What Are Comedogenic Ingredients and How To Avoid Them in Your Makeup

different colors of eyeshadows

Cosmetics have many different ingredients in them, and not every brand uses the same ones. You may notice your skin has an adverse reaction when you use specific makeup. 

For those with sensitive skin or acne, you already know how careful you have to be with what products you use. Some formulations can cause a breakout or make you look greasy. 

You may have heard that you should only use non-comedogenic makeup. We are going to go over what makes something comedogenic and how to tell if it's in your makeup products. It is not as straightforward as you may think! We will also explore why you may want to avoid these ingredients.

What Are Comedogenic Ingredients?

A comedogenic ingredient is something that tends to clog your pores, which will potentially cause acne. The first part of the word, "comedo," is the earliest form of acne. It is an enlarged pore that is filled with sebum, dead skin cells, or bacteria.

By definition, a comedogenic ingredient causes cells to clump together, leading to a pimple. Scientific studies discovered these products were causing acne in the 1970s and '80s. They found that even acne treatment products had comedogenic ingredients in them, causing cosmetic acne. There are long lists of all the comedogenic ingredients to look out for when buying a new product. 

Even natural skincare and makeup can have these ingredients in them. Many natural products use oils like coconut, almond, or soybean oil, which are all comedogenic ingredients. 

You may unknowingly be using one of these comedogenic ingredients. There are over 120 of these pore-clogging ingredients in makeup and skincare products. It can be hard to tell what ingredients fall into this category, and a lot of people struggling with acne are applying them to their faces. You have to be extremely vigilant to avoid these products if you want to keep your skin clear. 

Some people won't experience breakouts from comedogenic ingredients. If you are not acne-prone, you may not be affected by these pore-cloggers. However, sensitivity varies, and acne-prone people are usually highly sensitive. 

HIDE premium products are oil-free and won't clog your pores. Even people with acne-prone skin can use our foundations and concealers. 

Degrees of Comedogenicity 

Some comedogenic ingredients are more pore-clogging than others. Comedogenicity refers to the degree that an ingredient can clog your pores. 

There are comedogenic ingredients on the higher and lower ends of the scale in terms of how likely they are to cause a breakout. People with acne-prone skin probably want to avoid all comedogenic ingredients. However, if you don't have sensitive skin, you may be able to use products with a lower degree of comedogenicity and not have any issues. 

There is an actual comedogenic scale that gives a numerical value to show an ingredient's pore-clogging potential. Depending on how acne-prone you are, you can draw your own conclusions on how likely you are to get a breakout based on the scale. 

The scale looks like this: 

  • 0: Not pore-clogging
  • 1: Low chance it's pore-clogging
  • 2: A somewhat low chance that it's pore-clogging
  • 3: Moderate chance that it's pore-clogging
  • 4: A somewhat high chance that it's pore-clogging
  • 5: A very high chance that it's pore-clogging

We won't go through all of the comedogenic ingredients, but let's go over some examples. Argan oil has a rating of 0, and more than likely, you won't end up with acne if you use a product with it in the ingredient list. Meanwhile, wheat germ oil has a rating of 5, which means you are highly likely to have clogged pores if you use it on your skin. 

It's also important to note that this comedogenic scale isn't 100% accurate, so you don’t always need to go by what it says. The scale isn't standardized and isn't widely accepted by every doctor and dermatologist. However, it can be a useful tool or jumping-off point. You may have to test out a product to see how your skin reacts. 

How To Test Products and Treat Acne 

If you're unsure if a product is going to cause acne, you can do a test. You choose an area of your skin and apply the product daily for a few weeks to this one area. If your skin has an adverse reaction or breakout, you have your answer. You can then apply it to your whole face and see how it goes. 

You don't have to do the patch test on your face if you don't want to risk having a pimple. You can use a patch of skin somewhere else, like on your chest or your back. Still apply the product for two weeks to see how your skin reacts.  

How To Treat Your Acne

If a patch test causes acne, or you use a product all over your face and end up with a breakout, you can take steps to help clear your skin. 

There are a number of acne-fighting ingredients that may be beneficial. Benzoyl peroxide works well for some people and has a low risk of irritating your skin. Salicylic acid and glycolic acid can penetrate your pores and break up blackheads. Another option is retinoids, which you can get over-the-counter or a prescription from a dermatologist. 

There are also treatments that can be done by a skin care professional. You may find facials and laser treatments very beneficial. A dermatologist can help create a skincare routine to fit your skin needs. 

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean?

You may see some products labeled non-comedogenic, and you may think, great, it won't clog my pores. However, the FDA doesn't regulate the use of this term or what companies use it, meaning it doesn't always mean there are no comedogenic ingredients present. 

Generally, non-comedogenic ingredients won't clog your pores. Some of the ingredients fall on the comedogenic ingredients scale, but they have to be two or less to be considered non-comedogenic. 

HIDE products are oil-free and most people don't have issues with it clogging their pores. HIDE Premium Foundation is lightweight and breathable and is formulated not to clog your pores. 

Some products can claim to be non-comedogenic but still have some ingredients that break you out. It's more of an honor system with cosmetic companies. If you want to be extra cautious, you can compare the ingredients to the list of comedogenic ingredients. 

For most people, ingredients on the low end of the scale won't cause any issues, but this isn't true for everyone. Even dermatologists can struggle to predict how people's skin will react to certain ingredients. Everyone's skin is different and will react in different ways. The best thing you can do is do a patch test to see if a product is going to cause a breakout. 

Non-Comedogenic Is the Way To Go

You may want to avoid comedogenic ingredients since they can clog your pores. There are a lot of comedogenic ingredients used in skincare and cosmetics, so you may already be applying them to your skin daily. If you're not acne-prone, you may have no issues with these ingredients. 

People with acne-sensitive skin generally experience breakouts when they use comedogenic ingredients. However, all comedogenic ingredients aren't the same, and some are more likely to cause more problems than others. You may have to do a patch test to see how your skin reacts. 

HIDE premium products are oil-free and shouldn't cause you to break out, even if you have acne-prone skin!


Comedogenicity and Irritacy of Commonly Use Ingredients | Acne Research Institute 

Noncomedogenic: What It Means, Ingredients, and Products |Healthline 

Acne Treatments That Work | Web MD