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The Makeup Maniac: Makeup at the gym? No no or all systems go?

June 13th 2014 / Anna Hunter


As beauty taboos go, it's a biggie. Is wearing makeup in the gym really so awful? The Makeup Maniac is on the case.

We all know that barefaced is best when exerting oneself, and frankly a smokey eye looks more comical than come hither on the cross trainer, but going completely cold turkey on the cosmetic front is enough to make the average makeup maniac break out in a sweat before we’ve even got our trainers on. Is wearing makeup in the gym really such a sin? If so, 55% of British women are on the naughty step according to a poll last year by Escentual.com. If you’re guilty of overstepping the gym grooming mark, here’s how to get away with it without triggering breakouts, rashes or makeup meltdowns.

The Warm Up

If you’re heading to the gym first thing, wash your face prior to getting your kit on. If you’re more of a gym owl, wipe away the day’s grime with a cleansing wipe. Despite their bad rep, wipes have come on leaps and bounds of late- the best remove makeup in a flash, exfoliate and leave skin hydrated rather than haggard. While they shouldn’t replace your normal cleansing regime, wipes are gym bag saviours when it comes to whipping off heavy foundation, sticky gloss and pore-clogging powder. I love Ole Henriksen’s Grease Relief™ cleansing cloths, £12, as they feel really thorough and seemingly make pimples shrink (that’ll be the witch hazel and eucalyptus extract). They may be a bit too scrupulous for sensitive skins, however, so take a look at Sense and Sensitivity columnist Judy’s rundown of the best cleansers for delicate skins and stash one of those in your bag if you’re prone to flare-ups.


Skin specialist Dr Terry Loong thinks that starting with a clear canvas is your best skincare bet when bootcamp calls:

“Keep your skin clean and fresh before you start a gym session. Even better, apply an anti-acne serum beforehand. If your skin is dry or sensitive, use a hydrating or calming serum instead”

Once skin is squeaky clean, either brave it and embrace your god-given workout “glow” or if you really can’t forgo base, apply the lightest veil of blemish and bacteria busting BB cream that you can get away with. Estée Lauder Clear Difference BB Crème, £34, is weighless, oil-free (a prerequisite for any products you’re hitting the gym in) and contains the same acne fighting treatment elements of the Clear Difference skincare range, so it’s complexion perfecting on multiple levels.


If you’re opting for a less intense workout, Dr Terry hints that you may just be able to get away with a smidgen of foundation:

“If you are undertaking light exercise such as Pilates or yoga, which don’t necessarily involve too much sweating, you could potentially wear foundation. If you do, choose a matte, breathable formula that is aqueous or aloe vera based”

Whatever you do, make sure to bring your own towel:

“The worst thing that you can do in the gym for your skin is use other people’s towels, lie face down on mats or floors or touch your face with your hands after using equipment. The gym, even when apparently spotless, is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and germs due to sweat, dead skin and stale air. You really don’t want these spreading to your skin risking breakouts, rashes or fungal infections. Bring two towels if you can - one to clean equipment and put onto mats and another to mop your brow.”

The Main Event

Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis has admitted to never competing without her “face” on, and if she can run rings around the competition while wearing a little lip colour and mascara then we see no reason to hold back. Admittedly she has HD TV and close range lenses to take into consideration, but you never know who you might bump into at the gym.

Jessica is rarely seen without a subtle smudge of eyeliner, and if you crave a little low key definition around the eyes opt for a long-lasting, transfer resistant pencil or gel. Cargo Swimmables™ Eye Pencils, £12, will last whichever distance you’re challenging yourself to, come rain, sun, sweat and tears.

A slick of mascara can also make all the difference to puffy morning eyes or screen-induced red eye. Go for a single coat of something waterproof (the only thing running should be you.) Bourjous Volume 1 Seconde Waterproof Mascara, £9.99, is clump-free and a doddle to apply in a hurry.


If you’re lips are looking a little parched or grey, skip heavy gloss or waxy lipstick and opt for a sheer, moisturising balm with a flattering tint. Maybelline Baby Lips, £2.99, are light, moisturising and an absolute steal


The Cool Down

You’re hot, puffed out and most likely a bit of a sweaty Betty. Dr Terry’s on call to help you to recover:

“After your gym session, make sure you cool down before hitting the showers. If you can wait before applying makeup, use your serum again and give it a bit of time before you apply your makeup to give skin a break.”

If you applied a bit of BB or light foundation cleanse thoroughly before reapplying and refresh skin with a facial spritz - MAC Mineralize Charged Water, £16, will pep up your complexion, calm redness and create a fresh base for makeup.


Avoid caking on the makeup and instead make the most of the cardio afterglow by applying a wash of oil-free blusher or bronzer. Daniel Sandler Watercolour Blusher, £14.50, is oil-free, transparent and feather light, unlike powders that can streak on flushed, post-workout faces or creams that can aggravate congestion.

All that’s required before you slink off to the office (or preferably, bar) is a bit of lipbalm and definition around the eyes and you’re ready to roll. Let looking below par during or post-workout never be an excuse not to exercise again.

Do you wear makeup at the gym or would you never dream of putting your face on pre-workout? Tweet me @AnnaMaryHunter or comment below.

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