- Comedogenic ratings are helpful but don't forget that they are approximate.
- Acne breakout is not the same as a comedogenic breakout; they look different, and they are caused by other ingredients that react to a specific skin type.
- Don't be scared if you see a product formulated that includes comedogenic oils as well. If they are listed at the end of the ingredients INCI, they are in low concentration, making the product not particularly comedogenic.
- Thick oils do not always equal high comedogenicity.
WHAT IS NON COMEDOGENIC SKINCARE?
In a nutshell, non-comedogenic skincare is a cosmetic formulated with ingredients that don't clog pores and lead to blackheads, whiteheads or breakouts.
So the logic goes - the more comedogenic ingredients in a skincare product, the higher the chance to break out, especially if you are prone to acne or have oily skin. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it's not quite that simple.
This article wants to share our findings and recommendations, hoping to help you identify how to avoid breakouts using the wrong facial oil or skincare product.
Let's dig more on:
- The difference between acnegenic and comedogenic ingredients
- Why the concentration and combination of comedogenic ingredients is so important in any skincare products
- Two key Fatty Acids and their role in skincare and comedogenicity
- How to pick the correct non-comedogenic skincare by skin type
- A comprehensive list of natural skincare ingredients (wholesome and naturally derived) and their tentative comedogenic classification
- How to evaluate if a cosmetic is comedogenic from the label
WHY COMEDIGENICITY RATINGS ARE APPROXIMATE
Comedogenicity ratings of a specific fatty acid or skincare ingredient will always be approximate because:
- Comedogenic tests have been carried out mainly on rabbits and inside the human hear; therefore; results may differ quite a lot from exposed human skin;
- There is minimal research on comedogenicity. Only a fraction of carrier oils and skincare ingredients used in skincare have been tested.
- When testing natural fatty oils, the concentration of fatty acids of the same type of oil or butter varies depending on the source and harvest, impacting the final evaluation of comedogenicity.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACNE AND COMEDONES?
Acne is a skin condition that happens when sebaceous glands are infected; the skin develops red bumps around the infected area. A Comedo is a very dilated pore (the 'hole' surrounding a hair follicle - with or without hair) filled with dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum. If a comedo is open, the pore will look like a blackhead; if it is closed (so the skin covers it), it can cause inflammation, pimples, and whiteheads. It is the first step towards acne.
CONCENTRATION AND COMBINATION OF COMEDOGENIC INGREDIENTS CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING
Key fact 1 | even if an ingredient is comedogenic on its own, if blended in low concentration (less than 5%) in a product, it might not make that product comedogenic overall
Key fact 2 | even if a product is formulated without any known comedogenic ingredients, it can still be mildly comedogenic on the skin for some people.
Key fact 3 | when non-comedogenic skincare ingredients are blended, the combination could sometimes be more comedogenic than the single ingredients themselves.
Key fact 4 | the thickness of a plant oil does not always equal very high comedogenicity (Castor oil, for example, is very thick yet minimally comedogenic)
Key fact 5 | Water-based skincare formulations (moisturizers, creams, serums, lotions) have higher water content and are less likely to clog pores; however, they can contain some non 'oily' ingredients that can be comedogenic too.
Key fact 6 | Rinse off products (exfoliants, masks, cleansing balms or oils) formulated with comedogenic ingredients are not very occlusive and will not clog the pores.
TWO FATTY ACIDS THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Fatty acids are the main constituents of vegetable oils, but two are the primary focus for skincare - Linoleic acid and Oleic acid. The ratio of these often determines how comedogenic or non-comedogenic an oil or a butter is for different skin types.
Linoleic acid is an essential building block for ceramides, one of the skin's main moisturizing element + strengthens the skin barrier. Oleic acid nourishes, repairs, and soothes the skin barrier.
Linoleic acid is ideal for acne-prone and oily skin because it supplements Linoleic acid deficiency on this skin types kin's surface, contributing to clogged pores. Oleic acid tends to be protective so, ideal for dry skin, but it is more occlusive for the pores.
