What does non-comedogenic really mean in skincare?

Why non-comedogenic products are good for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Written by
Bailey Petts
Medically reviewed by
min read
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From active ingredients to beauty product names that sound like they were sent straight from the science lab to your bathroom, the skincare industry is filled with terms that can be difficult to understand. And, it can be daunting when you're first getting interested in skincare.

A common term used in the skincare industry is comedogenic. In fact, many beauty products are often described as being a non-comedogenic formula on their packaging.

While it might be a bit of a mouthful, it's an important description of the product and how it can behave on the skin, which is incredibly important for a number of skin types.

So, let's find out the meaning of non-comedogenic, and what's so great about it.

What does non-comedogenic mean?

Non-comedogenic refers to a skincare product that doesn't contain ingredients that will block or clog pores.

While this is a positive for all people, it's particularly important for those with acne-prone skin, combination skin and oily skin types as these are all prone to clogged pores.

And, when you take into consideration that blocked pores can lead to breakouts, using non-comedogenic skincare products can help reduce acne breakouts.

It's important to be aware of non-comedogenic products as skincare packaging isn't always clear and you may end up with a product that is comedogenic, which leads to blocked pores. And, when you have acne-prone and oily skin, this can be a recipe for disaster.

Those with sensitive skin may also benefit from non-comedogenic formulas as they are often lighter.

What are non-comedogenic products?

Non-comedogenic products can be anything from cleansers to moisturisers and even makeup. While most brands advertise when products are non-comedogenic, they won't label products that are comedogenic so it's important to stay on top of this when purchasing skincare products.

To do this, you may want to read up on the ingredients that are non-comedogenic and those that are [1]. Now, this can be difficult as the use of the term non-comedogenic isn't regulated and there's no standard definition of it.

This means that products that claim to be non-comedogenic might not be tested to a high enough standard and might not work for your skin type [2].

That being said, we can learn which ingredients don't block pores ourselves and some of these include:

  • Witch hazel
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Aloe vera
  • Niacinamide
  • Ceramides
  • Allantoin
  • Sodium hyaluronate — a type of hyaluronic acid (and hyaluronic acid is great for keeping moisture in your skin!)
  • Carmine
  • Glycerin
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Rose water [3].

Software’s Daily Sun Defence SPF50+ is a non-comedogenic and lightweight sunscreen, designed for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin, doesn’t clog your pores and is fragrance-free.

Which skin types are best suited for non-comedogenic formulas?

As we mentioned before, the skin types best suited for non-comedogenic products are:

  • Oily skin
  • Acne-prone skin
  • Combination skin

For the above skin types, breakouts can occur more frequently, which is why we need to be careful not to clog or block pores.

The good news is that with Software’s Acne Kit, you can reduce acne inflammation, balance oil production and repair the skin barrier whilst controlling emerging breakouts.

The kit contains everything you need to address acne at all stages. With topical and oral treatments formulated with non-comedogenic ingredients, you can support the skin barrier whilst protecting skin cells from acne aggravators.

This holistic acne treatment kit contains Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, to target acne-causing bacteria, Ceramide Repair Balm, to nourish dryness, AHA/BHA Pimple Patches and the Acne Supplement to reduce oil production from the inside, out.

Are non-comedogenic and oil-free products the same?

You'd think that oil-free products and non-comedogenic products would be the same, but they aren't. While most non-comedogenic products are oil-free, it's important to remember that non-comedogenic products are formulated specifically to not clog pores.

An oil-free product, on the other hand, means that the product does not contain mineral oil or other oils but an oil-free skincare product could still contain other pore-clogging ingredients.

How do you know if a product is non-comedogenic?

Most non-comedogenic skincare products will say this on the label, so the easiest way to tell is by reading the label or going to the brand's website and looking at the product page.

If it doesn't say non-comedogenic, chances are the product may cause clogged pores after frequent use.

Can comedogenic products cause acne?

Depending on your skin type and how acne-prone your skin tends to be, comedogenic ingredients can lead to acne.

If your products contain pore-clogging ingredients, you might experience acne breakouts more frequently, which is why we're such fans of non-comedogenic skincare products.

Below are some ingredients that you might want to avoid if you have an acne-prone skin type:

  • Lanolin (comes from wool and can be found in many lip balms)
  • Coat tar derivatives
  • Octyl stearate
  • Myristyl myristate
  • Propylene glycol-2
  • Butyl stearate
  • Isopropyl palmitate.

Just remember, some of these ingredients were found to be comedogenic ingredients after tests on animals (not human skin), so the accuracy isn't definitive.

Are there comedogenic ingredients in makeup products?

It's not just skincare that you need to look for when it comes to non-comedogenic formulas, your makeup might be affecting your otherwise healthy skin, for the worse.

If you're dealing with oily skin or frequent breakouts, it's important to look at all of the products you're putting on your skin. And, when it comes to your makeup, common comedogenic culprits include foundations, concealers and primers.

Be sure to read the ingredients included in your makeup formula and if in doubt, opt for products that clearly state that they are non-comedogenic.

It's important to remember that everyone's skin is different — those with dry skin may find comedogenic products suit their skin — and it's best to take a personalised approach to your skincare routine.

If you're dealing with acne and aren't sure if it's due to comedogenic products or not, Software's prescription acne treatment can help.

Our treatments use medical-grade, prescription ingredients to reduce redness, prevent clogged pores, fight acne-causing bacteria and balance oiliness.

With a personalised treatment, our local health practitioners take your skin history and goals into account before creating a non-comedogenic acne-fighting formula just for you. And, there's no need to make an appointment at the dermatologist or leave home — we'll compound the custom skincare formula for you and deliver it straight to your door.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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