“Athleisure makeup” is mostly marketing, but if you like working out in lipstick, go for it

Image: Reuters/Felix Ordonez
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Drugstore makeup giant Maybelline partnered with sports brand Puma last week to release a limited-edition makeup line it bills as “high-performance makeup with a bold athleisure edge.” The five-product collection, which contains staples like lipstick and mascara, is repped by supermodel Adriana Lima and boasts “high-endurance technology” in “sporty and streetwear-influenced” packaging, Bustle writes.

The L’Oréal-owned label is not the first brand to put out a line of makeup that’s ostensibly designed for working out: Drugstore darling Wet n’ Wild has a 30-item collection specifically made to “glam up your workout routine” that’s repped by fitness influencer Cassey Ho. Even prestige brands like Tarte and Clinique have athleisure-specific lines and beauty products.

It makes sense that brands are stamping the products as “workout-proof” rather than sweatproof or waterproof—athleisure, it seems, is an unyielding consumer trend. It’s been a force in fashion for over half a decade, with stretchy workout clothes doubling as everyday wear in many Western nations, an aesthetic that’s been more recently embraced by the luxury world. What’s more, Instagram has given rise to a tide of fitness influencers, perhaps contributing to the expectation that one can (and perhaps should) look immaculate while exercising. Related is the rise of luxury and boutique gyms that has made the workout experience a thoroughly Instagrammable one.

But is athleisure makeup “total bullshit,” as Racked claimed in late 2016? Indeed, some of it is premised on marketing language, a sports-brand collab, or a design that fits better into a gym bag. That said, there are some guidelines around wearing makeup while exercising that are worth considering if you’re going to do it.

If you prefer to wear makeup when you work out:

(Also applies to the following: I’m seeing friends after my workout and need my makeup to last; I can’t, don’t want to, or forget to remove my makeup before exercising; I’m going out and I want my face to stay on; and, It’s hot! I’m melting.)

Most waterproof cosmetics are formulated using a combination of hydrophobic ingredients like waxes, such as carnauba or beeswax, and silicone-based emollients like dimethicone. However, it’s worth double-checking the ingredients, because sometimes a “workout-proof” product will have virtually the same formulation as a regular one: For instance, the highlighter in Puma x Maybelline’s new collection contains all of the same ingredients as its standard highlighter, just in different levels and with different coloring agents.

Waterproof mascaras have been around since the 1940s, but they’re sometimes difficult to take off and can be harsh on lashes. Allure suggests “tubing” mascara as an alternative: “Tubing mascaras create water-resistant, tube-like enclosures around each individual lash… these ‘tubes’ slide off with warm water and some gentle pressure.” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that Tarte Cosmetics’ Lifted mascara was tested on subjects who spent an hour inside of a sweat chamber and “93% of the subjects reported that the mascara didn’t smudge.”

Speaking of “waterproof,” Racked notes to look for “water resistant” if you’re not seeking too much staying power: “Water resistant works just as well if you are worried about sweat, or makeup staying on while you walk around,” makeup artist Alexis Comforti told the outlet in 2014: “The sealants are lighter and gentler on your skin.”

And never underestimate the power of a good setting spray. Remember to avoid alcohol formulas if you have skin on the drier side, or are prone to breakouts: Beauty writer Jessica Willingham compiled a good list of hydrating sprays on Bustle, while Allure editors have a list of recommendations that go for a variety of price points. What’s more, if you’re exercising outside, a lot of cosmetics are formulated with SPF and will double as a sunscreen. And if you’re prone to redness, makeup that is tinted yellow or green helps to counteract that.

The bottom line is that there’s no reason to buy a collection of makeup specifically for working out—”athleisure beauty” doesn’t contain any special “technology” outside of waterproof formulations. What’s more, makeup is so subjective because everyone’s skin is different. If you can, sample things before committing.

If you don’t like to wear makeup when you work out: 

Great! Just don’t bore everyone with the pretentious argument that losing the makeup bag is a “revolutionary act” of feminism. All it does is enforce the dense, patriarchal notion that the sole purpose of wearing makeup is to attract a partner. It’s true that dermatologists recommend you avoid wearing heavy cosmetics while working out—it can clog pores, which can make you break out. That said, doing it occasionally will not result in any long-term damage to the skin.