We’ve long considered wearing makeup to the gym a major skin-care no-no. And when we asked Well+Good readers if they wear makeup during a workout, it was a chorus of “No way! No clogged pores!” But, we still see a sea of post-spin-class dripping-mascara raccoon eyes. So something’s obviously up. (And someone’s obviously busted.)
So why are women from SoulCycle to SLT getting their sweat on in their makeup—places where it’s totally acceptable to be fresh-faced and au naturel? “New Yorkers are typically dressed to impress every time they walk out the door. The fitness scene’s no different,” says SIN Workouts founder Vanessa Martin, a regular presence at studios across the city, as well as at Equinox.
And it’s not just in New York. Across the pond, 55 percent of the fit women interviewed in a recent UK poll said they wore at least light makeup to work out. (There’s even a makeup line made specifically for sweating, Rae Cosmetics.)
Here are some of the reasons women are powdering and lip glossing for the gym:
1. Sex appeal
Some people are motivated by weight loss goals; others by chiseled, ab-tastic trainers who they wish would notice them while they lunge and squat (and often do, resulting in relationships). In these situations, covering up acne feels like a good idea. (Especially with all of the mirrors!). And if you’re not crushing on your instructor, you may be trying to catch the eye of the CrossFit dude doing pull-ups next to you—with your long, dramatic lashes, of course.
2. Sweat working
If you’re entertaining an important client by taking them to spin class—AKA “sweat working”—you may feel like you need to look your best. Even as you grunt during the sprints. (May we recommend a waterproof mascara in this case?)
3. Social scene
“Fitness studios have become social outings,” Martin says. “Gym-goers often know when they arrive at the studio who they’ll see.” And if they don’t, “a little mascara never hurt anyone—you never know who you might run into,” says Gabrielle Dolceamore, the Brooklyn blogger behind Paper Planes and Mary Janes. Dolceamore doesn’t apply makeup for the gym, but also doesn’t remove the day’s makeup either.
4. Workday leftovers
What about the foundation and eye shadow you put on 12 hours ago? Flywheel regular Sara Davis said that she’d “definitely pop a little color on” if she were going to the gym with a guy. (Healthy date night!) But usually if she wears makeup to class, it’s because she put it on for the day and didn’t have time to take it off while rushing from office to bike. It’s an issue most pressed-for-time New Yorkers face. (Followed by the possible issue of clogged pores.)
5. They’re teaching the class
Instructors are at work, and at some studios and in some instances a little a hair and makeup is considered professional, not superfluous. And many are demo-ing the moves and correcting yours more than getting their own workouts on. So for these instructors it’s less of a pore-clogging risk. —Lisa Elaine Held, with additional reporting by Sharon Feiereison
Do you wear makeup to the gym? Tell us why you do—or don’t!