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5 Tips for Wearing Sweat-Proof Makeup to the Gym

I love working out in the morning. Not only is it the best way to start my day, but I don’t have to deal with fixing my hair or makeup at the crack of dawn. Bare-faced and ponytailed is more my style. Sometimes, however, I don’t get the chance to exercise first thing in the morning, and I have to head to the gym after I’ve already gotten ready for the day. That often means I have full makeup and “done” hair.

The thing about working out while wearing makeup is that it can cause your skin to break out. Since sweat mixed with makeup can clog pores, most beauty professionals advise against wearing it at the gym. However, if you must wear makeup while you sweat, it’s best to choose products that keep your makeup on your face, and not on your towel. While I don’t do it frequently, I’ve exercised in makeup enough to know what works and what doesn’t.

Makeup & Beauty Tips for the Gym

When it comes to keeping makeup on your face at the gym, it’s all about the products you choose. The stuff you use on a regular basis probably isn’t enough to withstand a sweaty workout.

If you don’t want to spend major cash on a whole set of new makeup, head to the makeup counters in department stores and ask for samples for your favorite products. You’ll get smaller amounts to help you stay smudge-free. Still, if you plan on working out a lot while wearing makeup, it makes sense to invest in products that really work so your makeup stays put and you look as good heading out of the gym as you did heading in.

1. Primer

When you plan to run, dance, or do anything in which you could break a sweat, start your face off with a primer. Face primers work just like paint primers: They help to smooth out the surface so your makeup lasts longer and looks even better. When you’re sweating, primer creates a barrier between your skin and your foundation, so it’s less likely to slide right off. That way, you’ll only need a few touch-ups after a workout to look fresh, clean, and polished again.

I love e.l.f. Studio Mineral Infused Face Primer. It’s cheap, goes on super-silky, and is easy to apply.

2. Foundation

When I know I’m going to work out in my makeup, I choose a lighter formula foundation. Heavy, cakey makeup can mix with sweat and create embarrassing lines on your face.

Maybelline’s Pure Makeup is a favorite of mine. It’s water-based, so it doesn’t clog pores, and it goes on more like a tinted moisturizer than a heavy foundation. If you’re a mineral foundation lover, wear a light dusting of foundation, but skip the shimmer veil on top, as it’ll just make you look shiny. It’s also a great idea to keep a travel kabuki brush and a pot of foundation on-hand to touch up after your workout.

3. Lip and Cheek Stain

The gym is not the place for lipstick and blush. For one, you get natural color from exerting yourself, and probably don’t need it. Secondly, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to get into the zone, only to have your hair get stuck in your lip gloss. That’s why I always go with stain when I’m working out.

Stain is an ultra-light, marker-like product that gives awesome color without clogging up pores or feeling heavy – just apply it with a light hand. Stain lasts much longer than lipstick or gloss, and it dries completely matte – no more fishing hair out of sticky gloss.

Benefit’s Benetint is the industry standard for stain, but Cover Girl has a great alternative that is made for lips and gives cheeks a pretty flush too. I love products that pull double duty – they take up less space in your gym bag, and take less out of your bank account.

Lip Cheek Stain

4. Mascara

One word: waterproof. When you’ve got sweat dripping off of your hair, the last thing you want to worry about is your eye makeup running or smudging. Mascara can also be a major bother if it gets in your eyes, breaking your concentration as you deal with that stinging sensation. If you don’t have time to remove your eye makeup before you work out, make sure to pick a waterproof mascara that will stay put until you take it off yourself.

If you do find yourself with a mess of mascara after you’ve worked out, don’t panic. Baby oil or baby wipes work just as well as makeup remover. If you’re completely unprepared, head to the gym bathroom and squirt a little hand moisturizer onto the edge of a wet paper towel. Gently scrub under your eyes to get rid of that “raccoon” look.

5. Shine

One of the best secrets to looking dewy (not sweaty) after any gym session is blotting sheets. They’re little rice papers that are sold in tiny notepads that sop up excess moisture from your face without smearing your makeup. The best part? They’re cheap. You can get 5o for about $2 – I love NYX brand.

Keep them in your gym bag and tear one off after your workout. Blot at the spots that get shiny – your forehead, nose, and chin – and then discard.

Hair Tips

There’s nothing worse than ruining a good blowout with a ton of sweat. I have to admit that I’ve skipped exercising on good hair days to preserve my look. Of course, that was before I learned how to protect my fab hairdo at the gym.

If your hair is long enough, use a hair bungee to tie it on top of your head. Regular elastics leave creases, and putting it on top of your head gives your hair mega volume after you’re done. If you wear a hairband to keep strands out of your eyes, use a flat, thick band. Skinny hair bands leaves bumps behind, especially if your hair is sweaty and damp.

I always keep a travel-sized bottle of dry shampoo in my gym bag as well. After a workout, I aim it at my roots and comb it through to instantly bring my blowout back to life. If you have light blonde hair, you can also use a sprinkling of cornstarch in a pinch.

Final Word

No one expects you to walk out of the gym looking like a supermodel. But if you must sneak in some exercise between meetings, you don’t have to look like you just spent an hour on the treadmill. With the right products and the best techniques, you’ll never have to sacrifice your workout to look presentable.

How do you freshen up after a session at the gym? Do you ever wear makeup there?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.

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