Non comedogenic: What does non comedogenic mean?

What does non-comedogenic mean when it comes to makeup and skincare?

8th June 2020 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

An increasing number of makeup and skincare brands are marketing their products as being proudly non-comedogenic but – as seems to be the case with a lot of things in the beauty industry – this only makes sense if you actually know what such buzzwords mean.

From being printed on the front of foundations, powders, moisturisers, concealers, sunscreen, primers and just about anything that is applied to your face, to appearing on adverts, it’s worth explaining what comedogenic means before moving onto the meaning of non-comedogenic.

What does comedogenic mean?

Any ingredients found in makeup and skincare products that block your pores, and which cause the natural balance of oils in your skin to be disrupted, are known as comedogenic.

They get their name from the fact they cause comedones, which in turn can lead to comedonal acne – a non-inflammatory skin condition.

More specifically, comedones refers to the small, skin-coloured bumps that appear on the forehead and chin of people with acne.

READ NEXT: What causes acne and how to get rid of it?

A series of blocked follicles, known as closed comedones, are more commonly referred to as whiteheads, while open comedones – in which the build of dirt, dead skin cells, and product oxidises and turns black – are what we call blackheads.

On its own, comedonal acne is a relatively mild – yet very annoying – skin condition. But if it’s left untreated, or you introduce a beauty product with ingredients that make comedones worse, you can end up developing inflammatory acne. A form of red, swollen and painful pustules.

What does non comedogenic mean?

As you can therefore imagine, any ingredient or product described as non-comedogenic refers to the fact that it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) clog your pores or exacerbate skin conditions.

The reason we’ve emphasised the word ‘shouldn’t’ is because that while the definition of non-comedogenic is pretty black and white – excuse the pun – how beauty brands use this term and its definition is measured on an increasing, somewhat subjective, scale.

Comedogenic ratings explained

In an attempt to quantify how comedogenic, or otherwise, a product is, the comedogenic rating scale was created, ranging from 0-5, with 0 being non comedogenic and 5 being severely comedogenic.

  • 0: Non comedogenic
  • 1: Slightly comedogenic
  • 2-3: Moderately comedogenic
  • 4-5: Severely comedogenic

So far, so good.

However, because there are no regulations or rules about the use of the word ‘non comedogenic’ for beauty products, there’s also no standard.

This means companies each determine what qualifies as comedogenic, or non comedogenic, in different ways.

Some tests will simply count the number of comedones a product creates, while others will only count the most severe comedones from a sample.

Depending on the sample size, the testing method and the type of product being developed, the rating can be wildly misleading.

To make matters even worse, the percentage of ingredient used can drastically affect how comedogenic it is!

This means you could, in theory, buy a non comedogenic product and still experience breakouts.

How to find non comedogenic products

Although it’s not 100% accurate, an ingredient’s comedogenic rating can at least help you narrow down your choices.

If you know that cocoa butter is highly comedogenic, for instance, avoiding products that contain this ingredient will reduce the chances of breakouts.

Similarly, if you know that a product ranks as zero or one, suggesting is non comedogenic it’s much safer to use.

Comedogenic and non comedogenic ingredients

Antioxidants

  • Beta Carotene – 1
  • BHA – 2

Botanicals

  • Algae Extract – 5
  • Aloe Vera Gel – 0
  • Calendula – 1
  • Carrageenans – 5
  • Chamomile – 2
  • Chamomile Extract – 0
  • Cold Pressed Aloe – 0
  • Red Algae – 5

Minerals

  • Algin – 4
  • Colloidal Sulfur – 3
  • Potassium Chloride – 5
  • Precipitated Sulfur – 0
  • Sodium Chloride – 5
  • Talc – 1
  • Zinc Stearate – 0

Oils

  • Almond Oil – 2
  • Apricot Kernel Oil – 2
  • Avocado Oil – 2
  • Camphor – 2
  • Castor Oil – 1
  • Cocoa Butter – 4
  • Coconut Butter – 4
  • Coconut Oil – 4
  • Corn Oil – 3
  • Cotton Seed Oil – 3
  • Evening Primrose Oil – 2
  • Grape Seed Oil – 2
  • Hazelnut Oil – 2
  • Hemp Seed Oil – 0
  • Mineral Oil – 0
  • Mink Oil – 3
  • Olive Oil – 2
  • Peanut Oil – 2
  • Petrolatum – 0
  • Sandalwood Seed Oil – 2
  • Sesame Oil – 2
  • Shea Butter – 0
  • Soybean Oil – 3
  • Sunflower Oil – 0
  • Wheat Germ Oil – 5
  • Shark Liver Oil – 3

Emulsifiers and Detergents

Vitamins and Herbs

  • Ascorbic Acid – 0
  • Black Walnut Extract – 0
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) – 2
  • Vitamin A Palmitate – 2
  • Panthenol – 0

Waxes

  • Beeswax – 2
  • Candelilla Wax – 1
  • Carnuba Wax – 1
  • Ceresin Wax – 0
  • Emulsifying Wax NF – 2
  • Jojoba Oil – 2
  • Lanolin Wax – 1
  • Sulfated Jojoba Oil – 3

Other ingredients

  • Polysorbate 20 – 0
  • Polysorbate 80 – 0
  • Sterol Esters – 0
  • Behenyl Triglyceride – 0
  • Butylene Glycol – 1
  • Cetearyl Alcohol – 2
  • Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether-0
  • Glycerin – 0
  • Glyceryl Stearate NSE – 1
  • Glyceryl Stearate SE – 3
  • Glyceryl Tricapylo/Caprate – 1
  • Glyceryl-3-Diisostearate – 4
  • Hexadecyl Alcohol – 5
  • Isocetyl Stearate – 5
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – 0
  • Laureth 23 – 3
  • Laureth 4 – 5
  • Octyl Stearate – 5
  • Oleth-10 – 2
  • Oleth-3 – 5
  • Oleyl Alcohol – 4
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG 400) – 1
  • Polyethylene Glycol 300 – 1
  • Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate – 4
  • Propylene Glycol – 0
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate – 4
  • SD Alcohol 40 – 0
  • Sorbitan Laurate – 1
  • Sorbitol – 0
  • Wheat Germ Glyceride – 3

Source: Beneficial Botanicals


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