A recent study reveals that wearing foundation during exercise can lead to alterations in skin and pore conditions. Dermatologists caution that exercising with makeup on may block pores and potentially trigger acne breakouts. They suggest opting for healthier alternatives such as beauty balm or color-correcting creams.

In terms of skincare, it’s widely acknowledged that removing makeup before bedtime is crucial to prevent pore blockage, acne, and other skin concerns. Interestingly, it appears that wearing makeup while working out can also pose problems.

The study, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, highlights how aerobic exercise impacts the skin and its pores when combined with cosmetic foundation.

Table of Contents

  1. How foundation makeup can affect the skin during a workout
  2. Here’s how makeup can hurt your skin
  3. Foundation alternatives to use while exercising
  4. How to help your skin post-workout
  5. Takeaway

How foundation makeup can affect the skin during a workout

Researchers conducted a study involving 43 healthy college students, comprising 20 males and 23 females. Half of each participant’s face was applied with foundation cream on the forehead and upper cheek, while the other half remained untreated.

The findings revealed that following exercise, there was a general increase in moisture across the entire face, with the makeup-applied area exhibiting higher moisture levels. Additionally, pore size on the non-makeup side increased post-exercise, albeit less than on the makeup side. Moreover, oil content increased in the non-makeup area but decreased where makeup was applied.

Corresponding author Dongsun Park, PhD, from the Korea National University of Education, highlighted the growing trend of wearing makeup during exercise and emphasized the importance of studying its effects on skin condition. He pointed out that heavy makeup like cream foundation during exercise could potentially lead to skin issues such as clogged pores due to sweat accumulation. Thus, he recommended opting for lighter makeup or oil-free products to maintain skin health during exercise.

Here’s how makeup can hurt your skin

Makeup, while enhancing one’s appearance, can indeed have adverse effects on the skin if not used or removed properly, especially during activities like exercise. Here’s how makeup can potentially harm your skin:

  1. Clogged Pores and Acne Formation: Makeup products, particularly those with heavy formulations like foundation and concealer, can clog pores when left on the skin for extended periods. This occlusion prevents the natural release of sebum and sweat, leading to the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, and acne breakouts.
  2. Skin Irritation and Sensitivity: Certain ingredients commonly found in makeup, such as fragrances, preservatives, and dyes, may irritate the skin, causing redness, itching, or inflammation. Prolonged exposure to these irritants can exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema or rosacea and trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  3. Disruption of Skin’s Natural Barrier Function: Makeup, particularly long-wear or waterproof formulations, can compromise the skin’s natural barrier function. This barrier is essential for retaining moisture, protecting against environmental pollutants, and regulating temperature. Continuous use of makeup without proper removal can weaken this barrier, leading to dryness, dehydration, and increased susceptibility to environmental damage.
  4. Pigmentation and Uneven Skin Tone: Some makeup products contain ingredients like certain types of pigments and fragrances that may increase the risk of hyperpigmentation or exacerbate existing discoloration issues. Prolonged use of makeup without adequate sun protection can also contribute to uneven skin tone and sun damage.
  5. Aging Acceleration: Heavy or improperly removed makeup can contribute to premature aging of the skin. Makeup residues left on the skin can trap free radicals and environmental pollutants, leading to oxidative stress and collagen breakdown, which are key factors in the development of wrinkles, fine lines, and loss of elasticity.
  6. Microbial Growth and Infections: Makeup brushes, sponges, and other applicators can harbor bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms if not cleaned regularly. When these contaminated tools come into contact with the skin, they can introduce harmful pathogens, increasing the risk of infections like folliculitis, styes, or even more severe conditions.
  7. Exacerbation of Existing Skin Conditions: Individuals with certain skin conditions like acne, rosacea, or eczema may find that makeup aggravates their symptoms. Certain ingredients in makeup formulations can trigger flare-ups, worsen inflammation, or interfere with prescribed skincare treatments.

In conclusion, while makeup can enhance your appearance, it’s essential to be aware of its potential negative effects on the skin, particularly during activities like exercise where sweat and friction can exacerbate these issues. Proper skincare habits, including thorough makeup removal and regular cleansing, can help mitigate these risks and maintain healthy, radiant skin.

Foundation alternatives to use while exercising

While some individuals prefer wearing foundation during exercise for a polished look, there are several lightweight alternatives that can provide coverage without clogging pores or causing skin irritation. Here are some foundation alternatives suitable for use while exercising:

