How do you know if a skin care or makeup product will help or harm acne prone skin? The answer is not in the front of the product label (where all the high-flying claims are) but at the back of the label (where the ingredient list is).
That, and two words: comedogenic and non-comedogenic.
A comedogenic ingredient can block the tiny pores in the skin. Blocked pores can develop into red, swollen pimples.
A non-comedogenic ingredient does not block skin’s pores.
You want to choose products that contain only non-comedogenic ingredients and no comedogenic ones.
When you know what kind of ingredients a product contains, you can stop talking in vague terms like “it suits my skin” or “it doesn’t agree with my skin” etc.
There is no real mystery behind whether or not a product will cause pimples. Products with comedogenic ingredients continue to cause pimples on acne prone skin across all nationalities and genders, with alarming regularity.
A product does not have to be loaded with many different comedogenic ingredients in order to cause or aggravate pimples. Just one comedogenic ingredient is enough to do that.
Does it mean that eliminating all comedogenic products and switching to non-comedogenic ones will stop pimples? In many cases, yes. You will definitely see fewer pimples and unless there are serious underlying issues, your skin will clear up entirely.
Even if the cause of acne is hormonal imbalance, allergies, nutritional deficiency or heredity, continuing to use comedogenic products will make any medications you might be taking to control acne, less effective. So you will continue to see new pimples, and the skin will never clear up completely. Then you will wonder why your acne medication isn’t working.
If you are still getting breakouts while being on acne medication, you need to turn a critical eye toward your skin care and makeup stash, including face wash, moisturizer, face pack, shaving cream, sunscreen, toner, scrub, foundation and face powder.
Choose products that show the full list of ingredients on their label (and not just key ingredients) and test the ingredient list for comedogenic stuff before buying.
Creams, lotions and oils are frequently comedogenic. Gels are generally safer. An oil-free label is not enough to make a product non-comedogenic as some of the non-oil ingredients in it might be comedogenic.
Pore-clogging action also depends on the severity of acne. If your skin does not break out at the drop of a hat (Acne Prone Skin Type 1 or 2), you may still be able to use mildly comedogenic products without breaking out.
Skingredients is a free online tool that anyone can use to find out if a skin care or makeup product contains comedogenic ingredients. All you need to do is type in or copy paste a comma-separated list of ingredients (usually found on review websites or online shops) and press a button.
There is also a phone app version of Skingredients which allows you to take a photo of a product’s ingredient list and tells you whether or not it is comedogenic.
Given below is a list of some of the commonly found comedogenic ingredients. You can use this list, but Skingredients has a much larger database which will give you finer results.
- Isopropyl isostearate
- Isopropyl myristate
- Myristyl myristate
- Coconut butter
- Coconut oil
- Acetylated lanolin
- Acetylated lanolin alcohol
- Lauric acid
- Isopropyl palmitate
- Isostearyl isostearate
- Myristyl lactate
- Stearyl heptanoate
- Cetearyl alcohol + ceteareth 20
- Cocoa butter
- Mink oil
- Soybean oil
- Shark liver oil
- D&C red #30
- Stearic acid
- Myristic acid
- Buytl stearate
- Decyl oleate
- Isostearyl neopentanoate
- Glyceryl stearate SE
- Wheat germ glyceride
- Wheat germ oil
- Cocoa butter
- Almond oil
- Corn oil
- Corn starch
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil
- Sandalwood oil
- Castor oil
- Shea butter
- Sesame oil
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (highly comedogenic – different from Sodium Laureth Sulphate which is mildly comedogenic)
- Bismuth oxychloride
- Avocado oil
- Ethylhexyl palmitate (common ingredient in BB creams)