Oils very rich (>50%) in Linoleic acid, with low comedogenicity: Sacha Inchi. Broccoli, Castor, Cucumber, Squalane, Hemp, Hazelnut, Kiwi, Passion fruit, Safflower, Raspberry, Pumpkin, Grapeseed, Pomegranate, Watermelon.
Oils rich (30% - 50%) in Linoleic acid, with very low comedogenicity: Argan, Jojoba, Prickly Pear, Sea Buckthorn, Shea butter, Mango butter, Cacay, Chia, Moringa, Neem, Plum, Pumpkin, Rice Bran, S. Almond, Rosehip, Tamanu.
Oils very rich (>50%) in Oleic acid, comedogenic: Wheatgerm, Coconut, Palm, Cocoa butter, Cupuacu butter, Soybean.
Oils rich (30% - 50%) in Oleic acid, mildly comedogenic: Apricot, Avocado, Marula, Camellia, Evening Primrose, Macadamia, Olive, Buriti, Carrot seed.
Take AZUR, a very light yet nourishing oil formulated with balanced oils (similar ratio Oleic and Linoleic acid) such as Argan, Cacay and non comedogenic oils such as Sacha Inchi, Watermelon, Hazelnut (high in Linoleic acid).
Coconut oil and Palm oil have a unique profile - low Oleic acid, but high Lauric acid. They have antibacterial properties but are very comedogenic.
As a general rule, oils rich in Linoleic acid are lower on the comedogenic scale than those with higher Oleic acid, except for Coconut oil and Palm oil (which are highly comedogenic).
PICK THE RIGHT OILS AND BUTTERS FOR YOUR SKIN
The best way to identify which oils will work best for you is to know your skin type. There are five main skin types: oily, combination, sensitive, normal and dry. Then you need to take into account your skin condition. Your age will be a third factor to consider after 1) skin type 2) skin condition.
COMEDOGENIC SCALE OF OILS AND BUTTERS
Ingredients are generally ranked as follows:
- 0 – NON-COMEDOGENIC (do not clog pores)
- 1 – SLIGHTLY COMEDOGENIC (very low chance of clogging pores)
- 2 – MODERATELY COMEDOGENIC (may clog pores for some but be fine for most)
- 3 – COMEDOGENIC (will clog acne prone/oily skin type)
- 4 – FAIRLY HIGH COMEDOGENIC (will clog pores for almost all skin types)
- 5 – HIGHLY COMEDOGENIC (will clog pores)
IMPORTANT - The ratings below represents a range, not definitive rules. All oils / butters have been classified in their virgin state and using samples from various suppliers.
|Abyssinian (Crambe) Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Acai Berry Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Almond Oil, Sweet||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Amla (Gooseberry) oil||1||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Andiroba Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Apricot Kernel Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Argan Oil||1||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Avocado Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Babassu Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Bacuri Butter||4||VERY DRY|
|Baobob seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Black Cumin (Nigella) Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Black Currant Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Blackberry Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Blueberry Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Borage Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Borage CO2||2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Brazil Nut Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Broccoli Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Buriti Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Cacay oil||1-2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Camellia (oleifera) seed Oil||1-2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Camellia (oleifera) seed Oil - high oleic acid||3||DRY SKIN|
|Carrot Seed Oil||3-4||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Castor Oil||0-1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Cherry Kernel Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Chia seed Oil||3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Chia seed CO2||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Cloudberry Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Cocoa Butter||4||VERY DRY|
|Coconut Oil||4||VERY DRY|
|Coconut Oil, Fractionated||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Cottonseed Oil||3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Cranberry Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Cucumber Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Cupuacu butter||4||VERY DRY|
|Echium Seed Oil||1-2||DRY, AGENING|
|Elderberry Seed Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Evening Primrose Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Flax Seed Oil (Linseed)||4||VERY DRY|
|Goji Berry Seed Oil||0-1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Grapeseed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Guava Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Hazelnut Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Hemp Seed Oil||0-1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Isoamyl laurate||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Jojoba Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Kigelia africana seed oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Kiwi Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Kukui Nut Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Macadamia Nut Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Mango Butter||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Mango Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Marula Oil||3-4||ALL SKIN TYPES, DRY|
