Does Working Out With Makeup On Really Make You Breakout?

The answer might surprise you.

Caitlin M.
ByCaitlin M.

A common side effect of an active lifestyle, besides an increase in endorphins and totally toned abs, is a rather annoying one: breakouts. As you rush from the office to the gym, you might find yourself hitting the treadmill with a full face of makeup on. And although you might be looking quite glam, a combination of makeup and sweat might not be doing any favors to your skin. To get to the bottom of this often-debated question, does working out really cause breakouts, we tapped Dr. Craig Kraffert, board certified dermatologist and President of Amarte. Here's the real scoop.

Does makeup cause breakouts?: It can. Dr. Kraffert says whether or not your makeup causes breakouts really depends on your skin and your makeup. "When we think about the pathophysiology of acne, oil, and dirt congealing to clog pores, it’s true that makeup could exacerbate this," he says. "It’s not that common, but it can happen." Part of the reason it’s not too common, he says, is because makeup sits on the surface of skin and acne happens a little deeper down. And, thankfully, a lot of makeup today is non-comedogenic, meaning it's been refined to prevent the likelihood of clogging pores and causing breakouts.

So, what about sweat?: Now don't freak out, but yep, sweat can cause breakouts. "In those who are prone to acne, sweating can cause or worsen acne," says Dr. Kraffert. This of course depends on the individual, but Dr. Krafferts says the frequency of acne-prone skin getting worse with sweating is about 20 percent. Yikes!

There are a couple of reasons why sweat is so bad for your skin. For starters, when you sweat a lot, you tend to wipe it off. This friction on the skin can actually trigger "acne mechanica" and make breakouts worse. But it's not just sweat that can trigger this. It's your environment. "The heat and the humidity associated with heavy sweating can trigger acne in some people," he says. Hot yoga—ood for the soul, perhaps not the best for skin.

Another factor at play? Your clothes. Tight clothing mixed with heat and sweat can cause tinea versicolor, a skin condition in which patches of skin turn lighter or darker than the surrounding skin (it can sometimes be mistaken as acne!). And it's actually quite common in young people.

Lastly, although bacteria do not cause acne directly, they play a role in it overall, says Dr. Kraffert. "There are nutrients in sweat that help bacteria to proliferate, which can make acne more likely to occur."

Bottom line: It's true that both makeup and sweat can cause acne is some, but, but the two partnered together don't necessarily equal more breakouts. Whew!

So what can you do?: Those who head to the gym with a full-face of makeup, rejoice! You don't really need to remove any of your makeup. "There’s no strong evidence that skin prep prior to a workout is going to be beneficial," says Dr. Kraffert. And, there is also no evidence to suggest removing makeup before a workout decreases risk of acne, he adds. Basically: don't worry too much about your skin when you go into the gym. It's really after that matters most.

After your sweat sesh, it's very important to cleanse skin and remove all that oil, makeup, and salt that can cause clogged pores. "Cleansing with a gentle cleanser (or, if you have the bathroom access, a mild exfoliant) is best," says Dr. Kraffert. "Anything congealed at the surface causing surface bumps should be washed away." 

And, it's beset to cleanse immediately after working out. "Cleansing after a workout should occur sooner rather than later so the oil, scale and salt does not 'set in,'" he adds. "If you feel it dry on the skin post-workout, you’ve waited too long. In a pinch, using a wipe right away is better than not cleansing at all, but we all know they are not sufficient for total cleansing, so be sure to cleanse thoroughly as soon as you get home!"

What to buy:

​To exfoliate: Amarte Daily ExfoliPowder ($37.00, Dermstore)

Amarte Daily Exfolipowder

"I particularly like the Daily ExfoliPowder for post-workout, because the plant-seed based exfoliants will effectively remove any particles congealing at the surface, but are gentle enough for daily use, so you could use it every day post-workout and also follow your regular skin care regimen morning and night," says Dr. Kraffert.


To cleanse: philosophy purity made simple one-step facial cleanser ($24.00, Sephora)

philosophy purity made simple one-step facial cleanser

This Influenster favorite has earned a 4.6-star rating and the number two spot for facial cleansers. 


On-the-go fix: Neutrogena Oil-Free Makeup Remover Wipes Deep Clean ($7.99, Ulta)

Neutrogena Oil-Free Makeup Remover Wipes Deep Clean

Influensters love this makeup-removing option to give a quick squeaky-clean feeling.


To spot treat: Differin Gel Acne Treatment ($11.19, Target)

Differin® Gel Acne Treatment

"Differin gel is now going over the counter and is a well tolerate acne product," says Dr. Kraffert. "It is very safe, very effective."

What products do you use for post-workout cleansing? Share with us your favorites!

About the Author
Caitlin M.
Caitlin M.
Runner. Music lover. All things nachos. Follow me on Instagram: @caitlinsmiller