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Non-Comedogenic Skin Care: What Is It and Should You Be Using It?

Posted by Nikki Wisher on Oct 10th 2021

Non-Comedogenic Skin Care: What Is It and Should You Be Using It?

Browsing the skin care aisle at your local drugstore or browsing a skin care site can feel like a flashback to vocabulary lessons in school, with all the complex words coming at you from every direction. If you don’t know what all those skin care terms mean, it just feels like an indistinguishable mess and seems like every product is no different than any other.

Let me give you a hand with that! Let’s take a look at one term you’re probably seen and half-read on plenty of bottles before: “non-comedogenic.”

What Are Non-Comedogenic Skincare Products?

As long and syllable-packed as this term is, it actually has a very simple meaning: it means that the product won’t clog your pores. A pore blockage is called a comedone, so “non-comedogenic” means that the product doesn’t create comedones.

Now, to be clear, that’s the broad definition of the word. The specifics of what it takes for a product to qualify as non-comedogenic are a bit different. Technically, for a product to be labeled as non-comedogenic, it can’t contain ingredients that have a significant likelihood of blocking your pores. The product itself doesn’t have to be tested for comedogenic properties, just the ingredients in it.

It’s also important to note that non-comedogenic products aren’t guaranteed to not clog your pores. They just have to contain ingredients with a low likelihood of pore-clogging, so it’s unlikely but not impossible that they’ll spark an acne breakout.

No One Wants Acne, So Why Aren’t All Products Non-Comedogenic?

If it’s possible to make products that specifically don’t block pores, why does anyone make any products that do clog pores? Can’t we just make all products with ingredients that are non-comedogenic?

There are actually many skin care ingredients that have a high likelihood of clogging pores, but they carry many other benefits for your skin, like coconut oil for example. For people who are acne-prone, products with these types of ingredients probably aren’t an option, but people who aren’t acne-prone can still reap the benefits of these ingredients.

How Are Products Determined to be Non-Comedogenic?

Remember that a non-comedogenic skin care product is one that doesn’t contain any ingredients that are likely to cause pore blockages. But how do we know which ingredients are likely to block pores?

Skin care ingredients are tested by being applied to either a rabbit’s ear or lab-generated skin that mimics human skin. Researchers look at the number of comedones that develop after they apply the ingredient and they rank it on a scale of 0-5. Ingredients rated at 0 caused no comedones at all while ingredients rated at 5 caused a significant number of comedones. This 0-5 scale is called the comedogenicity scale.

Any ingredient with a comedogenicity rating of 2 or less is considered to be non-comedogenic. That means that a skin care product is considered to be non-comedogenic if all its ingredients are rated at 2 or lower.

Will Non-Comedogenic Products Help Acne Go Away?

This is a very important distinction, so write this down, make it a mantra, tattoo it on your arm, whatever: non-comedogenic products don’t make acne go away. They’re just unlikely to make acne worse.

Of course, there are skin care products that are designed to reduce acne, and these products are usually non-comedogenic too. That doesn’t mean that all non-comedogenic products are actively fighting your acne, though.

With that being said, if you’re trying to get rid of acne or keep it at bay, it’s a good idea to use anti-acne products where they fit in your skin care routine and to use non-comedogenic products for every other step of your routine. That way, your other products aren’t working against your acne-fighting products.

How Do I Know if a Product is Non-Comedogenic?

If a product is non-comedogenic, that’s a key selling point, so most skin care brands will slap that word on the label and shout it from the rooftops. You might see other terms like “non-acnegenic” or “won’t clog pores,” but they have the same meaning.

If a product isn’t labeled as non-comedogenic, it probably isn’t. If you really want to investigate, though, you can look up the comedogenicity rating of each ingredient in the product. A simple google search for each ingredient’s comedogenicity rating should bring up the answer.

Top Non-Comedogenic Products to Try in Your Skin Care Routine

Want to make your skin care routine a bit less acne-forming? I’ve got you! Try these top non-comedogenic products.

SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer

In the mystery of what items in your skin care routine are bringing about your breakouts, moisturizers are generally the most common suspects…and for good reason. But SkinMedica’s Ultra Sheer Moisturizer is innocent of all charges. This moisturizer uses hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to strengthen your skin’s hydration without leaving you feeling gross and greasy, and without leaving pimples in its wake.

EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Sunscreens are also often acne-causing, but if you’re looking for a sunscreen that leaves your skin clear while also protecting it from damage, look no further than the sun care experts at EltaMD. The UV Clear Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a powerful sunscreen that feels light on your skin and is ideal for sensitive skin as well as acne-prone skin.

Keeping Your Skin Breakout-Free with Non-Comedogenic Skin Care

Thanks to advances in skin care science, no one has to put up with acne in order to accomplish their other skin care goals like smoothing wrinkles, lightening age spots, or restoring hydration. There are non-comedogenic products for any skin care dream you might have – you just have to know where to look. Start exploring and shopping for non-comedogenic skin care products to build your collection.