As exercise classes become more frequent, aggregating what seems to be one's entire Linkedin network, combined with a systematic play by play on Instagram, it’s increasingly motivating to avoid walking around post-workout with raccoon eyes, sweaty hair and a shiny T-zone. Considering that physical exercise provides confidence that lasts throughout the day, how do we also maximize it's positive effects on our skin, by choosing the best products, including those specifically labeled as "athleisure".
A question for Lili Barbery-Coulon, Paris-based beauty expert and wellness enthusiast, freelance journalist, consultant and author of Ma Récréation, a blog dedicated to beauty and lifestyle.
Inside/Out: Do you regularly exercise?
Lili Barbery-Coulon: Yes, I am crazy about kundalini yoga, I practice three times a week. I love trying new forms of exercise, so if I can’t attend yoga, I will replace it with another activity. For example, I recently took a great boxing class with my daughter. I am sure if I lived in New York, I would be at The Class with Taryn Toomey or at the Woom center every week for a hypnotic yoga class.
I/O: What do you feel has changed socially in terms of exercising and how has this impacted your beauty routine?
LBC: Elite and intellectuals use to look down on exercise. Today they are in line with the cult following of activities, touching all sectors (work performance, the appreciation of fitness and toning, appreciation of success in the work place). I attempted to describe this phenomenon in an article published in M le Monde in 2015. I was surprised, by the number of connected gadgets, by the number of intensive classes available and growing, and even in the towns that have never integrated exercise into their daily culture. Notably in Paris, ten years ago, you never saw someone running in the street. Today, no one is surprised at the sight of people working out at dusk, or during the day on the pavement.
Naturally, fashion and beauty brands evolved with the market, producing products to answer to the changing needs. With regards to clothing, the need was easily understood, as we work out more, we can no longer rely on old Spandex and a t-shirt we would not even wear to bed. Material that breathes, curves and eases movement contribute to the joy of exercising - even if we could survive without the enhancements.
As for beauty products, the first to adapt were sunscreens for those practicing outside, offering waterproof functions for surfers for example (the first one I can think of is Lancaster, but today everyone has their own formula), functions that also resist sweat and humidity. Shampoos and shower gels for those who take a large number of showers also exist, so that they are less taxing on the skin and scalp. Body lotion for runners is also under development.
I/O: Has a new language emerged surrounding the subject?
LBC: Yes, certain experts in the field talk of "active cosmetics" or "athleisure beauty". Given the number of followers fit influencers have, it would be senseless to not propose adapted products.
I/O: Has the sweaty Instagram selfie had its affect?
LBC: Holding a yoga posture, jogging, exerting a posture, surfing, boxing, all of these moments captured for Instagram allow for self promotion and also to say “look at me I am healthy”. I do it to promote my yoga professors, share addresses, and to show that a healthy lifestyle involves a number of factors, including physical activity.
I/O: For the last year or two brands have launched athleisure, what characterizes this ready to wear?
LBC: They are often water resistant and absorb humidity like a sponge. Waterproof mascara has existed for ages and is not new. It is the wording that is new. However, finding formulas that are compatible with sweat and are resistant to outside conditions (the sun and pollution) is intelligent. Personally, I find myself often attending yoga without makeup. And when skiing for example, all that interests me is the level of SPF and its efficiency. If there is preference for the use of organic ingredients, the labels must be read carefully, as they are absolutely not an obligation for this type of product.
I/O: Are the use of organic ingredients a necessity for those who are active, and particularly sensitive to the subject?
LBC: I do not think 100% organic sunscreens can rival the efficiency of synthetic ones. For now I find that both in texture and protection sunscreens with synthetic ingredients are better suited to my needs.
I/O: Does the increase in workout routines bring about a more natural way of wearing makeup?
LBC: I have trouble understanding wearing makeup while exercising. Applying a light blush to a cheek that will become bright red within thirty minutes makes no sense to me.
I/O: Are most of the athleisure products, concepts that already exist and are just repositioned or marketed differently, or do they truly offer something innovative?
LBC: I do not know. They have to be tried, looked at, and compared to other products. This demands a lot of time. As long as the cost is not higher than an ordinary lotion, I do not see a reason to abstain. But being said, it could be that we already have all we need at home in our own bathroom.
I/O: How does the sport world influence the communication strategy for cosmetic brands?
LBC: The sports world has a great influence on the cosmetic world’s communication strategy, it is easy to see how it has been incorporated in all the advertising. Whether it involves Christy Turlington on a boat for Biotherm, or Gisèle surfing for Chanel N5. It can also be seen across the skate and surf world, and most of all within the dance world! It is everywhere! In fact, I wrote an article on this trend and the values dancing emits: grace, endurance, rigor, self-discipline, corporal perfection, exceptional qualities. It is only the beginning. Physical activity has become a daily routine for many of those who use to frown upon the idea. And given the obsession around health (diet, pesticides, pollution), exercising becomes a necessity.
I/O: Cosmetics also now boast cerebrally and emotional qualities, such as products that boost chakras and favor meditation? How do you connect beauty and mindfulness?
