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Comedogenic Ingredients In Cosmetics: Full List With Explanations

Updated on July 16, 2017
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Shushanik is always looking for ways to improve her skin and get rid of problems. She loves sharing her findings with her readers.

A lot of cosmetic products contain comedogenic ingredients (i.e., pore clogging and contributing to breakouts). These ingredients not only clog pores, but create or further strengthen the already existing irritation, only worsening the condition of your skin. Masking acne with cosmetics further aggravates the course of acne. Even products marketed as "anti-acne" or "acne-fighting": cleansers, lotions, creams, powders etc. often contain comedogenic ingredients.

Non-comedogenic Label Is Another Cosmetics Myth

When buying decorative cosmetics and skin care products for acne-prone skin many people rely on the labels “non-comedogenic” and “non-acnegenic”. Such labels are ofetn seen on water-based or oil-free products. However, labels “water-based” and “oil-free” do not necessarily mean that cosmetics is non-comedogenic.

The myth has long been rooted that moisturizers for normal and dry skin are absolutely not suitable for combined and oily skin, and only oil-free gels and fluids can serve as moisture suppliers for oily skin. Often the phrase “oil-free” makes those who have oily skin and enlarged pores buy cosmetics that actually clogs pores even more!

Should you rely on this label? No! The phrases “non-comedogenic” and “non-acnegenic” are a set of meaningless words, which cosmetic industry uses to indicate that the product is less likely to cause breakouts. Absolutely any cosmetic product can have such a label because in cosmetic industry there is no single standard for assigning the non-comedogenic category to any product; there is simply no classification to give such a marking. This is just another cosmetic myth about acne.

Cosmetic industry uses over 50,000 various ingredients, and no cosmetic preparation can be considered as 100% non-comedogenic because different skin reacts to each ingredient in a different way.

Can Cosmetics Cause Acne?

Comedogenicity is a characteristics of cosmetic products that determines their ability to cause comedone formation, that is, in one way or another, contaminate and clog skin pores. Comedogenicity of the same cosmetic product can be different for different people, under different circumstances and conditions of application. Because of this, it is impossible to say with certainty that a product called comedogenic for one person will be just as harmful to another.

Besides there is no consensus on the mechanism of cosmetic ingredients comedogeniсity. There is a version that some ingredients clog pores, creating a wrapping film that prevents skin from “breathing”. Also, appearance of comedones can be the result of the reaction of a certain skin type to any irritating ingredients contained in the product (and as a result - increased sebum secretion and keratinization processes leading to pore clogging). According to the third version, comedogenic substances affect the structure of duct lining (epithelium), disrupting the normal process of its exfoliation; in this version formation of a film on skin surface is irrelevant. Moreover, between substances with a similar structure, the one that penetrates the skin better is considered more comedogenic.

Cosmetics Ingredients That Are Most Often Comedogenic

1. Emulsifiers, Thickeners, Emollients

Those who have oily skin have the most frequent complaints on the comedogenicity of emulsifiers, thickeners (such as triglycerides, myristates and palmitates) and emollients (oils, lanolin and its derivatives) contained in creams (especially for dry skin care). However, such ingredients can benefit dry skin, not prone to acne.

2. Red Pigments

If your skin is sensitive to red pigments, you should avoid blushers and bronzers, rich in these ingredients.

3. Hair Care Products

Avoid hair-styling products and hair conditioners, which can leave a non-permeable, waterproof film on hair surface, especially if your hair often touches your face. When taking shower, try to ensure that the conditioner does not get on the face when washing your hair.

Cosmetics Ingredients That Are Rarely Comedogenic

1. Products of Oil Refining (Mineral Oil, Petrolatum etc.)

There is a lot of discussion about petroleum products: petrolatum, paraffin, mineral oil, fatty acids and fatty alcohols, which are often used in cosmetic emulsions as emulsifiers and stabilizers, without them stable emulsion can’t be achieved.

