Why you shouldn’t wear makeup to the gym, according to research

Are you the type of person who likes to hit the gym after work? If so, when was the last time you thought to take your makeup off before your afternoon workout?

You may want to look your best, even when you’re at the gym — however, according to dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto, working out with makeup on could be disastrous for your skin.

“Ideally, it’s best to avoid wearing make-up to the gym,” Mahto said. “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.”

If you really want to look your best, you need to make sure you’re taking care of your skin, too! And it might not be as difficult as you think.

Working out can actually improve your skin

When you exercise bare-faced, it can actually offer a lot when it comes to improving your complexion.

“Moderate exercise is generally good for your health and skin. Regular exercise has been linked to longer telomeres, which is a genetic marker of age – ie. exercise makes you genetically younger,” Dr. Daniel Glass, from The Dermatology Clinic London, said.

A good sweat can also help to rid your skin of built-up toxins.

“Sweating can help rid excess sebum from our clogged pores. When we sweat our pores open up and our perspiration can rid the skin of toxins,” Amanda von dem Hagen, lead developer of Glo Skin Beauty, said.

However, wearing makeup during your workout can block your pores, preventing them from shedding the dirt and bacteria sitting underneath it. It’s also more likely that your pores will just reabsorb the bacteria, along with your makeup products, which will inevitably result in breakouts.

If you want to get the most out of your workout for your skin, you should just avoid makeup altogether.

Gyms are a breeding ground for bacteria

When you go to most gyms, you’re sharing equipment that hundreds of other people are touching throughout the day. Even if your gym offers wipes and cleaning materials to wipe down the equipment with, there’s a chance you’re picking up some of that bacteria that’s accumulated.

All of these bacteria can be easily transferred to your skin and lead to a breakout. While you should avoid touching your face in general (especially in the middle of a global pandemic), it’s even more important to avoid this when you’re wearing makeup. Elle explained that makeup gives bacteria something to grab onto, making it more likely it will seep into your pores over time.

Another culprit to consider is your gym towel. Think about what you do with your gym towel when you aren’t using it — you probably throw it over whatever machine you’re using or maybe even on the floor. Then, later, you use it to wipe the sweat off of your neck and face. This is basically just one giant transfer of bacteria onto your skin.

What if you can’t imagine going without makeup?

While the best option is always to take your makeup off before working out, Mahto said wearing it won’t cause any permanent damage to your skin.

“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 aging,” Mahto said.

So, if you must wear makeup to the gym, try opting for something lightweight and breathable, like a serum foundation or a tinted moisturizer.

Personal trainer and yoga teacher Charlotte Holmes said, if you do this, she recommends still washing your face post-workout, even if it means you have to reapply makeup afterward.

“Makeup meant for exercising shouldn’t just have normal makeup plastered on top – wash and re-do,” she said.

Von dem Hagen agreed.

“Wash your face with cold water to ensure your pores are clean and closed,” she said.

If you use an oil cleanser or a makeup wipe to get your makeup off, be sure to follow up with a gentle cleanser, to really clean out your pores.

“I’d recommend gentle cleansing,” Rosi Chapman, Skincare specialist and founder of Transformulas said. “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.”

You should also consider, whether you wear makeup or not, putting on an SPF — especially if you’re exercising outdoors.

“It’s so, so important to wear an SPF,” Mahto said. “Even if you are prone to breaking out. This protects against sun damage, skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.”

Mahto recommends mineral sunscreen over chemicals, especially if you have acne-prone skin.