LBC: This is a vast subject. The formulas do not really change. It is the vocabulary that evolves. And there is effectively mystery surrounding beauty. I actually work on trends, they challenge and amuse me, and create a lot of desire to consume. When I am investigating these brands, I always question my attraction and what this has to say about our era, as I am only a mere image of this era (one of many, I do not claim to incarnate all that we are experiencing). Communicating only on a product’s efficiency is not effective. First of all because women have realized that they continue to age even when promised to look 10 years younger after four weeks. The beauty industry is one that adapts quickly to its era. It never stops creating products that answer to the moments needs. It could become overbearing but if no one purchases, the trend disappears. However, if the opposite happens the brand has understood the moments desire and created something which is timeless. The quest for health is a lasting one, that has been making its way for the last fifteen years.
Our use of internet and smart phones has changed our professional life (the work that never ends) and our social lives (we find ourselves focused on ten different things at a time and are never stopping to give ourselves the proper attention). The result is there are more frequent burnouts, people who suffer from the overdose of constant activity, which makes sense for no one. To compensate (as we have all understood that it will not improve miraculously), we have found many new ‘things’: massages, meditation, yoga. And alternative medicine: acupuncture, reflexology, osteopathy, Chinese medicine, nutrition. If we were less subjective to modern pressure I do not believe we would be as obsessed with well-being. It has become obvious that health and the ever so present eastern philosophy have been incorporated across all the cosmetic sectors, whether it is makeup, perfume or skincare. You only need to count the number of times "aura" appears in the industry.
I/O: What is your pre-routine?
LBC: If I am going to yoga in the morning, it’s rare that I put on makeup. I am content putting on deodorant (I love Soapawella, it is efficient, with almost no odor and is organic which reassures me). However, I test a lot of deodorants, as I receive a ton - organic, natural, synthetic. I look for efficiency. I also like Mixa Bébé and those from Rogé Cavailles as I find that they work and don't smell too strong. (I really dislike being able to smell a deodorant’s sent after I am dressed). For my skin, a toner by Joelle Ciocco, and colloidal silver (found in a holistic store, specifically rue Pasquier) then a light body lotion or simply a hydrating serum. I do not want something too greasy or thick to sweat in. I love the hydrating serum by Skinceuticals made with hyaluronic acid, I love the super serum by Glossier made with hyaluronic acid, I also love the body cream by Uriage for skin that tends to redden. It's called Roséliane. A gloss, as practicing dragon breath, mouth open, in yoga dries your mouth and lips. My favorite glosses is the Glossier balm dot com and I also like the classic Kiehl’s lip balm. No need for sunscreen as I am going to close myself in a room. Hair pulled back (often unwashed, as I systematically take a shower after).
I/O: What is your routine after exercise?
LBC: A shower! I am lucky to be able to as I work from home. Practicing kundalini has really improved my skin. I have nice skin naturally, but I have found regular practice has given my face a glow. It is perhaps only a reflection of my peace of mind but I hear it often. It is a part of this yoga’s extra benefits. Before showering I use a smooth cream by Joelle Ciocco called Capital on my face. I don’t spend a lot of time massaging the cream as it is the beginning of the day and I will surely apply makeup afterwards and remove my makeup the evening. It is only to clean my skin from sweat, nothing more. In the shower I love to use products by Fresh, Aesop, Jo Malone, Byredo or Annick Goutal (I am crazy for the Hadrien line). Afterwards if I have time, I massage by body with something perfumed, can be any: Portrait of a Lady body oil by Frédéric Malle, body lotions by Byredo, or even orderless vegetable oil. I love this moment, it relaxes my muscles, it’s like a reward: thanking the body who allows us to do so many things. Afterwards if I have to go out I will lightly apply makeup with the use of the Idealia BB cream by Vichy or the Medium tint by Glossier on the areas that deserve a little extra attention (in my case I don’t apply it all over my face), a little bit of Stretch concealer by Glossier, the cushion blushes by Lancôme, and I can’t wait to test the Cloud Paints by Glossier that I am expecting soon. A little lip gloss and basta. A little bit of highlighter on my cheekbone (the one by Glossier or Multiple Copacabana by Nars). After exercise, I don’t want to cover my face, I want to enjoy my skin that has just breathed.
I/O: And for outside exercise?
LBC: The only exercise I perform outside is skiing, one time a year. However, if I have to practice yoga outside, I apply 50 SPF on my face. I pay close attention to the sun, as I am starting to have small pigmentation spots from UV rays. It is normal at my age and remains endearing. It is sunrays that stimulate them and I would like to avoid their progression.
I/O: A lifestyle or beauty ritual tied to exercise that you would like to share?
LBC: I recently discovered the brand Outdoor Voices in NYC. I did not know I could feel beautiful in athletic wear. When I look back at having spent my school years avoiding leggings and to indiscreetly attend gym class in my Doc Martens to drive my PE teachers crazy, who eventually kicked me out of class, all so I could avoid running in the square of my high school... This brand is amazing, the materials are incredible, the cuts beautiful and flattering, and I particularly love their communication that does not target sports but a variety of outside activities. Including dog walking. Additionally the brand, along with traditional models, has also made the choice to use women that don’t fit in the stereotypical image of a sports body: women with curves, imperfect silhouettes, all victorious. We need this! It is not possible to always be directed to one reference of beauty, which would be a mix of Elle McPherson and Kayla Itsines. After, the Kundalini yoga that I practice at a very complete level as it incorporates meditation, relaxing is a physical effort. Thus I do not need anything else. I daydream.