Mineral oil and petrolatum used in cosmetics are among the safest ingredients, since they are incredibly rare to cause skin irritation. Yes, to some extent they envelop the skin with a protective film, but they do not block skin respiration and do not clog pores. Moreover, mineral oil and petrolatum are effective in wound healing and are among the best moisturizers.

Negative attitude to mineral oil is also fueled by advertising tactics of cosmetic companies that disseminate information about poor-quality raw or poorly refined mineral oil used in cosmetic products. Mineral oil used in skin care products is certified as USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or BP (British Pharmacopeia), these types of mineral oil are safe and do not irritate the skin, but rather soothe it.

2. Silicones

These substances are often part of the foundations and makeup bases, since they allow you to distribute the foundation evenly on the skin surface. The degree of their comedogenicity is in question, since many silicones are quite volatile and porous substances still allowing the pores to “breathe”.

Full List Of Comedogenic Ingredients

  • Acetylated Lanolin
  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
  • Algae Extract
  • Algin
  • Bismuth oxychloride
  • Butyl Stearate
  • Carrageenan
  • Cetyl Acetate
  • Cetearyl Alcohol + Ceteareth 20
  • Chondrus Crispus (aka Irish Moss or Carageenan Moss)
  • Chlorella
  • Coal Tar
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coconut Alkanes
  • Coconut Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Colloidal Sulfur
  • Cotton Awws Oil
  • Cotton Seed Oil
  • Crisco
  • D & C Red # 17
  • D & C Red # 21
  • D & C Red # 3
  • D & C Red # 30
  • D & C Red # 36
  • Decyl Oleate
  • Dioctyl Succinate
  • Disodium Monooleamido PEG 2- Sulfosuccinate
  • Ethoxylated Lanolin
  • Ethylhexyl Palmitate
  • Glyceryl Stearate SE
  • Glyceryl-3 Diisostearate
  • Hexadecyl Alcohol
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
  • Isocetyl Alcohol
  • Isocetyl Stearate
  • Isodecyl Oleate
  • Isopropyl Isostearate
  • Isopropyl Linolate
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Isostearyl Acid
  • Isostearyl Isostearate
  • Isostearyl Neopentanoate
  • Kelp
  • Laminaria Digitata Extract
  • Laminaria Saccharina Extract (Laminaria Saccharine)
  • Lanolic Acid
  • Laureth-23
  • Laureth-4
  • Lauric Acid
  • Linseed Oil
  • Mink Oil
  • Myreth 3 Myrstate
  • Myristic Acid
  • Myristyl Lactate
  • Myristyl Myristate
  • Octyl Palmitate
  • Octyl Stearate
  • Oleic Acid
  • Oleth-3
  • Oleyl Alcohol
  • PEG 16 Lanolin
  • PEG 200 Dilaurate
  • PEG 8 Stearate
  • PG Monostearate
  • PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate
  • Plankton
  • Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate
  • Red Algae
  • Salt (Table Salt or Sodium Chloride)
  • Seaweed
  • Sea Whip Extract
  • Shark Liver Oil (Squalene)
  • Shea Butter
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Solulan 16
  • Sorbitan Oleate
  • Sorbitan Sesquinoleate
  • Soybean Oil
  • Spirulina
  • Steareth 10
  • Stearic Acid Tea
  • Stearyl Heptanoate
  • Sulfated Castor Oil
  • Sulfated Jojoba Oil
  • Syearyl Heptanoate
  • Wheat Germ Glyceride
  • Wheat Germ Oil
  • Xylene

How To Choose Non-comedogenic Products

What is important is not the presence of certain comedogenic agents in the cream, but their quantity. If they are at the end of ingredients list, that means that their content is very small, and so is the problem. If they are on the first, second or third place, the risk is much greater. For more detailed information on how to check cosmetics for pore clogging ingredients, watch the video below.


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