When it comes to skincare, there are a few things you know you absolutely don’t want to find on the ingredients list of your next product. Parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, coal tar dyes— and comedogenic ingredients.
You’ve no doubt seen “non-comedogenic” written on oil, moisturizer and cream bottles but perhaps you aren’t sure what it means (or how to pronounce it!). Well, it’s pronounced “comb-o-doe-genic” and we’re about to tell you everything you need to know about the term!
Understanding what comedones are and why you should avoid them is key to keeping your skin healthy, clear and glowing. To get you up to speed on all things comedogenic and non, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the skincare term.
A comedo is a single, skin-colored bump found on the skin, the plural for which is comedones. They appear most frequently on the forehead and chin of acne prone skin and can come in six variations.
Open comedones: Blackheads, or comedones with bacteria that has reached the surface of the skin and oxidized.
Closed comedones: Whiteheads, or comedones with bacteria that has reached the surface of the skin.
Solar comedones: Sun damage on facial skin of the elderly.
Microcomedones: Comedones too small to be visible by the naked eye.
Macrocomedones: Closed comedones that are bigger that 2-4mm in diameter.
Giant comedones: A comedone with a large, blackhead-like cyst (pro tip: don’t image Google search this one).
I told you not to...
An excess of sebum in your pores or a build-up of bacteria or dirt in your pores causes comedones to develop. Comedones are basically just the precursor to a regular old pimple or bout of acne.
Likewise, your skincare products can cause comedones because of the ingredients in them. Thus, they are comedogenic!
To help make sense of which skincare ingredients are comedogenic, top dermatological doctors and scientists have put together a ratings system for the most common oils, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, antioxidants, butters, waxes and herbs found in skincare products.
0 - Will Not Clog Pores
1 - Low
2 - Moderately Low
3 - Moderate
4 - Fairly High
5 - High probability it will clog pores
If you’re looking for a non-comedogenic product, meaning that it will not clog your pores, we suggest only using products with ingredients rated a 2 or lower. With that said, all skin is unique, meaning that everyone’s skin will react differently to these products and their ingredients.
For some, a product with a 2 rating on the comedogenic list will cause a major breakout while others can use a 4 rated product with no problems.
It’s always best to get bad news out of the way first, right? If you were wondering does cocoa butter clogs pores or does coconut oil clogs pores, the answer is an unfortunate but resounding: yes. Both have a 4 comedogenic rating which means if you have oily skin prone to breakouts you definitely avoid it for your facial skincare needs.
The fact that coconut oil is comedogenic is a major bummer, especially since we love to use it as an all-natural make-up remover, which puts the oil right near our sensitive eye area every night!
In a surprising turn of events, if you were wondering if other popular oils like caster oil or sesame oil clog pores, the answer is no! Both are non-comedogenic.
Now for some good news! There are so many wonderful natural oils that are non-comedogenic and have incredible nourishing skincare benefits and properties.
As you well know by now, we’re major proponents of using oils as a part of your daily skincare routine; this list is especially helpful for those struggling with acne or oil-prone skin who would still like to incorporate oils into their skincare routines.
Beeswax Comedogenic Rating: 2
Candelilla Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1
Carnuba Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1
Ceresin Wax Comedogenic Rating: 0
Emulsifying Wax NF Comedogenic Rating: 2
Lanolin Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1
Aloe Vera Gel Comedogenic Rating: 0
Calendula Comedogenic Rating: 1
Chamomile Comedogenic Rating: 2
Chamomile Extract Comedogenic Rating: 0
Cold Pressed Aloe Comedogenic Rating: 0
Flowers of Sulfur Comedogenic Rating: 0
Precipitated Sulfur Comedogenic Rating: 0
Talc Comedogenic Rating: 1
Zinc Stearate Comedogenic Rating: 0
Ascorbic Acid Comedogenic Rating: 0
Black Walnut Extract Comedogenic Rating: 0
Tocopherol (Vitamin E) Comedogenic Rating: 2
Vitamin A Palmitate Comedogenic Rating: 2
Panthenol Comedogenic Rating: 0
Now that you know which ingredients are safe for regular skincare use, the fun can begin— choosing products! Making your own skincare products is not only is it easy to do, it’s cost effective and allows you to control the ingredients.
*We subbed Shea butter from the coconut oil from the original recipe for obvious comedogenic reasons.
*We modified the original recipe by subbing apricot kernel oil for coconut oil to make it non comedogenic.
There is no official certification process for brands labeling their products “non comedogenic” in the same way there is no official process for labeling products “natural.” This means that any brand can label any of their products “non comedogenic” with literally no research done to back up the claim.
We’re not saying this to scare you or negate all the information we’ve just provided. It doesn’t mean all beauty brands are lying to you or manipulating you. It just means that you have to be extra careful when you’re buying products based on the label.
Always be sure you’re buying reputable brands from reputable websites and do your homework to find out why a certain product is labeled non comedogenic. Like we said previously, every person’s skin is unique, with different sensitivities to specific ingredients. What may be comedogenic to you may not affect someone else’s skin at all.
Additionally, many store bought products have more ingredients than just the oils, botanicals and waxes that have been rated. These ingredients could also affect your skin’s reaction to the product.
We believe it’s best to use the comedogenic rating system as a guide for your skincare shopping. Pay attention to which ingredients on the list are in your current skincare products and if they’re affecting your skin. As you introduce new products (either from a DIY or our curated list), make note of how your skin reacts over time. You’ll soon have your own custom non comedogenic list that will save your skin from here on out.
Also, if you get inspired to shop on your own after reading our list, we recommend you look carefully at all the ingredients before you purchase anything. For example, the ever-popular (and totally affordable) Trader Joe’s brand Vitamin E oil’s first ingredient is actually soybean oil (which has a comedogenic rating of 3) and also includes coconut oil (which we just sadly learned is comedogenic).