Wearing makeup while working out can harm skin study finds

Science and Health

Women – and even men– who go regularly to the gym tend to buy expensive and sexy exercise outfits because they want to look good even while sweating – and many also put on makeup. 

However, new research in South Korea reveals the effects of wearing cosmetic foundation during aerobic exercise has a harmful effect on the skin and its pores. The study included 43 healthy college students (20 males and 23 females).

Foundation cream was applied to participants on half of the face in two different areas – the forehead and the upper cheek, while the other half of the face served as control.

The issue with working out wearing makeup

Skin is the largest organ in the human body and serves as a protector and barrier of entry for environmental microbes. 

The preservation and improvement of skin health to minimize the harmful impact of microbes is an emerging field of study. “A healthy skin profile can be defined by its moisture and sebum [oil] level, elasticity, number of pores, and sebum distribution” they wrote. 

Woman puts on makeup (credit: INGIMAGE)

“Inadequate moisture and oil can negatively impact skin health leading to acne. Moreover, excessively large pores and sebum can negatively impact skin health, if unaddressed. Subcutaneous skin problems may manifest on the epidermis of the skin as acne, blackheads, white heads, pimples, papules, pustules, and cyst or nodules.” Moisture increased after exercise in both the non-makeup and makeup zones but there was a greater increase in moisture in the makeup zones.

This may be a result of makeup preventing moisture from evaporating from the skin.

The elasticity of the skin increased after exercise, but to a greater extent in the makeup zones than in non-makeup zones.

The size of pores increased in skin without makeup after exercise but not significantly in skin with makeup, apparently indicating that wearing makeup blocks pores. 

Oil levels increased in the non-makeup zones and decreased in the makeup zones, suggesting that it may be difficult to maintain proper oil levels on the skin when wearing makeup.

“For skin health, it’s best to exercise with your makeup removed,” said corresponding author Dr. Dongsun Park of the biomedical engineering department of the Korea National University of Education. He and the team have just published their study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (the official journal of the International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology and the Canadian Association of Aesthetic Medicine) under the title “The influence of cosmetic foundation cream on skin condition during treadmill exercise.” 

“There is a growing trend of individuals wearing cosmetics while participating in physical activities. Nonetheless, there remains a need for further understanding regarding the effects of makeup on the facial epidermis during exercise, given the existing knowledge gaps,” they wrote.

The researchers offered several effective methods for preserving skin health – seven to nine of sleep, balanced nutrition, proper microbiome composition, maintaining a skincare regimen, and exercise, which induces several physiological and thermal changes that lead to changes in the thermal homeostasis of the body, metabolic rate, and increased internal heat resulting in changes in skin condition. 

The increase in internal temperature of approximately two-tenths of a degree higher than the 37°C will redirect blood flow to the skin in an attempt to permit heat exchange with the environment. 

“Additionally, as our skin regulates internal temperature through perspiration, pores expand to discharge waste and sebum. If this waste on the surface of the skin is left untreated, it can proliferate, which can possibly create acute and chronic skin issues,” they continued.

Their findings suggested that “using foundation cream during aerobic exercise can reduce skin oil, causing dryness. Additionally, makeup can clog pores and increase sebum production. 

Therefore, wearing makeup may not be recommended for people with dry skin conditions based on the results of the current study. This research offers important insights to the public, encouraging them to consider the possible consequences of using makeup while exercising.