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Quick Tips: Is it bad to sweat with makeup on?

Can I cause a breakout by working out with my makeup on?
Can I cause a breakout by working out with my makeup on?

You've got exactly an hour for your lunch break -- just enough time to change into gym clothes, squeeze in a quick workout and shower before heading back to the office. You barely have time to reapply your makeup afterward, let alone take it off beforehand. But you can't help wondering: Is exercising with a face full of foundation a recipe for a breakout?

Fortunately, skipping a face wash before the gym isn't nearly as bad as skipping it afterward. "Working out with makeup on might be unpleasant, but it doesn't really become a health issue until you let that makeup -- now mixed with dirt and sweat -- sit on your face once your workout's over," says Chris Adigun, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Most concealers and cover-up products, Adigun explains, are designed to be noncomedogenic, meaning that they don't clog pores. When you work out while wearing makeup, however, you will probably sweat -- a lot -- and that sweat will combine with the product on your face and become occlusive, or air-tight, preventing your pores from breathing.

Sweat can also cause eyeliner and mascara to smear and run, contributing to blockages and irritation (not to mention, quite a mess). On top of all that, you will probably touch your face at some point during your workout, or even wipe your sweat with a towel, which can both introduce dirt and bacteria.

None of this is so bad as long as you can wash the dirt and makeup residue off immediately after your sweat session. (And as long as you don't mind wiping makeup all over your gym towel.) It's a good idea to take a full-body shower and clean yourself from head to toe -- but if that's not possible, be sure to wash your face thoroughly with water and a gentle face wash.

If you do have time to wash your face and remove your makeup before a workout, says Adigun, it's never a bad idea. But, if you're exercising outdoors, make sure you wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. You could also try planning your workouts for first thing in the morning before you shower, when your face is still fresh from the night before.