What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean?

by Gio

what does non-comedogenic mean

What does non-comedogenic mean?

Does it mean that if I see it on a label, I know that moisturizer WON’T clog my pores and give me pimples?

That’s what brands want you to think. The truth is a little more complicated….

What does non-comedogenic mean?

A comedone is a pimple. Comedone is their scientific name. Pimple and zit are just nicknames.

It follows that non-comedogenic is something that doesn’t clog pores and give you pimples.

Non-comedogenic made its debut on acne-fighting products but marketers soon realised its potential and started plastering it everywhere.

Are non-comedogenic products safer for acne-prone skin?

This is the tricky part. No one knows exactly what gives you pimples or not.

Yes, we have lists of comedogenic ingredients but these studies were done on rabbits ears. Those are VERY prone to pimples, no matter what you slather on them. Point is: these results DON’T apply to humans.

But even when an ingredient has a proven track record for leaving pimples on too many faces, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will give everyone a pimple.

Whether you get a pimple  or not also depends on its concentration and your skin type. For example, coconut oil may give oily skin a bad breakout but leave dry skin totally flawless. To complicate things even more, even oily skin may survive coconut oil unscathed IF only a few drops of the oil were present in the cream.

In other words, non-comedogenic isn’t a 100% guarantee you won’t get pimples. Plus, non-comedogenic products may still have alcohol, essential oils and another nasties that can irritate your skin and aggravate acne.

Related: Do Comedogenic Ingredients Really Give You Pimples?

PS. Non-comedogenic isn’t the only unregulated term in skincare. For a list of misleading marketing terms that mean nothing, click on the image below and download the “Misleading Skincare Claims Cheatsheet”:

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Why Comedogenic Ingredient Lists Aren’t Totally Useless

So, if you can’t trust the label, what can you trust?

If you’ve got oily or acne-prone skin, you need to scan those ingredient lists for everything that could clog your pores. But how do you do this when no one knows what ingredients are comedogenic?

I know I’ve just told you that comedogenic ingredient lists aren’t reliable. I stand by that. They won’t tell you FOR SURE that something’ll give you pimples.

But they can act as guidelines. If anything listed as Highly Comedogenic tops the ingredient list – or is in the top 5 – of that serum or moisturiser you’re eyeing, there’s a chance it could cause problems.

You won’t know for sure until you’ve tried it, but if you’re terrified of pimples, chances are you don’t want to try it. In your shoes, I wouldn’t go there.

The best way to know for sure, though, is to keep a skincare journal. That’s how I found out that my skin can tolerate cocoa butter but anything with Palmitate and Myristate in the name is gonna make it breakout like crazy.

If you’re prone to pimples, check the ingredient list of your skincare products. Look for Highly Comedogenic ingredients. Then jot down in your journal what you’re using this week and how your skin’s reacting.

I’m know gonna lie: it’s a long process of trial and error. That’s the problem with skin: everyone’s skin is different so what gives someone pimples is totally innocuous for someone else.

But if you’re prone to breakouts, it’s worth going through the extra trouble and find out what you should avoid once and for all.

The Bottom Line

If you have acne, oily or breakout-prone skin, looking for non-comedogenic products may be a good way to start your search for your next HG. But don’t stop there. Take a look at the ingredient list to make sure there are no nasties in it.

Are you surprised by what non-comedogenic means? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Eli January 3, 2014 - 2:26 pm

Silicones cause breakouts and blackheads (for sensitive and acne-prone skins), but products containing them are also labeled non-comedogenic… That’s why I’m not a fan of cosmetic labels, it’s all marketing to me 😀

Gio January 6, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Eli, silicones themselves aren’t comedogenic. It’s when the barrier they create traps underneath dirt, impurities and comedogenic ingredients that breakouts occur. That’s why cosmetic companies can use silicones in noncomedogenic products. Still, that doesn’t make noncomedogenic products safer. It’s always better to read the ingredient list so you won’t buy anything that contains ingredients that don’t work for your skin.


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