|Meadowfoam Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Moringa Oil||3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Murumuru Butter||2-3||NORMAL, DRY|
|Neem Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Oat Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Olive Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Palm Oil||4||VERY DRY|
|Papaya Seed Oil||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Passionfruit (Maracuja) Seed Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Peach Kernel Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Peanut Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Pequi Oil||3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Perilla Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Plum Kernel Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Pomegranate Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Poppy seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Prickly Pear Seed Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Pumpkin Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Raspberry Seed Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Red Raspberry Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Rice Bran Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Rosehip Oil (seed)||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Rosehip CO2 (seed)||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Rosehip Oil (pulp)||1-2||COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Rosehip CO2 (pulp)||1-2||COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sacha Inci||0-1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Safflower Oil (High Linoliec)||0||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sea Buckthorn Oil (pulp)||2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sea Buckthorn CO2 (pulp)||2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sea Buckthorn Oil (seed)||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sesame Seed Oil||3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Shea Butter||0-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Soybean Oil||4-5||VERY DRY|
|Squalane||0-1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Strawberry Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Sunflower Seed Oil||1-2||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Tacuma Butter||2-3||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Tamanu Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Tomato Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Vitamin E (tocopherol)||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Walnut Seed Oil||2||ALL SKIN TYPES|
|Watermelon Seed Oil||1||OILY, BLEMISHED, COMBINATION, NORMAL|
|Wheat Germ Oil||5||VERY DRY|
ONE EXCEPTION - RINSE OFF PRODUCTS
Rinse-off products (Exfoliants, Masks, Cleansing balms and oils) formulated with occlusive butters and oils and at times with mild surfactants (soap) usually fit in the 'no-no' category of comedogenic skincare. However, because they are combined with a surfactant and rinsed off, they do not clog pores and actually are a good alternative to harsh cleansing products that tend to leave the skin very dry and strip off much sebum.
Take our SOLE, an exfoliant mask formulated with Olive oil, a comedogenic ingredient. Because SOLE is a rinse-off exfoliant and the concentration of Olive oil is less than 5%, we have rated SOLE comedogenic rating 0.20.
OTHER COMEDOGENIC INGREDIENTS USED IN WATER-BASED SKINCARE
Some fatty alcohols (used as emulsifiers) can be comedogenic - (Hexadecyl Alcohol,Oleyl Alcohol, Socetyl alcohol, Isocetyl Stearate, Propylene glycol monostearate, Glyceryl-3-Diisostearate, Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate,Octyl stearate.)
Other water-soluble comedogenic ingredients are: Algae, Carrageenan (gum), Sodium chloride (salt), Potassium Chloride, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), Steareth 10, Lanolin, Aluminum (used in antiperspirant deodorants), Isopropyl Palmitate, Decyl oleate, Mineral oils.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING COMEDOGENIC SKINCARE INGREDIENTS:
- Pick the correct oils and skincare products by skin type, then condition.
- Read the labels - the lowest concentration of ingredients is listed for last. Use the above chart to identify comedogenic ingredients and sum them up.
- Very highly comedogenic oils, if used in very low concentrations when blended with other ingredients, (less than 5%) have a little or negligible comedogenic effect.
- To determine the comedogenic rate of a single plant oil, look at the total concentration of Oleic acid; the highest Oleic acid % means higher comedogenic value.
- Thick oils do not equal high comedogenicity; it's down to the fatty acid composition.
- Coloured cosmetics and makeup, such as foundations, primers, creamy eyeshadows, can be formulated with highly comedogenic ingredients.
Sometimes you may have a breakout yet have no idea what's causing it. If you don't exfoliate your skin regularly, the chances are that even non-comedogenic skincare may occasionally clog your pores.
SHOP NATIVE ESSENTIALS NON-COMEDOGENIC SKINCARE