Group of people exercising in a gym cardio training and running

Running on a treadmill (© NDABCREATIVITY -

Researchers from Texas A&M University-San Antonio explored how cosmetic foundation influences skin conditions amidst physical exertion. Their study observed 43 healthy college students, a mix of both genders, as they participated in a 20-minute treadmill exercise. To provide a comprehensive analysis, foundation cream was applied to one side of each participant’s face, leaving the other half untouched to serve as a control.

Post-workout, an intriguing pattern emerged across various skin metrics, including moisture, elasticity, pore size, sebum (the oily substance secreted by skin glands), and oil levels. Notably, both the foundation-applied zones and their makeup-free counterparts saw an increase in moisture and elasticity — highlighting the sweat-induced hydration boost. However, wearing foundation seemed be a double-edged sword. While it potentially trapped moisture, it also led to clogged pores, increased sebum production, and an imbalance in oil levels.

The team made 4 key findings during their experiments:

1. Moisture & Elasticity Boost: Exercise naturally elevates skin hydration and flexibility, but wearing foundation seems to amplify this effect, possibly by locking in moisture. The team observed a higher moisture level post-exercise in areas with foundation compared to those without.

2. Pore Size Puzzle: Pores in the non-makeup zones notably expanded post-exercise, a natural response to help cool the body. Makeup seemed to limit this expansion, hinting at the potential for clogged pores due to wearing foundation creams.

3. Sebum Surge: Researchers noted a stark contrast in sebum levels post-exercise. Foundation areas saw a significant increase, suggesting that makeup could hinder the skin’s natural process to manage and expel sebum effectively.

4. Oil Imbalance: In the quest for balanced skin oil, exercising without makeup seems beneficial. The study found that foundation-wearing areas experienced a decrease in oil levels post-workout, possibly indicating that cosmetics could contribute to skin dryness.

Woman applying foundation
Woman applying foundation (Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Unsplash)

The study presents a compelling case for rethinking makeup use during physical activities. While the urge to look good while breaking a sweat is understandable, the potential skin health implications cannot be ignored. For those with dry skin or prone to acne, the evidence leans towards embracing a barefaced approach during workouts to allow the skin to breathe, regulate temperature, and maintain a natural balance of moisture and oil.

“For skin health, it’s best to exercise with your makeup removed,” concludes corresponding author Dongsun Park, PhD, of the Korea National University of Education, in a media release.

The team’s findings are published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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