Exploring the comedogenic scale and what “non-comedogenic” actually meansPosted on March 21, 2022 Written by: 100% PURE ®
You’ve likely come across the term “non-comedogenic” on labels of skin care products. Out of the thick and heavy marketing terms in the beauty realm, non-comedogenic is one of the least understood – unless you have acne or oily skin.
So, what does this ambiguous term really mean and what’s the comedogenic scale? Let’s dig deeper into the terms comedogenic and non-comedogenic, and what you should look for as a sure-fire way to avoid a breakout.
Unless you’ve hit the genetic lottery or banned magnifying mirrors from your life, you’ve likely been stuck in a pore dilemma. We’re talking about enlarged pores which, if they become clogged, can be a precursor to a pimple! This is where the importance of non-comedogenic ingredients comes into play – and why you should avoid comedogenic ones at all costs.
Let’s start with a ‘comedo’ or ‘comedone’, which is the earliest form of acne. It’s basically a clogged pore. So, if a skin care ingredient is comedogenic, that means that it has a high possibility to clog pores and potentially lead to breakouts. No, thanks!
One way to combat that is to make sure you’re using products with non-comedogenic ingredients, which are less likely to clog your pores. In fact, knowing which ingredients in skin care can have a tendency to clog our pores is how the comedogenic rating was created. This scale helps us make better skin care decisions so we can share some of that genetic lottery too.
One way to navigate the spectrum of ingredients in skin care products is by the comedogenic scale, which ranks an individual ingredient’s propensity to clog pores. The scale uses a numbering system of 0 to 5 with 2 or less being non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and 5 being pore-clogging. Here’s how the numbers rank on the scale:
0 - won’t clog pores
1 - very low likelihood they will clog pores
2 - moderately low likelihood
3 - moderate likelihood
4 - fairly high likelihood
5 - high likelihood of clogging pores
Anyone who is susceptible to acne breakouts should avoid highly comedogenic (3-5) ingredients, which we’ll get to below. People with less fussy skin might not have any issues with ingredients with a ranking of 3. But we’d still suggest avoiding the numbers 4 and 5.
But remember, the comedogenic scale is not 100% accurate. One individual’s unique skin might not react adversely to a certain ingredient with a propensity to clog pores, whereas another person’s skin does react with the same ingredient. There is no perfect science and since everyone’s skin is different, skin care ingredients will impact different people in different ways.
Most of us have all kinds of ideas about what causes our breakouts (for example, stress, poor diet, bacteria, and hormones). And while there is truth to that, there’s also a high probability blemishes are caused by one thing, and one thing alone: a plug of oil.
What happens is your skin cells normally shed at the surface, allowing new skin cells to form. Sometimes, dead skin cells and excess oil can get trapped within the hair follicles. When combined with the natural oils in your pores (sebum), a plug can form.
This buildup traps oil underneath it, while the skin above sends the message, ‘hey, I need moisture up here!’ As a result, more and more sebum (oil) builds up, but the plug keeps it trapped. This causes the affected pores to bulge outward, creating comedones or bumps.
This comedonal acne causes bumpy skin and non-inflamed blemishes as well as whiteheads or blackheads. The names come from how the blemishes look on your skin. They are small bumps that are either flesh-colored or grow into a blackhead, once the head of it is oxidized to a dark brown or black color.
As we mentioned above, knowing which skin care ingredients have a high probability – or not – to clog your pores and taking into account the comedogenic scale puts you on a better path to clear, smooth skin. That’s where we’re here to help – and to help you become an ingredient detective!
When checking product labels, avoid ingredients like synthetic chemicals, artificial colorants, perfumes, chemical preservatives, BPA, coal tar, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, heavy metals, sulfates, talc, and so on. These are comedogenic ingredients and don’t play well on the comedogenic scale.
Generally, clean and pure skin care brands will use skin-friendly ingredients that have a low if any likelihood of clogging pores. Look for ingredients or formulas composed of plant, mineral, and/or marine vegetation that undergoes chemical changes due to biological processes such as fermentation, distillation, and cold processing.
Anyone who hesitates to use facial oils or those with acne and oily skin can use non-comedogenic oils if you’re using one suited to your skin type. But it’s important to check that these oils are leaving out the bad stuff. This includes silicones, diluted oils, waxes, dyes, and fragrance. Facial oils can be applied to the skin or used as carriers for things like essential oils. Some of these oils include marula, sunflower, neem, argan, rosehip, and grapeseed oils.
Speaking of the powers of grapes for skin, we like to think of this nourishing facial oil as a superhero for oily skin. Featuring a beautiful blend of lightweight grapeseed oil and calming florals and herbs, this facial oil truly feeds the skin. What’s great about this oil for oily skin is its grapeseed oil base. Similar in texture and weight to skin’s sebum, this oil sinks in easily and hydrates the skin quickly.
If you have acne-prone and oily skin and you’re still a little on the fence about oils in skin care formulas, the truth is you still need to use moisturizer! This super lightweight formula is the best face moisturizer for acne-prone skin. It’s designed to properly balance and nourish, without clogging pores or leaving skin feeling greasy. Plus, the tea tree in it is beneficial for acne.
While you can’t always predict how your skin is going to react to certain ingredients, you can take steps to better prevent comedones and blemishes by sticking to non-comedogenic ingredients. Hopefully, with this collection of tips and ingredient ratings, we set you on the path towards a healthier complexion.
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The information in this article is for educational use, and not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as such.