It’s not uncommon to see women in the gym rocking a full face of makeup.
The correct response to seeing this is sheer awe at their ability to do a full set of burpees without dislodging their fake lashes – but sadly, lots of women just face judgement, mean comments and disapproving looks.
But why is it that we’re so quick to judge women who workout wearing makeup? Does it suggest that they’re not working out hard enough? Maybe it’s a concern for the health of their skin?
Or maybe society just loves judging women and telling them that whatever they’re doing is wrong.
There are a number of reasons why someone might choose to workout with their slap on. Practicality is one of them.
We are all time-poor, and if we’re running to the gym after work there probably isn’t time to diligently remove our mascara before jumping on the treadmill. And micellar water is too heavy to carry around all day.
The second reason is the pressure. Gyms are no longer safe spaces for us to sweat in peace. We’re now expected to be decked out in perfect, Sweaty Betty kit, a glisten of sweat on our brows to show we’ve been working hard, but not enough to ruin our #GymLife selfie.
The pressure is so great that 40% of women actually avoid being physically active altogether because of a fear of judgement from others. So it’s no wonder so many of us want to cover up our dark circles and highlight our cheekbones before going for a run.
The catch-22 is that while women might stick on some foundation to avoid judgement, they will likely face more judgement for wearing makeup in the gym too. Being a woman is relentless.
When England footballer Alex Greenwood wore false lashes at this summer’s Women’s World Cup she faced a barrage of nasty, snide comments online. The reality for female athletes is that people often care more about how they look than their sporting abilities.
Megan, a communications officer, wears makeup when she works out because she always has to rush off to the office straight after.
‘I’ve seen people in the gym, mainly other woman without makeup on, giving me looks or eyeing up my lipstick,’ she tells us.
‘I like to think it’s because they think I look nice, but there’s definitely a chance it’s more judgmental.
‘I think people assume women wear make up at the gym to look more attractive or to impress others. When it’s very often not the case.
‘In my situation, it’s a practical thing, but for others it could be to do with boosting their self confidence – which is understandable as the gym can be intimidating if you’re new to it.
‘To be honest, if people want to wear make up just because, who cares? Life’s too short to worry about whether the woman lifting weights has a bit of mascara on.’
Live and let live, says Megan. And stop judging women for every damn thing they do.
But some people do have legitimate concerns about wearing makeup in the gym. Will it actually damage your skin or cause you to breakout in spots?
‘Makeup paired with sweat is a bad combination, it can be damaging to your pores and cause you mass breakouts,’ explains Patricia Boland, skin specialist at Colorescience UK.
‘When we are active, our blood circulation increases which alters oil in the body and causes us to sweat.
‘It can cause breakouts, of course not every single time you wear it, but it is not worth the risk if you have acne prone skin. Eye makeup, even though less damaging, does have the potential of running down into eyes onto the under the eye area which is sensitive.
‘The damaging effects on the skin come down to your routine and the products you use.
‘The heat and humidity which is attached to sweating can trigger acne, also when you sweat a lot, you reach to wipe that away with your hand or a towel, the friction on the skin can trigger “acne mechania” which increases breakouts.’
None of this sounds great. Particularly if you don’t feel confident going barefaced. But Patricia does have some tips to keep your skin healthy if wearing makeup in the gym is a must.
‘If you wish to wear mascara, opt for waterproof eyeliner and mascara as it won’t sweat off. You should also choose an oil free, non-comedogenic light foundation or tinted moisturiser.
‘A brow gel is great at keeping brows groomed and nicely shaped – if the rest of your makeup is minimal then well filled-in brows will fill your frame and complete your look.
‘If you need a hint of colour on your lips then try a tinted lip balm, moisturises your lips whilst looking colourful.’
There are ways around it – you just have to be organised and make sure you have the right products in your gym bag.
How to look after your skin when you workout
Cleanse your skin before your workout with a light makeup remover or Micellar Water and a cotton pad (makeup wipes often end up just moving dirt around the skin instead of actually removing it).
Apply a hydrating antioxidant serum after cleansing the skin to make sure you stay hydrated and protected.
Apply an SPF if you’re working out outside.
Cleanse the skin immediately after your workout to make sure sweat and bacteria sit on the skin – ‘providing you removed makeup effectively prior to the workout, then a gentle gel/water-based cleanser should be more than enough.’
Andy Millward, expert facialist
Of course there are other concerns about wearing makeup that are more specific to the kind of sport your doing. If you’re swimming in the wild for example, wearing makeup might be more damaging for the environment than it is for your skin.
Suzanna Cruickshank is an outdoor swim guide based in the Lake District. She reminds people that wearing makeup in wild water can have significant consequences.
‘We swim in beautiful water and want to protect it as best we can,’ says Suzanna.
‘The eco-systems are affected by excess phosphates so it makes sense not to get in a lake caked in makeup, hair products or perfume.
‘If we all did it, eventually you would see a change in the quality of the water.’
One netballer said that wearing a bit of makeup for a big game helps her to feel confident going up against the opposition. But makeup clearly doesn’t work for all team sports, as Jessica explained:
‘I’m a rugby player and I know if I wear make up it will leave an imprint on someone’s bum or leg!’
Loads of women we spoke to said that they never wear makeup when they workout.
Some said they felt no need to, that working out made them feel empowered enough. Others said they would just sweat it off so even if they wanted to it would be pointless. And that’s great too.
But essentially, if you use the right products and you’re diligent with your cleansing afterwards, wearing light makeup at the gym or during fitness isn’t a problem.
What is a problem is the need to look down on women who choose to wear makeup when they workout.
There is a school of thought that the very concept of makeup is anti-feminist and a symptom of patriarchal oppression – but makeup can be empowering and freeing, and a woman’s right to choose is what feminism is all about.
Surely anything that makes someone feel confident enough to get moving and be healthy should be embraced?
‘I don’t wear makeup for fitness and I also don’t feel we should judge those who do,’ says Jo Moseley, paddleboard enthusiast.
‘If it’s part of building up your confidence and gives you the courage to go to a new fitness class or gym, then it’s wrong to criticise.
‘I once got very uppity about an advert which showed a woman putting on her lipstick before a workout. And then I thought – who am I to be Miss Judgey?
‘Maybe that’s the difference between her going to the gym or staying at home and feeling that she didn’t dare. You do you – as they say.’
I am Team GB
Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.
Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.
To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com
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