What does ‘non-comedogenic’ actually mean?

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When it comes to acne-prone skin, many of us look to fill our routines with products that are going to prevent and reduce breakouts. However, one person’s miracle product can be another’s skin care nightmare. 

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The formulation of products don’t tend to react the same on all skin types, and so, as a blanket rule for blemished or oily skin, we’re often told to stick to “non-comedogenic” products. 

Sure enough, a lot of brands will do the hard work for you and label their products as “non-comedogenic” but what on earth does it actually mean?

What does non-comedogenic mean?

‘Comedo’ is the name of a type of pimple that results from clogged pores. And so, in short, a non-comedogenic product is referring to something that won’t clog pores and therefore won’t cause these types of pimples or blackheads. 

However, this doesn’t mean that all products claiming to be “non-comedogenic” will work for every skin type. It’s still important to do your research on your own skin needs and assess accordingly. 

The concept of comedogenics came about during the same time as acne cosmetica. Acne cosmetica refers to the theory that people who are already acne-prone skin are further inducing breakouts by clogging their pores with makeup and other creams. 

Some of the most common comedogenic ingredients are: 

Coconut Oil:

Often found in natural skin care, this is a great ingredient if you have really dry skin or are not prone to acne breakouts whatsoever.

A hero in the natural skincare world, this ingredient does have it’s benefits, however, it’s scientifically and clinically shown to be highly pore-clogging for acneic skin.

Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate:

Just before you go in search of every ‘oil-free’ product on the market, you will want to check for emulsifying agents at the same time.

These are used to mimic the consistency of oil-based products and Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate is one of the more common highly comedogenic emulsifying agents found in cosmetics.

Isopropyl myristate:

This ingredient sits at a ranking of 5/5 on the comedogenic scale.

Found in both skincare and makeup it is commonly used as a thickener or lubricant. 

Non-comedogenic products bh loves: QV Face Cleansing WipesLa Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid SPF 50+ Facial Sunscreen,  Rodan + Fields Active Hydration SerumBIODERMA Sensibio H2OCLINIQUE Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Foundation

Main image credit: @summerfridays

Do you use non-comedogenic products? If not, will you start?

Share your thoughts

Comments 48

  1. Don’t even bother with The Body Shop I’ve sent numerous emails even contacted them on Instagram etc to be told “were on this” but no answer SINCE FEBUARY no one at that company knows what non comedogenic products they have.

  2. Thank God for this article!! and to think all I was looking for was ‘oil-free’ on the label! Now I know better and I’ll be keeping an eye out for these other very anti-skin ingredients. Luckily I was never a fan of coconut oil in my food or skincare… phew for that

  3. I didn’t look into the science but there is a comedogenic rating scale 0-5 and coconut sits at around 4. Oils like sunflower, hemp and argan (and no doubt many more) are not comedogenic at all (sweet almonda and jojoba are 2)

  4. I don’t have sensitive skin so have used things like coconut oil, shea butter and other heavier skincare products on my face without any side effects. With makeup though, I am a bit more careful as I find ingredients in makeup seems to be a lot harsher (or maybe it’s the combination of ingredients together), so I do keep an eye out for non-comedogenic makeup lines.

  5. I have some bumps under the skin that won’t go away despite me using ingredients such as glycolic acid etc. It is possible that their cause is the coconut oil and similar products when I was younger.

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