Never let ’em see you sweat

Perspiration offers inspiration for cosmetic products you can wear while exercising.

After years of providing successful leadership on the soccer field, the star athletes of Sweat Cosmetics — including an Olympian and two pros — tackled a stubborn off-field problem: They formed a company and launched their first product, a two-in-one foundation and sunscreen that could provide protection, look good and last through the game. With Sweat, these athletes took action to meet their lifestyle needs, and they correctly predicted that there were a lot more athletic women like them — busy, active and looking for healthy beauty options.

Skincare products that do double duty — supporting skin health and boosting looks during a workout — shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’re the latest in the tsunami of athleisure goods that have flooded the market since 1998, when Canada’s Chip Wilson opened his first Lululemon store in Vancouver — and paparazzi photos began to feature celebs showing off their shapes in yoga pants. 

There’s been a convergence of trends, including fitness- and fashion-focused millennials, as well as the desire to post photographs of our daily lives. Working out is no longer private or anonymous. And for some, being able to take steps to look good during their workout can provide key motivation.

But looking good while sweating poses a challenge for our skin. Traditionally, dermatologists have advised removing all makeup before exercise. Makeup can exacerbate the presence of sweat, oil and bacteria, causing clogged pores, which trigger acne. 

Since 2015, when its SPF 30 mineral foundation was released, the Sweat crew has been joined by a Who’s Who of cosmetics, including Clinique, Tarte, e.l.f. and megaretailer Sephora, which specifically offers products under lineups that include “Workout Makeup” and “Gym Essentials.”

Fortunately, today we don’t have to choose between treating our skin well or looking good. However, it’s important that we understand the fundamentals of how beauty products can enhance our workout. 

Stressing the “less is more” adage, I prefer no makeup for workouts. But I do have tips for those still looking to incorporate cosmetic products into their trip to the gym:

Let your pores breathe, too. The “breathe” mantra is also essential for our skin. Any product we use must be “noncomedogenic,” which means it is nonclogging. It should also be oil-free. And mineral ingredients in powder form, such as silica, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, can help subdue redness and absorb oil. To avoid breakouts, she suggests using less product, even the noncomedogenic ones. 

Make the most of your sunscreen. Products like Sweat Cosmetic’s 2-in-1 sunscreen and foundation can be win-win. We need sunscreen. For those who want foundation coverage, adding in tint can be a value-add, if the company has focused on skin-supportive ingredients.

Target your application. Some of today’s activewear makeup isn’t new. It’s just been remarketed. Take eye enhancers like “sweatproof” mascaras, liners and brow products. Likewise, lip wear. This remarketing underscores the reality that these products, in particular, can be used during exercise without posing a problem for our skin. She advises to be careful as eye makeup can prove to be irritating as it mixes with sweat.

Cleanse smart. Exercise is sweaty. Even with nonclogging beauty products, we need to cleanse to keep our pores happy. We should have a clean towel handy for sweat while we work out. And post-workout cleansing is a must: If we’re really on the go, the latest products include cleansing wipes. 

Be gentle. Exercise can be good for our skin, releasing debris from below the surface and enhancing blood flow. But we also need to make sure that we treat our skin carefully. Sweat should be blotted gently, not wiped. Cleansers should be gentle — and no scrubbing allowed. Finally, moisturizing is a must.

The awareness of carefully choosing skin products, including cosmetics, will ultimately help keep our skin healthy both in and out of the gym. 

Christina Smitley, a family nurse practitioner with Advanced Dermatology PC, is board-certified through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. For more, visit

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