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"Active" Skincare: The Fitness-Inspired Trend

Sometimes you don’t even know you have a problem until the world of advertising tells you so.

Right now, terms like “high-performance” and “athletic-appropriate” and “sweat-proof” are popping up on makeup and skincare products everywhere.

The trend definitely points to the fact that, as a society, we’re more interested than ever in staying fit.

Aware of the dangers of the modern sedentary lifestyle, we’re hitting gyms and trying out new workout styles.

But are these products solving a real problem, or just capitalizing on a new marketing strategy?

Do we really need specialized ingredients and new makeup products just to get a workout in?

And, as a side note, are we actually more active, or just more enamored/bombarded with all the #fitspo on Instagram?

I got curious recently and decided to do a little digging.

It turns out, there’s not a simple answer to any of those questions… it’s a bit of a mix!

Determined to get it sorted, though, I’ve pulled together the best information available.

Here’s my quick guide to “active” skincare, so you can judge for yourself if the latest products are right for you.

What Is Active Skincare?

Lots of brands are now developing new lines of skincare products for active women.

They’re designed to be suitable for use before, during, and/or after a workout.

The marketing behind the products suggests they’re meant to be thrown in your gym bag, while some even claim to have “exercise specific” formulas.

Hmm. That sounds a little fishy, but I’m determined to keep an open mind.

After all, sweat-resistant and waterproof sound like a good thing to me, depending on the ingredients used to accomplish those claims.

Some of the brands that have jumped on the trend early?

Pretty Athletic sells “skincare products for active women.”

(Let me tell you, any mother of young kids qualifies for that term every day. But I don’t think that’s what they mean.)

They’ve introduced a line of five products with names like “Workout Glow.”

E.l.f. has a new Active collection including “Post Workout Mist,” and Clinique has introduced “Clinique Fit.”

Thankfully, the idea seems to be less about looking glamorous during a gym sesh, and more about convenience and versatility.

Companies are offering mists and wipes to help you remove makeup before or freshen up post-sweat.

Plus, waterproof mascaras and workout makeup with SPF that you can wear before and during exercise, among other products.

What’s Happening Here?

This latest fitness craze has converged synergistically with the rise of Instagram.

Some say it really started over 10 years ago when SoulCycle came onto the scene and made workouts social and fun.

We’re definitely seeing a merging of fitness with social status here, with fitness influencers building enormous followings on social media.

So, are makeup brands just riding the wake of a temporary fitness-boom?

There’s more to it than that, I suspect.

Our concept of beauty as a culture is constantly evolving, and we’re now seeing a welcome shift away from the glamour-shot-style, perfectly-put-together look and toward healthy skin with an emphasis on well-being.

To be clear, the pressure to look one way or another way is still pressure, and a new beauty standard is still a standard.

But this celebration of self-care and staying active does feel somehow more in line with the empowering messages we women can get behind right now.

I suspect that beauty brands want to speak to us in a language we get, and some of these products promote a streamlined makeup routine that actually fits with being on-the-go.

Of course, big brands will go where the money is and telling us to “Go hard and Glow hard,” still feels a little demanding.

I don’t know about you, but my #sweatyselfies won’t make the cover of Vogue anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the term “Athleisure” is mostly a market-research category, but to beauty companies, it spells big spikes in revenue.

As an industry, the Athleisure category commands around $97 billion in annual sales.

When Sephora took on the small brand Sweat Cosmetics a couple years ago, customers responded, and that brand’s monthly revenues increased 560% quickly.

New Workout-Friendly Products on the Market

As I mentioned, Clinique has Clinique Fit, and e.l.f. has its active collection.

SportFX also has a range of workout-specific creams and gels.

Besides smaller brands Pretty Athletic and Sweat Cosmetics, new products in this category seem to pop up daily.

Here are a few broad groups of products that you’ll find available:

  • Hydrating sticks and mists – these products take into account the risk of over-cleansing due to daily workouts and allow you to rehydrate after a workout. They also help cool and calm redness and get you ready to reenter the outside-the-gym world.
  • Makeup wipes – these offer a quick and easy way to strip makeup, germs, and oil from your skin before you work out. Importantly, they seek to keep pores free and un-clogged once you work up a sweat, plus remove the possibility of smudging or the unpleasantness of makeup running into your eyes.
  • Sweat-proof makeup – you have so much to choose from here, starting with matte foundations meant to absorb sweat and oil when you work out and moving on to tinted moisturizers, waterproof mascaras, and eyeliners. The good news is that lots of the makeup designed to be worn while working out (more on that below) includes SPF protection for moving around in the outdoors and many companies are keeping it oil-free.
  • Cooling masks – Reducing redness is the name of the game after a workout and plenty of companies have introduced cooling gels and masks to do just that. Not surprisingly, cucumber, aloe vera, and thyme are popular ingredients. SportFx even has a cooldown primer and recover gel that soothes and provides a makeup base in one. I also recommend the iS Clinical Hydra-Intensive Cooling Masque after your sweat sesh!

