<< Back to blog home

Comedogenic, Explained

“Non-comedogenic.” We see that on labels all the time, but what does that really mean. At this point, it’s more like skincare jargon than anything else. I didn’t really understand it, but I knew that it was a good thing. Well, we’re going to break down what comedogenic and non-comedogenic mean for you and your skin so you don’t have to keep wondering.

Comedones are pimples, quite simply, clogged pores. Pores become clogged when excess oil and dead skin builds up around the hair follicle in the pore, causing what we lovingly refer to as zits and blackheads. When a product is “comedogenic,” that means it may clog your pores. From this, one can deduce that when a product claims to be “non-comedogenic,” it won’t plug your pore. But it’s not all either-or. There are levels to comedogenic ingredients where they are rated on a scale from 0 to 5, 0 being the least likely to clog pores and 5 highly likely to cause a blockage.

So, if a product claims that it “won’t clog pores” or to be “non-comedogenic” you just have to take that at face value, right? Wrong. This is where your ingredients come in. If you really want to know just how a product will do a number on your pores (good or bad), take a look at the label. If a product is fragrance-free, that’s a good thing! We all love to smell fresh as a daisy, but oftentimes, fragrances and essential oils can be highly comedogenic. Also be on the lookout for the more fatty ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, coconut oil and palm oil (just a few examples, but you can find a very comprehensive list here).

Debunking another comedogenic myth up in here: just because something is “oil-free” doesn’t make it more or less comedogenic than a product with oil. There are so many great oils out there that are non-comedogenic or very low on the scale. If you’re looking at ingredients, be on the lookout for rosehip seed oil, safflower oil, meadowfoam seed oil, and hemp seed oil–to name a few. To be transparent, I spent years only buying products that said “oil-free” and “acne-fighting” when I was actually just stripping my skin, making it worse. It wasn’t until I started using rosehip seed oil that my skin leveled out. Believe me, I know it seems counterintuitive to put oil on oily or acne-prone skin, but non-comedogenic oils can actually help with acne!

“Non-comedogenic” is a pretty fast and loose term mostly used for marketing purposes. If you really want to know if something will or won’t clog your pores, take a deep dive into your ingredients and familiarize yourself with what works for your skin. A good place to start is Rate Your Routine. Simply copy and past your ingredients and we’ll tell you which ingredients are comedogenic, so you can be in the know about which to avoid in future skincare purchases. Happy hunting!

Photo via ITG

Can't get enough of us?

Sign up for dewy, scam-free, au natural skincare knowledge to your inbox every week.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.