At a time when consumers are asking more and more questions about the products they put on their faces, there’s a technical word you should master for those morning and evening skin care regimens of yours: noncomedogenic.
Noncomedogenic describes something pretty simple: products likely to help us avoid skin pore blockages and other unwelcome signs of acne that may result.
The question is, how do you know for sure that a specific product is noncomedogenic, when manufacturers want you to believe that every skin care and makeup product they put on the market meets that criterion?
Unfortunately, the truth is that some manufacturers are embellishing their claims, leaving you at risk for an unwelcome breakout.
Those with oily skin or prone to acne will benefit most from noncomedogenic products.
First, let’s review how acne erupts in the first place. The underlying problem is that oil, hair, and dead skin cells plug a follicle in the skin, providing the environment for bacteria already on the skin to spread into the follicle.
Hormones — particularly active when you’re a young adult — can figure in. So can pregnancy, or a person’s tendency toward naturally oily skin.
Some people also believe that certain foods can spark an acne breakout. Research suggests that high glycemic diets, and those high in dairy, can worsen acne. In general, though, acne is not caused by diet.
Bottom line is, if you’re prone to acne, your goal is to avoid blockages in the first place. Making sure your pores don’t get plugged is actually somewhat complex due to the myriad products out there making all sorts of claims.
There are no rules
Another problem: There are no federal regulations or rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the use of the word “noncomedogenic” for products like moisturizers and makeup.
While it may sound promising to learn that there’s a 0 to 5 rating scale for comedogenic — with 0 to 2 considered noncomedogenic — this scale isn’t standardized.
Instead, companies rely on a host of studies, many of which have tested products on rabbits’ ears. Many consumers reject the use of animals for testing, especially with beauty products. If this is a concern for you, you’ll be glad to learn that humans are more often becoming test subjects.
These studies are also not standard. Some researchers count the comedones, meaning the bumps that indicate acne, which result from the product being tested. To make matters even more confusing, companies may count the comedones in different ways.
For mild acne, beneficial ingredients include:
- benzoyl peroxide
- salicylic acid
Other good ingredients to look for in your skin care products are noncomedogenic oils, which don’t clog pores and keep dry skin supple and oily skin acne-free.
Medical professionals have long consulted a landmark 1984 scientific studyTrusted Source for a list of ingredients to avoid.
The list of offending ingredients is a long one, including:
- isopropyl myristate and derivatives, such as:
- isopropyl palmitate
- isopropyl isostearate
- butyl stearate
- isostearyl neopentanoate
- myristyl myristate
- decyl oleate
- octyl stearate
- octyl palmitate
- isocetyl stearate
- propylene glycol-2 (PPG-2) myristyl propionate
- lanolins, especially:
- ethoxylated lanolins
- D&C red dyes
Of course, looking at cosmetics labels for these hard-to-pronounce ingredients is a tedious and somewhat unrealistic task, but if something you’ve put on your skin has caused a bad breakout, this list may be useful.
You know to look for moisturizers and makeup products that are “non-oily” and “noncomedogenic,” but government sources like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the FDA don’t exactly provide a list of the best ones.
One thing you can do is reach out to manufacturers and ask if they conduct independent, third-party testing to back up their claims.
Here are several products, all of which you can buy online, that are highly rated by beauty experts and consumers:
A product that has comedogenic ingredients isn’t bad in and of itself. It might be the best choice for someone with dry skin who isn’t prone to acne.
Your skin is different from everyone else’s, so if yours is acne-prone, you’ll need to conduct your own patch test. Put a small amount of the new product on your face, and wait a couple of days to see what happens.
If you’re not sure what products to use for your skin, talk with your dermatologist to get a recommendation.