  • Post-workout powders – for post-workout wear, a word that comes up a lot is “mattifying.” Clinique has a post-workout mattifying moisturizer, but that one I can’t recommend as it contains Butylene Glycol, a petroleum product, and Polypropylene, a plastic. You’ll find neutralizing face powders in this category that contain Polypropylene, so on the whole, I’m not a fan. However, one that I do recommend is Youngblood Anti-Shine Mattifier Oil Control Solution!

Sweat Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

From a skincare standpoint, sweat is definitely not all bad.

It flushes toxins out of the skin, which is a good thing.

The problem comes when makeup and dirt are already on the skin, it all mixes with sweat and then sits on your face. Break-out City!

Add the rise in surface temp from your body heating up, and you’ve basically created the perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate.

That’s exactly what happens.

So many of my clients have experienced terrible breakouts right after resolving to spend more time in the gym.

The culprit?

Not properly prepping the skin ahead of time.

This is where makeup wipes with gently natural ingredients can be fantastic if you’re on the fly.

If you know you’re in for an intense workout, clear away makeup and cleanse gently without using harsh surfactants to prep the skin.

Personally, I love these Mirabella Wipe Out Makeup Remover Wipes.

That way, you can let sweat work its magic and carry toxins to the surface where you’ll be careful to rinse them away post-workout.

Then you’ll have scores of products to choose from to refresh and help skin recover.

Are These Products Right for Your Skin?

You’ll have to take each product individually and look at that ingredients list to know if they’re right for you.

Some broad generalities I can make:

  • Be careful of products that promote health and fitness on the surface but harbor bad ingredients like parabens. You’d be surprised.
  • Don’t overdo it. Overall, if you keep it simple and use natural ingredients before, during, and after the gym or a run, your skin will thank you.
  • Don’t forget sun protection and hydration.

This is one of the things I see from some brands promoting active cosmetics that I really like…the emphasis on protecting skin from the elements and cleansing gently so skin isn’t stripped of its natural protection.

One big concern I have about this trend is that clients who have added daily workouts (great) are cleansing more often than usual (not great).

For sensitive skin, this spells all sorts of problems.

While they do need to remove sweat and makeup, they also need to let skin rest.

A solution to that problem? Working out in the morning before makeup.

If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to irritation, this is your best bet to keep from bombarding the skin with too much activity every day.

More Advice for Workout-Ready Skin

Let me divide this advice into two categories in the interest of the realities of life as a busy woman…ideal-world advice, and real-world advice.

In the ideal world:

Make way for sweat to do its proper job and keep skin make-up free during the workout.

As I said, it’s the best way to avoid breakouts because you’ll keep pores in the clear.

Beforehand, use soothing natural ingredients but keep it light.

Gentle cleansers are best here, like my Foaming Pumpkin Cleanser, and lightweight serums with nutrients and antioxidants will serve you well.

For a light cover up before heading out, BB creams without oil and with SPF are a viable option as long as you’re applying it to clean, exfoliated skin so that clogged pores aren’t likely to be a problem.

After your workout, apply soothing rosewater or another light mist and pat skin dry to remove sweat.

In the real world:

Maybe your gym is full of hot guys and it’s a day when you need more than a light cover up to feel your best.

Maybe you’re squeezing a workout in and have to rush out the door to your next appointment.

Maybe you just feel better with a full face of makeup on. It’s okay!

By all means, in that case, use the water-based foundations and sweat-proof other products available.

The key here will be to keep makeup out of your eyes and keep pores as clear as possible.

Blinc Mascara is a personal fave of mine.

Use natural ingredients beforehand, and soothing mists after to help to reduce redness and refresh.

Just go as minimal as you can while staying comfortable.

And if you’ll be showering and reapplying makeup post-workout on the regular, keep skin hydrating and pick products heavy on the vitamins.

Consider adding a restorative serum to your night routine as well to help skin recover.

Final Thoughts

I think we all get the marketing message loud and clear – sporty is the new sexy, right?

I know I rarely stop moving during the day, does that count?!

I believe the more we focus on wellness and real self-care and the less we focus on social-media induced FOMO, the better.

Do some of these “active skincare” lines emerging now fit into the picture of taking care of ourselves and staying aware of our health while we look great?

I think some do… some will help you keep things quick and simple. Some will let you achieve a light and fresh coverage and be on your way.

It turns out that “work-out specific” is not always skincare friendly, though, so be sure to read the ingredients.

Choose the products and the influencers that promote health over an unachievable beauty standard, and I think you’ll be alright, beauties!

After all, your skin is a natural extension of your overall wellness and health.

Treat yourself well and your skin will show it!

Do you apply any skincare products before or after your workout? Have you tried any of these active skincare lines? Let us know in the comments!


Great idea!! :)

Alana @ 2019-04-09 12:47pm

I try to workout when I first get out of bed! So that way I am up and ready for my day, I can shower and do all my morning cleansing ritual of facial products and body as well.

Shelly Horton @ 2019-04-09 4:15am

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