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The Importance of Non-Comedogenic Skincare

In the overly-saturated cosmetic and skincare industry, it can be difficult to differentiate quality products from mere snake oil. The industry is overflowing with products that are riddled with less than ideal ingredients in order to cut costs and stealthily make our skin dependent upon the constant use of said products. Similar to a long-time cigarette smoker that is dependent upon nicotine in order to regulate their nervous system, there are innumerable ingredients on the market that are holding our skin hostage to a toxic cycle of dependency in order to, seemingly, keep common conditions like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and dry skin at bay. 


The variables that influence the condition of our skin are immense, convoluted, and highly unique to the individual. From diet to environment to genetics to hormones to the products we utilize daily - the list is unending. However, we can control a handful of these variables in our quest for happy and healthy skin. An important, and often unacknowledged, variable is the comedogenic nature of the ingredients in the products we use. Every single ingredient in skincare and cosmetic products has a certain comedogenic level - meaning the likelihood to clog your pores. Some ingredients are more comedogenic than others and, even so, not everyone that uses comedogenic products will suffer the consequences (remember, no skin is the same). Nonetheless, if you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, it is worth reading on to understand what you can be mindful of in your future skincare decisions. 


In the 1970s, many women were frequenting the dermatologist with complaints of acne despite the fact that they were often in their mid-30s. Dermatologists quickly noticed that this was a common complaint amongst women and they decided to label their condition as acne cosmetica - acne caused by cosmetics and skincare products. It wasn’t long until dermatologists decided to conduct a study where they applied various different ingredients, that were commonly used in cosmetics, to the inner-ear of a rabbit in order to gauge just how comedogenic each individual ingredient was. The study involved applying one ingredient at a time, measuring the amount of clogged follicular orifices within the rabbit ear, and then quantifying the results by creating a comedogenic scale of 0-5 (0 denoting non-comedogenic and 5 denoting highly-comedogenic). Despite the study resulting in a list of common ingredients and their comedogenic level, it quickly became clear that the study needed to be reworked as the skin of rabbit is immensely different that human skin. Therefore, dermatologists conducted another study - except this time on human skin. The results were staggering in comparison to the results from the original study. So, in the 1980s, the American Academy of Dermatology held a symposium where dermatologists congregated in order to distill the results of both studies into a widely-accepted scale of comedogenicity.


Although the scale of comedogenicity wasn’t attained without missteps, it serves as an excellent resource to reference in our skincare product decisions and purchases. For example, if you have acne-prone skin it is likely best to avoid using highly-comedogenic ingredients like almond oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil on the more sensitive parts of your skin like your face, chest, and back. Rather, you can opt for ingredients, like argan oil and sunflower oil, with a comedogenic rating of 0 to ensure that you are not clogging your pores. There is no one size fits all when it comes to skincare, but implementing only non-comedogenic products into your routine can prove to make a world of a difference in your quest for healthy and happy skin.

You can check out the scale here.