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Why I wear makeup when exercising

Running, cycling, at the gym. It doesn't matter what the exercise is, or how sweaty it makes me, I wear makeup when I exercise. There, I said it.

You’d be surprised how many comments I get about this – people seem much more interested in what’s happening on my skin than the achievement of getting and staying fit (yes, I even ran the London Marathon with makeup on, albeit not disco night level). 

I’m a ‘more mature lady’ now, but the pleasure I get from putting on makeup has never left me. I remember hours spent in the bathroom getting ready for a night out in my teens with my two brothers banging on the door desperate to use the loo (we only had one in those days). Looking back now, I’m not sure why I used the bathroom and not my bedroom – maybe it was the lighting, maybe it was to get one up on my older siblings! 

My mum wasn’t a big makeup wearer. Lipstick was her thing. She could always be found sporting a pink lippy, which she also used as blusher. If it was a special occasion, she may add a swipe of mascara. Her look was minimal, but it still did the trick. “I feel so much brighter when I’ve got my lippy and cheeks on,” she told me. “It helps on the days when my mood isn’t as chirpy as usual.” Now, my mum is no longer with us, but I’ll never forget her words, and her sentiment is true for me too. 

Applying makeup is a ritual I enjoy, and it sets me up for the day. And it’s much more mindful than you may think. For the half hour I spend with my makeup in the morning, it’s all I focus on. I have decisions to make about what foundation I want to use – am I going for a full-on face, or a sheerer look. What eyeshadow will suit what I’m up to that day? Am I after a big lash or a more natural one? 

When I’m finished, I feel ‘ready’ to tackle whatever is on the agenda and I’ve had some important ‘me time’ too – something we all need to make more of. Confident, positive, stronger, happier – all words I would use to describe what wearing makeup does for me. 

I wear it every day, even if I’m not leaving the house, so when I exercise, it doesn’t cross my mind to take it off. If it’s a first thing in the morning burst of exercise I’ll still reach for my makeup bag, even knowing I’ll be showering it off when I’m done. It helps particularly when I’m at the gym, which can be a real trial for many women as confidence to exercise in front of others is a hard-won thing.

I know that sweating with ‘slap’ on is frowned upon, and experts tell me regularly it will ruin my skin. But after all these years, there’s no sign of that. I certainly don’t get the breakouts that everyone promises me. I haven’t had a spot since my teenage years.  

It irritates me when people are criticised for wearing makeup, with comments flooding social media about how we should get over ourselves and not be vain. But for me, it’s all about the confidence to go out there and do what I need to do. What’s wrong with that?  

I look pretty rough without makeup – dark circles and uneven skin tone.  Why would I want to face the world in that state? It makes no sense. Wearing makeup helps me feel energetic and if that gets me off my bum and into the Lycra, that’s a good thing surely?

I’ve cycled and run in all weather. And when I’m in the mountains snowboarding and it’s cold and snowing, I’ll still be wearing my makeup. Waterproof mascara and long-wear, breathable foundation is the secret. I’ve never once finished an exercise routine with mascara streaming down my face or with cute panda eyes or a patchy foundation. 

Sometimes we can be too quick to judge – me included – and that’s the real lesson here. Pausing for thought is an art that’s been lost in a world of instant, digital gratification and endless stream of likes, shares and ‘trial-by-emoji’. Taking the time to understand what lies behind another person’s decision also means maybe asking them the question; engaging, listening and understanding how we are all individuals and affected by different things.

Try it. I did, and it made a huge difference.  

Want to wear makeup at the gym? Go ahead!
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