym?

So, we've established that working out in make-up 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 make-up 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 make-up can cause breakouts, there is no evidence that it will lead to accelerated or premature ageing.'

While wearing make-up 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.'

Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid are posing for a picture: gigi and bella © Getty Images gigi and bella

It's All About Cleansing Correctly

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 - 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 make-up 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 make-up and sebum more effectively, whilst also regenerating smoother and softer skin, without causing dryness.'

'Exfoliating will also help rid the skin of heavy make-up,' 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.'

Woman at gym © Getty Woman at gym 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 Of Micellar Wipes, £16 whips off mascara and foundation without leaving a trace of residue behind - just be sure to cleanse until there is visibly nothing left on the sheet.

The same goes for micellar water products like Bioderma's Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, £10.80 which have gained popularity amongst gym-goers for their ability to remove make-up without water - swipe until the cotton pad shows up clean.

Barely There Make-Up Could Be The Answer

If you just can't bear to ditch the foundation during spin, NYX professional make-up 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 make-up 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 make-up brushes with a brush cleanser once every month at least,' Dean says.

Gallery: Sick of Doing Crunches? 15 At-Home Exercises to Target Your Abs [Cheapism]


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