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Athleisure Beauty Explained

Luxury London explores beauty's biggest trend, from no-sweat cosmetics to make up you can wear to the gym

It was only a matter of time, really. The never-ending trend for athleisure means there are great options for us to don meshed, ruched, panelled and form-fitting sportswear to work out in. As it became clearer that we care about looking good in the gym – and having an easy transition to weekend or working life once we leave – beauty brands have made a recent push into the market, introducing a whole new range of ‘active cosmetics’ options that work for your workout: think sweat-resistant, waterproof products that won’t clog your pores. 

Birchbox launched its Arrow collection last year, taking the athleisure trend to its holistic beauty maximum. Products are high-performance, lightweight, long-wearing and refreshing, and include a cooling cheek tint, tinted brow gel and colour-enhancing lip balm. 
“We recognised the significance of the athleisure movement and knew our customers were among the women embracing the trend.

No one had approached this space from a beauty perspective, so we saw an opportunity to translate the concept of all-day activewear for the beauty category and create high-performance products that achieve an effortless, natural look,” says Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp. 

Formulas have been changed to create make-up designed to stand up to sweat. “We worked hard to create lightweight, long-lasting formulas that won’t streak or clog pores during workouts – they’re designed to work with your body during physical activity. We used very small amounts of polymers (which ensure the products don’t flake, smudge, drip, or crease), paired with botanicals such as mango seed butter and coconut water to ensure the products could last through a workout without using harsh ingredients,” Beauchamp finishes. 

Sweat Cosmetics was founded in 2015 by ex-college soccer players, who didn’t like how their make-up ran during games. Made specifically for those who lead an active life and formulated with a high-quality blend of minerals and free of oil, fragrances, and silicone, Sweat Cosmetics’ foundation and bronzer offers coverage without clogging pores, and they contain SPF 30 for outdoor workouts. The lack of silicone also makes them more environmentally friendly than Beauchamp’s Birchbox creations; much has been made in the press of the environmental hazards posed by polymers in beauty products.

Long-established brands are also getting in on the trend, from Tarte’s athleisure collection to MAC’s new Work It Out range, a brightly coloured ’80’s dance-themed range. While not specifically designed for the gym, the campaign is about experimenting with colour and having fun while working out. At Space N.K, Eyeko’s Sport Waterproof Mascara is fibre-enhanced and claims to not need reapplying post-workout. The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Stick Foundation is waterproof and has a 12-hour wear, and then there’s Perricone MD: the anti-ageing and dermatologist-developed skincare brand offering a ‘no make-up make-up’ range that is perfect for the gym. It includes a ‘No Foundation Foundation’, ‘No Blush Blush’, ‘No Highlighter Highlighter’ and ‘No Bronzer Bronzer’.

Margaret Mitchell is buying director at Space N.K. “Women who shop with Space N.K are definitely interested in products that fit effortlessly into their lifestyles. 

A trend for ‘no make-up’ make-up has certainly grown and challenges brands to create non-pore clogging, lightweight and natural solutions for women who want to look their best no matter where they are, including the gym.”

In fact, Mitchell goes one step further, suggesting certain products are not only functional for the gym but can still retain skincare benefits. “My personal favourite is the Lancer Dani Glow Skin Perfector because it is more lightweight than a tinted moisturiser and still contains all of the skin benefits.”

But can wearing make-up in the gym really be good for your skin? Dr Russo of Canary Wharf’s Rejuvenation Clinic & Medispa says no: “The skin will not be able to breathe properly.” Exercise stimulates blood flow and oil glands, meaning there is extra heat and moisture on the skin. Sweat is meant to flush out toxins, but if sweat is prevented from properly flushing out the pores – which a layer of the wrong make-up can do – there can be blockages and congestion. The key here is to select the right products from reputable brands.

In the age of the selfie, wanting to look good at the gym may be a priority, but don’t do so at the risk of causing red, spotty skin. Shop carefully for specially formulated products and remember, there’s no downside to wearing lipstick in the gym. When in doubt, a bare face and a bold lip may be the answer.