We know we shouldn't go straight to spin class or run laps at the neighborhood track while wearing a full face of makeup, but we barely have enough time to change into workout gear once we finish at the office. (It's all about prioritization!) Plus, we're going to wash everything off -- from the makeup to the sweat -- later anyway, right?
But we also know that our baby-faced days are numbered. So we asked Dr. Ava Shamban, Beverly Hills-based dermatologist and author of "Heal Your Skin," and Mally Steves Chakola, founder of M. Steves skincare, just how bad it is to wear makeup while exercising. Can we get a pass with waterproof-mascara? Here are the workout beauty facts you should know and put into practice:
Heavy foundations, powders or concealers could contribute to clogged pores.
Lighter makeup formulas will also slide right off once you break a sweat, according to Shamban. (Not a cute look when you're on the treadmill next to a hot guy.) "Eye makeup -- especially mascara, even if it's waterproof -- is a bad idea because it can run and get into your eyes," she says. "And blush is totally unnecessary because your workout will flush your face on its own."
"Since your pores open up while sweating, you don’t want to block your skin's ability to breathe by wearing heavy makeup," Chakola adds. "I personally find that mica and micronized formulas can be small enough to enter open pores and can lead to irritation or breakouts."
It's ideal to remove makeup before beginning a workout by using a cleanser that won’t irritate your skin. Regardless of the form of cleanser, choose a cleanser that is sulfate-free, which won't dry out your skin from frequent washing and is free of synthetic fragrances so you'll avoid skin inflammation.
But breaking into a sweat can make it easier to rid the skin of pore-clogging substances.
"What heat and perspiration can do is warm the skin, making the dislodging of pore-clogging substances easier during exfoliation with a cleanser, scrub, washcloth or device like the Clarisonic in the shower after your workout," Shamban says. "It's the same principal that aestheticians use when steaming the skin at the beginning of a facial."
Don't be afraid to wipe your face with your T-shirt while exercising. It won't hurt your skin.
The function of sweat is primarily to cool the body rather than excretion, Shamban explains. The excretion exception is that some medicines and the metabolic aftermath of sulfur-intense foods like garlic get exuded from the pores.
"Perspiration from the eccrine sweat glands is basically just water and is pretty clean. On the other hand, perspiration from apocrine sweat glands in the groin, under the arms and on the feet contains bacteria, which is why it smells," she says. "While we don't like the odor (unless it's from someone we're attracted to sexually), in and of itself, sweat is not bad for the skin. Keeping ourselves odor-free is more a social nicety than a real health issue."
People often confuse the slick feeling of perspiration with the slick feeling of oily skin. But Shamban assures us that they're not the same thing. "Working out will make you sweat but it doesn't accelerate oil (sebum) production, which is influenced by genetics and hormones. Workouts don't contribute to breakouts unless it's acne mechanica where there is non-stop rubbing from straps, clothing or equipment." In this case, try to avoid touching your face, particularly if you have active breakouts. Use a spot treatment after washing your face with a cleanser containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
Just think twice before using the towels and shower gel at the gym.
Unfortunately, the laundering at most gyms is not regulated like in hospitals. "The gym towels may look clean, but they are often washed in fragrant detergents and fabric softeners," Chakola says. "While these may make the towel smell clean and look bright, bacteria can live in the fibers of the cloth if the towel isn't replaced frequently or cleaned properly."
Even if you bring your own towels, the gym environment can transfer bacteria onto your skin, whether you're in a Cobra yoga pose or lifting a set of kettlebells. So after your post-exercise smoothie, Shamban recommends hitting the shower no less than one hour after your workout is done. And don't forget your flip-flops.
"Even in the cleanest establishments, consistently warm, damp environments of gyms, showers and pools (where there is a lot of foot traffic) are breeding grounds for highly contagious viruses like plantar warts or fungi like athlete's foot," she says. "The plantar wart virus can live up to 20 months on surfaces."
Be kind to your skin. Don't scrub hard or subject it to scalding water. Take a warm shower and use an unscented soap like the Dove Beauty Bar. "The soaps and cleansers in most gym or public bathrooms are often heavily antibacterial and can really irritate your skin," according to Dr. Shamban.
If you wash your hair, Chakola suggests washing your face afterward to remove hair product build-up from the skin. And if you're in a rush and you skip washing your hair, try using a dry shampoo to soak up sweat and oils and then pull your hair into a cute topknot to hide oiliness and prevent dirty hair from touching your face.
If you use treatment products, Shamban says it is best to wait 10 minutes after bathing and drying your body before applying them in order to give your skin's protective barrier function the chance to reestablish itself. To reduce inflammation on a pimple, place an ice cube directly on it for about 10 seconds on and off repeatedly for about a minute.
There are some beauty routines you can keep for the gym.
Groom your brows with a spoolie beforehand, pull back your hair into a loose low ponytail and add tinted gloss to your lips to fake looking made-up. "Also, if your workout clothes are cute and not your brother's old college sweatpants, you'll just feel better about how you look and not have to worry so much about makeup," Shamban adds.
Moisturizing before workouts isn't really practical, as the lotion is not going to absorb and it can melt and run into your eyes. It can also make your hands slick or make you feel sticky. The exception, of course, is if you're exercising outside, where you'll need a sport-friendly sunscreen.
Chakola likes to moisturize immediately after getting out of the shower to lock in moisture. And since no one likes a foundation meltdown, she suggests letting your body cool before applying your makeup.
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