Unless you’re one of those incredible unicorns who just has perfect, unclogged, teeny tiny little pores, you’ve probably had the experience of looking in a magnifying mirror and thinking, “NO!!!!!!” Yes, there’s a lot going on in those pores that can make our skin look dull, lifeless, and sometimes, downright unclean. One way to combat that is to make sure you’re using products with non-comedogenic ingredients.
For that reason, in this article, we’ll talk about what non-comedogenic means, why it’s important, seven benefits of using non-comedogenic ingredients, the comedogenic scale and how it works, ingredients that score high on the comedogenic scale and some alternative, non-comedogenic ingredients, what skin types should stay away from non-comedogenic ingredients, and answer some frequently asked questions about non-comedogenic ingredients!
What does non-comedogenic mean?
While non-comedogenic sounds like a bit of a fancy term, it’s actually a pretty simple principle: Anything that can be classified as non-comedogenic is thought not to clog pores.
Yup, that’s basically it! So why does that matter?
Why is non-comedogenic so important?
If you’re conscientious about taking care of your skin, you probably know that the cleaner and more free of dirt and oil your skin is, the healthier it will not only look, but feel. By making sure you’re not clogging up those pores to begin with, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of making sure your skin looks its best.
But what if I have great skin? Do I even need to worry about this?
Think of it this way: Let’s say you go to your dentist and she tells you that your teeth are the most beautiful, clean, perfect, cavity-free teeth she’s ever seen in her life. That doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to go out and start eating a bunch of sugar. In fact, the more vigilant you stay about those beauties, the better off you’ll be!
7 Benefits of Using Non-Comedogenic Ingredients
One of the best things about making sure you’re not using non-comedogenic ingredients is that you can really see the results of avoiding them, especially if you have particularly sensitive skin.
Here are seven benefits of using non-comedogenic ingredients:
- Non-comedogenic ingredients help smooth the skin. Clogged pores often mean rough, uneven skin that doesn’t take moisturizer or make-up well.
- Non-comedogenic ingredients help reduce the appearance of dullness. Dirty, clogged skin rarely looks vibrant;non-comedogenic products can help that.
- Non-comedogenic products help restore skin’s natural glow. Of course, just getting rid of dullness isn’t enough--if you’re like most people you want your skin to really shine! We don’t know about you, but we’ve never seen clogged pores glow which is why you really want to look for non-comedogenic ingredients!
- Non-comedogenic products renew the look of beautiful skin. You’d never cover up a cute outfit with an ugly coat--why cover up good, healthy skin with ingredients that will clog it all up?
- Non-comedogenic ingredients help reduce the visibility of aging. Fine lines and wrinkles look even more pronounced when they’re dirty. Keep skin free of dirt and grime and you’ll help keep it young looking.
- Non-comedogenic ingredients help maintain an even skin appearance. Different areas of the face are more prone to clogged pores than others (e.g. your nose area may become more clogged than your forehead). By making sure your pores are clear, you’ll create a more even skin tone.
- Non-comedogenic products make skin maintenance much easier. Keep your skin nice and clear of dirt and gunk and you won’t have to work as hard to make it look great when you really want it to!
What is the comedogenic scale?
Just as some ingredients are more potent than others, not all comedogenic ingredients are as apt to cause clogged pores as others. That’s why the comedogenic scale was constructed. The comedogenic scale shows how high or low the likelihood is that an ingredient will cause clogged pores. The ingredients are rated on a scale from zero to 5, zero meaning it’s an ingredient that will not clog pores, 5 meaning it’s an ingredient that is highly likely to clog pores.
For example, sunflower oil, which is an ingredient used in our Crème de la Cream moisturizer, has a zero rating, meaning it won’t clog pores, but something like wheat germ oil (which isn’t in any of our products), has a 5 rating, meaning there’s a high likelihood it will cause clogged pores.
That said, it’s probably best to think of the comedogenic scale as a guide and not necessarily a final word on the comedogenicity of a certain ingredient or ingredients. That’s because the comedogenic scale doesn’t take into consideration things like individual skin types or whether the comedogenicity of an ingredient changes when mixed or diluted with other ingredients.
Also, although most comedogenic scales rate most ingredients within the same ballpark, not every comedogenic scale rates every ingredient with the exact same comedogenicity rating. For those reasons, it’s important to take the comedogenic scale with a grain of salt.
What are some common comedogenic ingredients? And why would they even be used in skincare products if they’re so bad?
That’s a great question! The funny thing about comedogenic ingredients is that they can be very effective when added to some skin care products. The problem is that they can also be very detrimental. Yes, they’ll make your skin feel soft, but they may be clogging up your pores at the same time.
Here are ten examples of some common comedogenic ingredients often used in skin care products and what they’re generally used for. We’ve included their ratings on the comedogenic scale, but remember, some scales differ so it’s possible these ratings vary a bit, depending on the scale you’re using!
- Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol (Rating: 4) - Usually used in products to soften skin
- Laureth 4 (Rating 5) - Usually used on the skin as an emulsifier
- Propylene Glycol Monostearate (Rating 4) - Used to pull moisture to the skin
- Isopropyl Myristate (Rating 5) - Usually used to help lock moisture in the skin
- Lauric Acid (Rating 4) - Usually used to renew the look of beautiful skin
- Mink Oil (Rating 3) - Usually used to moisturize the skin
- Oleth-3 (Rating 5) - Usually used to help water wash away dirt and oil
- Sodium Chloride (Rating 5) - Usually used to help exfoliate the skin
- Wheat Germ Oil (Rating 5) - Usually used to help protect the skin from environmental stressors
- Coconut Oil (Rating 4) - Used to moisturize and lessen the appearance of temporary redness. We do actually use it in our So Clean! Natural Facial Cleanser to help keep it from drying out your skin. Because it’s in a cleanser that gets rinsed off, it is less likely to clog your pores.