  1. Tinted Moisturizer: Tinted moisturizers offer a sheer coverage while providing hydration to the skin. They are lightweight and breathable, making them suitable for exercise. Look for oil-free or non-comedogenic formulas to prevent pore clogging.
  2. BB Creams (Blemish Balms): BB creams combine skincare benefits with light coverage, making them an excellent choice for workouts. They often contain SPF for sun protection and may include ingredients like antioxidants and hydrating agents to nourish the skin.
  3. CC Creams (Color Correcting Creams): CC creams provide color correction along with coverage, helping to even out the skin tone while offering skincare benefits. They typically have a lightweight texture and can be suitable for exercising.
  4. Mineral Powder Foundation: Mineral powder foundations are lightweight and breathable, making them ideal for active individuals. They provide buildable coverage and help absorb excess oil without clogging pores. Look for formulas that are free from talc and other potential irritants.
  5. Water-Based Foundation: Opt for water-based or gel-based foundations that have a lightweight texture and are less likely to clog pores or feel heavy on the skin. These formulas provide coverage without suffocating the skin during exercise.
  6. Cushion Compacts: Cushion compacts offer a convenient way to apply foundation on the go. They contain a lightweight, liquid formula that provides sheer to medium coverage while hydrating the skin. Choose cushion compacts with long-wear or sweat-resistant formulas for exercise.
  7. Setting Sprays or Powders: If you prefer to go without foundation, consider using a setting spray or powder to mattify the skin and blur imperfections. These products help control shine and prolong the wear of makeup without adding extra weight.

When choosing a foundation alternative for exercise, it’s essential to opt for products labeled as non-comedogenic, oil-free, or suitable for sensitive skin. Additionally, ensure that you cleanse your skin thoroughly after your workout to remove any sweat, makeup, or impurities that may have accumulated during exercise. By selecting the right foundation alternative and practicing good skincare habits, you can maintain a fresh, natural look while keeping your skin healthy and radiant during workouts.

How to help your skin post-workout

After a workout, it’s crucial to give your skin some TLC to help it recover from the sweat, oil, and potential makeup buildup that can occur during exercise. Here are some post-workout skincare tips to keep your skin healthy and radiant:

  1. Cleanse Gently: Start by cleansing your skin with a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to remove sweat, dirt, and excess oil. Look for a cleanser formulated for your skin type, whether it’s oily, dry, or sensitive. Avoid harsh scrubs or cleansers with sulfates, as they can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause irritation.
  2. Use a Mild Toner: After cleansing, apply a mild toner to help balance the skin’s pH levels and remove any remaining impurities. Look for toners that contain soothing ingredients like witch hazel, rose water, or chamomile extract to calm the skin and reduce inflammation.
  3. Hydrate with a Lightweight Moisturizer: Replenish lost moisture by applying a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer suitable for your skin type. Opt for a formula that absorbs quickly and won’t clog pores, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Hydrating the skin post-workout helps restore its natural barrier and prevents dehydration.
  4. Spot Treat Acne: If you’re prone to breakouts, consider using a spot treatment containing ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to target acne lesions. Apply a thin layer directly onto blemishes to help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  5. Apply Sunscreen: Even if you exercise indoors or during cloudy weather, it’s essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to all exposed areas of skin, including your face, neck, and any other areas not covered by clothing. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re exercising outdoors.
  6. Hydrate from Within: Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins and keep your skin hydrated from the inside out. Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy skin elasticity and preventing dryness and dullness post-workout.
  7. Skip Heavy Makeup: If possible, avoid applying heavy makeup immediately after a workout, as it can further clog pores and prevent the skin from breathing. Opt for a lightweight tinted moisturizer or BB cream if you prefer some coverage, or simply allow your skin to breathe and recover naturally.
  8. Cool Down with a Face Mist: Consider spritzing your face with a refreshing facial mist containing soothing ingredients like aloe vera or cucumber extract to cool and hydrate the skin post-workout. This can help reduce redness and inflammation while providing an instant boost of hydration.

By following these post-workout skincare tips, you can help your skin recover from the effects of exercise and maintain a healthy, glowing complexion. Prioritize gentle, non-irritating products, and listen to your skin’s needs to ensure it stays happy and radiant.


The key takeaway from understanding how exercise impacts your skin and how to care for it effectively post-workout is to prioritize skin health and hygiene. Here are the main points to remember:

  1. Minimize Makeup: Avoid heavy makeup during exercise to prevent clogged pores and skin irritation. If you prefer some coverage, opt for lightweight alternatives like tinted moisturizers or BB creams.
  2. Cleanse Thoroughly: After working out, cleanse your skin gently but thoroughly to remove sweat, oil, and impurities. Use a mild cleanser suited to your skin type to avoid stripping away natural oils.
  3. Hydrate and Protect: Replenish lost moisture with a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer, and don’t forget to apply sunscreen to shield your skin from UV damage, even on cloudy days.
  4. Treat Acne Wisely: If you’re prone to breakouts, use spot treatments with ingredients like salicylic acid to target acne lesions and promote healing.
  5. Hydrate Internally: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from within, helping to maintain its elasticity and radiance.
  6. Allow Skin to Breathe: Whenever possible, allow your skin to breathe and recover naturally post-workout by skipping heavy makeup and opting for minimal coverage or no makeup at all.
  7. Listen to Your Skin: Pay attention to how your skin responds to exercise and skincare products. Adjust your routine accordingly to meet its needs, whether it’s hydration, calming inflammation, or addressing specific concerns like acne.

By incorporating these skincare practices into your post-workout routine, you can help keep your skin healthy, clear, and glowing, even after a sweaty gym session. Prioritizing skin health alongside your fitness goals ensures that you not only look good but also feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.