What non-comedogenic means…and why it actually means nothing

You’ve probably heard this word before, and if you’re acne-prone you might have even studied product labels hunting for the term. This shorthand for “won’t clog pores” seems like it offers easy answers but the truth is that you can’t really trust these claims. So what are “non-comedogenic” ingredients and why can they absolutely clog your pores? Let’s dig in.

First: what non-comedogenic means

A “comedo” is essentially another word for a blocked pore (you’d know open comedones as blackheads and closed comedones as those white bumps that aren’t sore or inflamed). So, comedogenic products are ones more likely to clog pores while non comedogenic products are less likely to do that.

The problem though is that there aren’t any approved or regulatory standards for this term. That means that any company can slap a “non-comedogenic” claim on any bottle regardless of how thick, greasy, and unkind to pores it really is.

So, how can those pores catch a break?

The comedogenic index scale

It’s been said that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself (of course, as your personal skincare matchmaker we only semi-agree, but anyway…).

Enter the comedogenic index scale. This index ranks substances on a scale from 0-5, and it gives you a pretty good idea of what’s going to be fine or troublesome for those pores. Here’s an overview of the scale:

0 – Won’t clog pores
1 – Low chance of clogging pores
2 – Moderately low chance of clogging pores
3 – Moderate chance of clogging pores
4 – Fairly high chance of clogging pores
5 – High chance of clogging pores

So basically, an non-comedogenic ingredient with a rating of 2 or less typically won’t clog pores. But a rating of 5 is likely to be trouble.

But…it’s complicated

The thing is, these ratings aren’t cut and dry. There are a few other factors to consider:

Ingredient concentration

For example, if an ingredient has a high comedogenic rating but is at a low concentration within the formulation it’s a lot less likely to clog pores.

Product type

Let’s talk coconut oil. It has a rating of 4 on the comedogenic index. For acne prone folks it’s a fine-but-not-great primary ingredient in your wash-off cleanser. But it could wreak havoc as a primary ingredient in your moisturizer.

Skin chemistry

As we all know, skincare’s not one-size-fits-all, and a lot of that has to do with our unique skin characteristics; what works for a friend with similar skin may not work for you.

How to save face

Easy answers are nice but rare in skincare. That’s why there are a few best practices to keep in mind when it comes to defending against clogged pores:

  1. Take a look at the ingredients label. Check to see if any ingredients with a high comedogenic rating are listed.
  2. See where any comedogenic ingredients sit on the ingredients list—the higher up on the ingredients list, the higher the concentration, the better the chance it can cause issues.
  3. Patch test new products before going full-faced.

We’ll do the sleuthing for you

If scanning product labels for non-comedogenic ingredients doesn’t sound like your thing we’re here to help. We started Kura to take the guesswork out of skincare. That means getting you the right products first and foremost, but it also means sharing 101 on everything from how to wash your face to intel on how your sheets could be causing breakouts. It’s all the skin care you need without all the friction.

To get started with routine built around you, create a skin profile at kuraskin.com and we’ll take care of the rest.

Comedogenic Ratings of Skincare Oils

The following ingredients are ranked on a scale from 0-5, where 0 is the least likely to clog pores

0 – Not Likely to Clog Pores
1 – Low
2 – Moderately Low
3 – Moderate
4 – Fairly High
5 – High

NameComedogenic Rating
Abyssinian Seed Oil0
Acai Berry Oil2
Almond Oil, Sweet2
Andiroba Seed Oil2
Apricot Kernel Oil2
Argan Oil0
Avocado Oil3
Babassu Oil1-2
Baobob Seed Oil2
Black Currant Seed Oil0-1
Blackberry Seed Oil0-1
Black Cumin Seed Oil2
Black Raspberry Seed Oil1-2
Blueberry Seed Oil0-1
Borage Oil2
Brazil Nut Oil2
Broccoli Seed Oil1
Buriti Oil2
Camellia Seed Oil1
Carrot Seed Oil3-4
Castor Oil1
Cherry Kernel Oil2
Chia Seed Oil3
Cloudberry Seed Oil1
Cocoa Butter4
Coconut Butter4
Coconut Oil4
Coconut Oil, Fractionated2-3
Cottonseed Oil3
Cranberry Seed Oil2
Cucumber Seed Oil1
Date Seed Oil3
Elderberry Seed Oil1-2
Emu Oil1
Evening Primrose Oil2-3
Flax Seed Oil (Linseed)4
Guava Seed Oil1-2
Goji Berry Seed Oil0-1
Grapeseed Oil1
Hazelnut Oil1
Hemp Seed Oil0
Jojoba Oil2
Karanja Oil2
Kiwi Seed Oil1
Kukui Nut Oil2
Lanolin Oil2
Macadamia Nut Oil2-3
Mango Butter2
Mango Seed Oil2
Marula Oil3-4
Meadowfoam Seed Oil1
Milk Thistle Seed Oil1
Mineral Oil0
Mink Oil3
Moringa Oil3-4
Mowrah Butterna
Neem Oil1-2
Olive Oil2
Papaya Seed Oil2-3
Palm Oil4
Palm Oil, Red4
Passionfruit (Maracuja) Seed Oil1-2
Peach Kernel Oil2
Peanut Oil2
Pecan Oil2
Perilla Oil1-2
Pistachio Oilna
Plum Kernel Oil1-2
Pomegranate Seed Oil1
Prickly Pear Seed Oil1-2
Pumpkin Seed Oil2
Red Raspberry Seed Oil0-1
Rice Bran Oil2
Rosehip Seed Oil1
Safflower Oil (High Linoliec)0
Sea Buckthorn Oil1
Sesame Seed Oil3
Shea Butter0-2
Shea Oil0-2
Soybean Oil4-5
Squalane Oil0-1
Strawberry Seed Oil1
Sunflower Seed Oil0-2
Tamanu Oil2
Tomato Seed Oil0-2
Walnut Seed Oil1-2
Watermelon Seed Oil0-1
Wheat Germ Oil5

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