What Is Non-Comedogenic? Product Types and Benefits

Caring for your skin looks different depending on your skin type and concerns. If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to acne, oiliness, or enlarged pores, preventing clogged pores is a priority. Pore-clogging ingredients can be found in all skincare products, potentially leading to problems.

Sometimes, skin reacts in alarming ways, like sudden acne flare-ups when you haven’t done anything different in your routine. When this happens, it’s possible your skin is responding to pore-clogging ingredients that got trapped in your pores along with other debris and makeup. 

Fortunately, you can clear up your skin by switching to products with non-comedogenic ingredients.

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean?

If you have sensitive skin, you’ve likely been warned to steer clear of comedogenic products, or maybe you’ve seen the label “non-comedogenic” on your skincare products. What does this actually mean?

Comedogenic means prone to clogging pores, which can lead to all kinds of poor skin conditions. Once pores become blocked, they become comedones , which can look like small bumps, pustules, and various forms of breakouts. These result in texture and sometimes pus-filled blemishes that can become red, inflamed, and sore.

Obviously, the best option is to steer clear of the risk of blocking your pores. You can help your pores stay unclogged by understanding how the skin operates. Your skin is an organ that absorbs oxygen from the bloodstream. It is made up of millions of pores, which can be more noticeable on your face or in places where hair grows out of each opening (like your legs).

The epidermis is the upper layer of skin , which sheds dead skin cells as new ones are made deeper underneath. Pores are like tiny open passages in the skin that allow it to “breathe.” Each pore contains a hair follicle where sebum is transferred to the skin's surface for hydration.

Unfortunately, since pores remain essentially open, they can become clogged with dead skin cells, extra sebum, debris, free radicals, and makeup or other skincare products. The most common result of trapped pores is acne, as well as the appearance of enlarged pores. Pimples from blocked pores can be closed comedones like whiteheads or open comedones like blackheads.

Oily skin and acne-prone skin are especially susceptible to clogged pores wreaking havoc. You should always monitor ingredient lists for comedogenic ones.

Why Are Non-Comedogenic Products Beneficial?

Any ingredient on the comedogenic list may lead to clogged pores and acne, but it depends on your skin type and sensitivities. 

As with anything, some ingredients may trigger problems in some people and not others. To be safe, always look for non-comedogenic products and spot-test them for a few days in a concentrated area to ensure no reactions. 

Non-comedogenic products are often oil-free because oil triggers blocked pores in oily and sensitive acne-prone skin. It’s best to look for non-comedogenic and oil-free skincare to remove the threat of breakouts and enlarged pores. Also, some fragrances can be irritating, so look for fragrance-free products.

Which ingredients are non-comedogenic? There’s a wide range of safe ingredients, including vitamin C, glycerin, aloe vera, and vitamin E. Steer clear from comedogenic, greasy ingredients like lanolin , coconut oil, and shea butter. Because ingredients have different impacts on different people, know your skin. Keep track of which ingredients seem to set your skin off and avoid them.

Which Products Should Be Non-Comedogenic?

You can find non-comedogenic formulations of all skincare and makeup products. Knowing common pore-cloggers, as well as what triggers your skin, and checking ingredient lists is the best bet. Yet, simply looking for the label “non-comedogenic” is an easy way to avoid breakouts from new products.

You can replace pore-blocking skincare with a whole routine of non-comedogenic skincare products, but especially target those that cleanse and protect.

Treatments

When treating your skin, you want to help it recover from any damage throughout the day. Whether it’s removing makeup, debris, excess oil, or dead skin cells, your facial cleanser needs to provide a deep clean that scrubs the pores free from gunk, which will help to minimize pores .

An exfoliating cleanser can reach deep into the pores to remove impurities that could cause blemishes or texture issues. Cleansers that are oil-based can be comedogenic. If you have acne-prone skin, ensure your cleanser is free from oil and water-based.

Serums

Serums are potent products that infuse active ingredients into the skin for targeted results. Serums can be hydrating, smoothing, resurfacing, acne-treating, brightening, and more. They usually contain one main ingredient for tailored treatment.

