Noncomedogenic Ingredients: What You Should Know

Without FDA regulation, there is no standardized definition on what counts as noncomedogenic.
Without FDA regulation, there is no standardized definition on what counts as noncomedogenic.

Noncomedogenic ingredients are substances that do not have the potential to clog pores in the skin. Some well-known examples include aloe vera, vitamin C and glycerin. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the use of the term, meaning there is no standardized definition on what counts as noncomedogenic, and products are not rigorously tested to assess its inability to clog pores. An article from Medical News Today discussed the unclear nature of the label and which ingredients really are noncomedogenic.

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Many factors can lead to comedones, or clogged pores, including the skin’s natural oils, dead skin, makeup, or other products getting stuck in the pore.

Consumers who find that certain cosmetics cause breakouts may benefit from switching to noncomedogenic products. However, a product being noncomedogenic does not necessarily mean the product is good at treating existing acne. This term only means that the product will not make acne worse by clogging pores if it is truly noncomedogenic.

According to the article, most of the information on comedogenic ingredients comes from animal studies that took place before 2013, specifically a 1984 study on rabbits. Since the European Commission banned animal testing for cosmetics in 2013, scientists have begun to use a QSAR model that predicts how likely it is a substance can block pores based on its molecular structure.

The researchers in that 1984 study found that the following ingredients caused comedones:

  • isopropyl palmitate
  • isopropyl isostearate
  • butyl stearate
  • isostearyl neopentanoate
  • myristyl myristate
  • decyl oleate
  • octyl stearate
  • octyl palmitate
  • isocetyl stearate
  • propylene glycol-2 (PPG-2)
  • lanolin
  • coal tar derivatives

Other research states that the following ingredients may be comedogenic:

  • petroleum derivatives
  • oleic acid
  • cocoa butter
  • sodium lauryl sulphate
  • algae extracts
  • coconut oil
  • wheat germ oil
  • palm oil
  • linseed oil

Hundreds of ingredients are potentially noncomedogenic. Some ingredients that are known to be noncomedogenic or low comedogenic include:

  • aloe vera
  • witch hazel
  • rose water
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • niacinamide
  • allantoin
  • silicones
  • glycerin
  • cetearyl alcohol
  • polyethylene glycol
  • sodium hyaluronate
  • carmine
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