The term “Comedo” as defined by dermatologists, is a clogged pore in skin. Sebum and debris can clog your pores that result in whiteheads, blackheads, and acne.
Products labeled as non-comedogenic mean they are least likely to promote clogging of pores.
Studies on Comedogenicity
The earliest experiment on comedogenicity was conducted on a rabbit ear. This study was called the “rabbit’s ear assay”. Rabbit ears are more sensitive to the formation of comedones, compared to human skin.
This means that an ingredient that is non-comedogenic on rabbit ears should pose lower chances of comedogenicity on humans.
One of the results of this study is the comedogenicity scale. This measures the likeliness of ingredients to clog pores from a rate of 0 to 5, 5 being the most likely to cause comedones. Anything with ratings of 0, 1, or 2 are generally considered non-comedogenic. You should definitely avoid anything higher than that to prevent breakouts.
We’ve also written an in-depth article on non-comedogenic oils and the comedogenic scale. You can read about them here.
Who Should Use These?
Any skin type can benefit from non-pore clogging skin care products. But those with oily and acne-prone skin will benefit most from non-comedogenic products.
Is Non-Comedogenic the Same as Oil-Free?
If you have oily and acne-prone skin, then products labeled as both oil-free and non-comedogenic are ideal.
Oil-free products have a lighter formula, making them suitable for oily skin types.
Non-comedogenic means it doesn’t clog pores. Oil-free skincare doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t clog your pores though.
Can Non-Comedogenic Products Cause Acne?
Many creams and moisturizers can claim they are non-comedogenic but can still cause acne. The rule of thumb is the thicker the formulation, the more likely it is to cause a pimple.
Go for skincare products that have gel or liquid consistencies, are water based, or are lightweight in texture.
However, the feel of a product is not always a definitive indication of whether it is comedogenic or not. There are still greasy-feeling ones that don’t contain comedogenic ingredients too.
The next best thing to do is read the label.
How Do You Know If a Product is Non-Comedogenic?
With competitive advertising, consumers are more cautious when choosing their skin care products. A common question asked is: How do you know for sure if it is indeed a non-comedogenic makeup product? moisturizer? cleanser? What are the criteria?
The first thing you need to do is go beyond the label, and then head to the ingredients list.
Ingredients You Should Look for
If you have mild acne, these are beneficial ingredients to look out for:
- benzoyl peroxide
- salicylic acid
Not all oils clog your pores. Here are some oils that can still keep dry skin plump, and oily skin acne-free:
- grapeseed oil
- sunflower oil
- neem oil
- sweet almond oil
- hemp seed oil
For a complete list and breakdown of non pore-clogging face oils, then check out our Non-Comedogenic Oils article.
Exfoliants, Acids, and Others
Fragrance-free ingredients also prevent the likelihood of pimples:
- glycolic acid
- hyaluronic acid
- witch hazel
Ingredients You Should Avoid
You should shy away from greasy comedogenic ingredients like:
- jojoba oil
- olive oil
- avocado oil
Other ingredients that clog pores are:
- isopropyl myristate
- isopropyl palmitate
- ethylhexyl palmitate
- propylene glycol-2 (PPG-2) myristyl propionate
- acetylated lanolin
- artificial colors like D & C red dyes
Do Non-Comedogenic Products Guarantee Unclogged Pores?
It’s important first to understand the causes of acne. Acne breakouts usually erupt when oil, hair follicle, and dead skin cells get clogged up in pores. This creates a surface for bacteria already on the skin to spread.
Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy also have the tendency to make your skin oily. They say certain foods are also sources of breakouts, although not fully proven yet.
The ultimate goal is to avoid pore blockages with the help of a product. But just because a product is labeled non-comedogenic, does not mean it cannot cause comedones. It just means it’s less likely.
Results will differ in every person. So the answer to this question is: No, not one product can fully guarantee or promise claims to not clog pores regardless of skin type.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration) vs. "Noncomedogenic"
We always want to make sure of the information provided by manufacturers about the formulations and benefits of their products. However, there still is one catch: There are no federal regulations or rules from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) about the use of the word “noncomedogenic”.
A lot of people rely on the comedogenicity rating scale. This; however, is not standardized, thus cannot provide us with the absolute truth. Instead, companies rely on a host of dermatology studies. As mentioned earlier, products have been tested on rabbit ears.
But many consumers nowadays reject the use of animals for testing and prefer cruelty-free beauty products. If this is a concern for you, you’ll be glad to learn that more and more companies have stopped testing on animals now.
We also have to note though, that these studies are also not medically standardized. Researchers have different ways to count comedones caused by the product being tested.
What are Recommended Products to Use?
Being new to the non-comedogenic scene can leave you a little overwhelmed with where to start and which products to try.
There is a broad range of non-comedogenic products in the market so we’ll share with you our own best picks if you’re feeling extra curious. These include:
Be sure to check each of these out if you’re serious about investing in the right non-comedogenic skincare for your skin.
Aside from noncomedogenic foundation, sunscreen, and moisturizer, there are also noncomedogenic primers and concealers. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed though. We’ve also got the best picks for these to guide you in the selection process.
To put it simply, non-comedogenic means non-pore clogging. As beneficial as this definition may sound, it doesn’t really have to mean anything to some companies. It is often an advertisement strategy.
A product that has comedogenic ingredients isn’t bad in itself. It can be a good choice for those with dry skin who aren’t prone to acne. Every skin type reacts differently to different products.
Choosing your products wisely would need a lot of research on skincare ingredients, rather than just looking at the product’s packaging. You can also read on a lot of user reviews.
If you’re still unsure, you might as well do a patch test on your own. For more safety, you can seek a dermatologist for advice.
Did we answer your questions? If you have anything to add and share, feel free to leave your comments below!