Some serum ingredients are gently exfoliating, which helps to scrub off dead skin from the surface. Your skin is constantly producing new skin cells deep in the epidermis layer, which slowly surface to the skin. You can help dead top skin cells that have served their time be replaced by new cells by exfoliating them away.

Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and retinol are all popular chemical exfoliants. Since exfoliation can be drying, follow these products with moisture-replenishing serums like niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid. Then, follow these with a moisturizing lotion or cream for hydrated post-resurfaced skin.

Moisturizers

Sensitive and combination skin especially benefits from moisturizer , although all skin types need to stay moisturized for a nice glow. When skin is treated for problems such as acne breakouts, fine lines, texture, or oiliness, it can become stripped of natural oils. This can lead to an overproduction of oil getting trapped in the pores.

Although it may sound contrary to coat sensitive, oil-prone skin with more hydration, it’s an important step. The more moisturization you provide your skin with, the less oil it will produce. Sebum production is a response to dry skin cells.

Hydration is important, but moisturizers often contain oils — which is risky for acne-prone skin. Many oils are high on the oleic scale , making them likely to clog pores and cause acne.

With this in mind, make sure to include a non-comedogenic moisturizer into your skincare routine. Choose a hydrating, water-based moisturizer for a non-greasy, non-comedogenic formula to safely flood your skin with hydration.

SPF

It’s crucial to wear sunscreen every day as a protective measure, no matter the weather. The sun releases UV rays composed of UVA and UVB rays. Both penetrate the skin, creating damage to the cellular DNA and potentially leading to cancer. To protect yourself from premature aging, hyperpigmentation and texture, and skin cancer, cover all exposed skin with sunscreen. 

People with sensitive skin may fear SPF because some formulas can clog pores, but it’s especially important to protect sensitive skin from sun damage. As with all products, look for sunscreen that won’t clog the pores. Some mineral sunscreens tend to be safer bets for sensitive skin compared to chemical sunscreen, as mineral sunscreen stays on the surface of the skin to block UV rays instead of absorbing into your pores.

Look for an SPF that specifies it is oil-free or non-comedogenic. Added ingredients like antioxidants or vitamin C are common in quality skincare sunscreen and infuse extra benefits.

What Are Some Non-Comedogenic Products To Try?

You know how important sunscreen is, as well as moisturizer — a product that combines both in one and remains non-comedogenic and safe for sensitive skin is like a winning lottery ticket. 

The EltaMD UV Facial Broad-Spectrum SPF 30+ spreads as a silky soft moisturizer that protects your skin from sun damage. It deeply hydrates dry skin and is safe for even sensitive post-facial skin that needs special TLC.

The EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer is another non-comedogenic moisturizer that won’t clog pores, as it is oil-free, dye-free, paraben-free, and gluten-free. It’s suitable for all sensitivities and both hydrates and helps to restore the skin’s ideal pH balance for clear, supple skin.

With moisturization so important for skin health, the Alo Luminizing Facial Moisturizer helps to soften and nourish sensitive skin without comedogenic ingredients. It combines plant botanicals, aloe vera, and antioxidants to help soothe irritated skin in need of a healing boost.

Keep It Clear

People with sensitive, combination, and acne-prone skin need to pay extra attention to the ingredients of their skincare products to ensure they aren’t clogging their pores. However, all skin types benefit from products that remove debris from the skin for the appearance of small pores. Non-comedogenic products are safe for all skin types because they won’t clog pores.

Your skincare can give your skin plenty of benefits without causing breakouts if you look for the magic word — non-comedogenic.

Sources:

Comedogenicity of Current Therapeutic Products, Cosmetics, and Ingredients in the Rabbit Ear | PubMed

Enhanced Comedo Formation in Rabbit Ear Skin by Squalene and Oleic Acid Peroxides | British Journal of Dermatology

Exploring Human Comedogenic Potential | Research Gate

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation | American Cancer Society