This is just a very small sampling of comedogenic ingredients, which is why it’s so crucial to check the ingredients in your skin care.
Although many comedogenic ingredients perform their jobs well, there are plenty of other, less or non-comedogenic ingredients that do the same thing. Here are some examples of ingredients with low- or non-comedogenicity that really get the job done--the next time you’re shopping for skin care, be on the lookout for them!
- Aloe vera (Rating 0) - Aloe vera is a wonderful natural ingredient that both soothes and moisturizes the skin.
- Castor oil (Rating 0-1) - Castor oil is a wonderfully effective humectant, drawing moisture from the air to hydrate the skin.
- Grapeseed Oil (Rating 1) - Grapeseed oil is great for improving skin tone and protecting against environmental stressors.
- Rosehip Oil (Rating 1) - Roseship oil is a wonderful way to hydrate and smooth skin, which is why we use it in our toner!
- Green tea (Rating 1) - Green tea is full of antioxidants that help defend skin against environmental stressors.
- Sunflower oil (Rating 0) - Sunflower oil helps keep moisture locked into the skin, keeping it hydrated and supple. You’ll find it in our Crème de la Cream moisturizer and our Eyes Eyes Baby eye cream!
- Squalane (Rating 1) - Squalane helps balance the oils in your skin, which is why we’ve included it in our Prince Charcoal Natural Detox Mask.
- Shea butter (Rating 0) - Shea butter is incredible for softening and soothing skin.
- Safflower Seed Oil (Rating 0) - Antioxidant that protects skin from environmental stressors and hydrates skin.
- Pomegranate Fruit Extract (Rating 1) - Pomegranate fruit extract creates the appearance of a brighter, smoother complexion
Which skin types should look out for comedogenic ingredients?
While comedogenic ingredients aren’t exactly great for anyone, they do affect certain skin types more than others. Here are some skin types that should really be aware of whether or not they’re using comedogenic ingredients:
- Oily skin - Use comedogenic ingredients on oily skin and you’ll likely just be making a bad problem worse. Oily skins in particular really need to make sure they’re not clogging their already-prone-to-clogging pores even more than they would be naturally!
- People in their 20s and 30s - Believe it or not, your hormones at this age are still adjusting a bit which means skin can be very unpredictable. Even if you have relatively stable skin, at this age, you want to be sure you’re not using a lot of comedogenic products.
- Skin with uneven texture - If you have skin with uneven texture, chances are, some of that is being caused by clogged pores. Make sure you’re not worsening your skin’s texture by using comedogenic products.
- Skin that wears a lot of make-up on a frequent basis - Where to even start with this one? Make-up in and of itself can be full of comedogenic ingredients that stuff up those pores. Adding skin care products that do the same is like asking for difficult skin.
- Sensitive skin - Part of what makes sensitive skin so difficult to take care of is its lack of predictability. You just never know what’s going to set it off. Do yourself a favor and give your skin every shot at looking great by not using comedogenic products.
- Dry skin - You might think that dry skin wouldn’t have to worry as much about comedogenic ingredients, but in fact, using pore-clogging ingredients on dry skin means a lot of dirt and oil sitting on top of the skin, preventing moisturizer from penetrating the skin. It’s not a terrible idea for those with dry (or older) skin to check the skincare they’re using for comedogenic ingredients.
- Dull skin - One of the best ways to really make dull, lifeless skin glow with radiance is to make sure it’s super clean and its pores are free of dirt and oil. Putting comedogenic products on already lackluster skin will only make sure it stays that way.
Frequently Asked Questions About Non-Comedogenic Ingredients
Is non-comedogenic the same as oil-free?
Not necessarily. Some oils are non-comedogenic like sunflower oil, castor oil, and rosehip seed oil. As long as an oil (or any ingredient) doesn’t clog pores, it’s considered non-comedogenic.
Are all natural ingredients non-comedogenic?
Interestingly, no. There are many natural ingredients like wheat germ oil that rate a 5 on the comedogenic scale, meaning they are thought to be likely to clog pores. That’s why it’s so important to check your skin care ingredients!
Are all comedogenic products bad for the skin?
Not all comedogenic ingredients are bad for the skin. Some skins have no issue with ingredients like wheat germ oil and cocoa butter that rate high on the comedogenic scale.
That said, when in doubt, it’s much better to play it safe with ingredients that are either not on the comedogenic scale or score very, very low on it.
How do I know if an ingredient is non-comedogenic?
Back in the 1970s, a dermatologist developed a scale to determine whether or not an ingredient was comedogenic. Although that scale, which measures ingredients on a scale of 0 (low or no comedogenicity) to 5 (high comedogenicity), is still used today, many feel it needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it doesn’t take into consideration factors like individual skin type.
That said, it’s still very useful as a guide for understanding the potential divide between ingredients with no comedogenicity and those with very high comedogenicity.
Can a non-comedogenic product cause breakouts?
Yes. We’d love nothing more than to tell you it won’t but since all skin is different, and reacts to different ingredients differently, it’s impossible to say any ingredient can’t cause breakouts. That said, looking for skincare that contains all or mostly non-comedogenic ingredients, is sort of like buying a lottery ticket that already has four of the five winning numbers.