There are a lot of groan-inducing things about New York City summers—like being dripped on by someone's window AC or catching a whiff of a pile of trash in 97-degree heat—but perhaps the most annoying one of all is feeling your makeup melt off of your face the moment you step outside. When temperatures reach a certain level (if the words "it's hotter than hell" come to mind, chances are you've hit it), there's pretty much no hope for whatever look you've created to last throughout the day... unless you're using sweat-proof makeup.
Feeling the frustration of my own sweaty face, I set out to discover what makes a product stand up to the heat... and tested a whole lot of them in pursuit of finding a few that actually work. Keep scrolling for what you need to know.
What to look for in sweat-proof makeup
In terms of makeup, "sweat-proof" isn't quite the same as "water-proof" or even "water-resistant." Because sweat is made up of water and skin oils, you'll want to look for formulas made with hydrophobic (AKA "water-repelling") and oleophobic (AKA "oil-repelling") ingredients. In these formulas, you’ll also find dimethicone and polymers that help form a film over the skin and work to keep your makeup in place when exposed to water.
Shop our favorite sweat-proof makeup
Along with iced cappuccinos and AC, this tinted SPF makes it onto our list of sweat-proof essentials. Formulated without oil and tons of antioxidants, it’ll provide enough coverage for an even base while keeping your skin looking its best.
This ophthalmologist-loved serum lasts a guaranteed twelve hours and features castor oil, conditioners, and B vitamins to condition and protect brows. “It’s budge-proof and my go-to,” says Edward Cruz, a celebrity makeup artist. It comes in four colors (red, blonde, light brown, and dark brown) and will keep your brows in place all day.
When looking for sweat-proof beauty products, keep an eye out for polymers like copolymers on the back of the label. These are non-water soluble ingredients, so they help makeup stay in place. Look for formulas that combine them with nourishing ingredients, like Beia’s Daily Hydrating & Setting Mist, which features “a combination of VP/VA copolymer and skin-loving squalane and hyaluronic acid to keep your makeup in place while caring for your skin,” says Brittany Lo, a professional makeup artist and the brand’s founder.
How to remove sweat-proof makeup
“Sweat-proof makeup’s formulation is tackier, so it adheres to the skin better and ends up plugging the pores more because it prevents water from both getting into the skin as well as getting out, and makes it difficult to remove,” explains Audrey Kunin MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor. Combine that with the fact that these formulas also contain fewer natural ingredients and more synthetic chemicals mean it can really take a toll on your skin and damage your barrier. To keep your barrier balanced, she recommends using a “good AHA/BHA based cleanser to cut thoroughly through makeup and follow with antioxidants.”
How to make any makeup sweat-proof
Even if the makeup in your arsenal isn't technically sweat-proof, there are a few things you can do to give any type of formula a bit more staying power in the face of extreme heat.
1. Prep your skin properly
To avoid makeup from instantly sliding off your face (which tends to happen in high humidity), Shuting Hu, PhD, cosmetic chemist and founder of Acaderma, recommends prepping your skin with antioxidant-rich products. "These help bases last longer by reducing the oxidation speed of the foundation," she says.
Kerrin Jackson, a movie makeup artist based in Los Angeles, recommends opting for something with witch hazel because "it's an astringent that's rich with antioxidants and works to keep makeup in place by closing the powers. (Well+Good editors—and tens of thousands of Amazon reviewers—are fans of this Witch Hazel Toner from Thayers).
For the rest of your routine, you should ideally be using oil- and alcohol-free products, because the presence of these two ingredients can cause your skin to become even oilier than it would be from the humidity alone (in other words: very oily.).
2. Use a light hand
The key to sweat-proof beauty is to not go overboard—it’s easier to build up to your needed coverage than remove it. Jackson recommends opting for brushes and sponges over your fingers, as these will allow for more targeted applications. What's more, it's the more sanitary (and less sweaty) choice). “If you’ve ever looked at your fingertips under a magnifying glass, you see the tiny pores and little glistening dots—those dots are sweat, coming out of little sweat glands on your fingers," she explains. "So every time you touch that fingertip to your face, no matter how clean you’re adding sweat to your face,” she explains.
3. Set your work
Setting powder—not sprays—should be considered your best friend for making almost any makeup sweat-proof on super-hot days. "They help absorb moisture like sweat and oil," says Dr. Hu. In addition to Glossier Wowder, W+G editors love Kosas Cloud Set ($35) and Jones Road Tinted Face Powder ($28).
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