There it was. In the middle of my chin. All red and swollen. Staring at me defiantly.
“Dare to pop me!,” it challenged me.
But, I didn’t. I knew that’s what that nasty pimple wanted. To be squeezed so he could procreate. No way, I’m falling for it, you nasty thing!
But, boy, was it annoying me! Why now? Why me? I don’t even get pimples all that often. Only during that time of the month. And this wasn’t it. What the heck was going on?
*lightbulb goes off in my head*
My new Nivea moisturizer! There must be something in it that makes pimples want to come out and play.
*goes to check out the ingredient list*
Isopropyl palmitate! Yep, that’ll do it. It’s a magnet for pimples.
*throws moisturizer in the bin*
Memo for Gio: ALWAYS check the ingredient list before buying any skincare products or you risk finding something in there that’ll give you pimples.
But, what ingredients are comedogenic and give you pimples? It’s not like you can tell by looking at them. Mmm….
Worry not, my friend. I’ve put together a list of common comedogenic ingredients in skincare products. But, before I can share it with you…
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How To Use A Comedogenic Ingredients
Just because an ingredient is in the list, it doesn’t mean it’ll give you pimples. In fact, you’ll be able to use most of the ingredients on this list without a single pimple rearing its ugly head on your face.
How do you figure out which ones are the real offenders, then? Here are a things to keep in mind as you scour this list for a culprit:
- Not all oils and waxes are comedogenic. So, don’t be scared of them all.
- Comedogenicity ratings aren’t the most reliable. They were done on mice so they don’t always apply to humans. But, if you’re suddenly getting pimples, they may give you an indication of where to look for the culprit.
- The higher it is on the label, the higher the chance it’ll give you pimples. Low amounts don’t usually cause problems.
- You’re more at risk if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Comedogenic ingredients don’t usually cause problems for other skin types (unless used in very high amounts).
- This list is not comprehensive. But I’ve listed as many comedogenic ingredients as I could find.
In other words, if you have dry skin, this list will probably be useless to you. Almost nothing gives you pimples.
Oily or acne-prone skin? Beware of highly comedogenic ingredient when they’re at the top of the ingredient lists. Less comedogenic ingredients may aggravate acne, especially if there are plenty of them in your moisturiser.
All good? Let’s go then:
Highly Comedogenic Ingredients:
- Acetylated Lanolin
- Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
- Algae Extract
- Cetearyl Alcohol + Ceteareth 20
- Coal tar
- Cocoa Butter
- Coconut Butter
- Coconut Oil
- Disodium Monooleamido PEG 2-Sulfosuccinate
- Ethylhexyl Palmitate
- Hexadecyl Alcohol
- Isocetyl Stearate
- Isodecyl Oleate
- Isopropyl Isostearate
- Isopropyl Myristate
- Isopropyl Palmitate
- Isostearyl Isostearate
- Laureth 4
- Lauric Acid
- Linseed Oil
- Myreth 3 Myristate
- Myristyl Lactate
- Myristyl Myristate
- Octyl Palmitate
- Octyl Stearate
- Oleyl Alcohol
- PEG 16 Lanolin
- Propylene Glycol Monostearate
- Potassium Chloride
- PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate
- Red Algae
- Sodium Chloride (Salt)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Sorbitan Sesquinoleate
- Stearyl Heptanoate
- Steareth 10
- Stearyl Heptanoate
- Wheat Germ Oil
Moderately Comedogenic Ingredients:
- Butyl Stearate
- Colloidal Sulfur
- Corn Oil
- Cotton Aws Oil
- Cotton Seed Oil
- D & C Red # 3, 17, 21, 30, 36
- Decyl Oleate
- Dioctyl Succinate
- Ethoxylated Lanolin
- Glyceryl Stearate SE
- Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
- Isostearyl Neopentanoate
- Laureth 23
- Mink Oil
- Myristic Acid
- PEG 200 Dilaurate
- PEG 8 Stearate
- PG Monostearate
- Shark Liver Oil
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Solulan 16
- Sorbitan Oleate
- Soybean Oil
- Stearic Acid Tea
- Sulphated Castor Oil
- Sulphated Jojoba Oil
- Wheat Germ Glyceride
Mildly Comedogenic Ingredients:
- Almond Oil
- Apricot Kernel Oil
- Arachidic Acid
- Ascorbyl Palmitate
- Avocado Oil
- Benzoic Acid
- Beta carotene
- Bubussa Oil
- Butylene glycol
- Cajeput Oil
- Candelilla Wax
- Capric Acid
- Caprylic Acid
- Carbomer 940
- Carnuba Wax
- Castor Oil
- Cetearyl Alcohol
- Cetyl alcohol
- Chaulmoogra Oil
- D & C Red #4, 6,7, 9, 27, 33, 40
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Glyceryl Stearate NSE
- Glyceryl Tricaprylin/Caprate
- Hexylene Glycol
- Hydrogenated Castor Oil
- Hydroxypropyl Cellulose
- Lanolin Oil
- Lanolin Wax
- Lithium Stearate
- Magnesium Stearate
- Olive Oil
- Palmitic Acid
- Peanut Oil
- PEG 100 Distearate
- PEG 100 Stearate
- PEG 150 Distearate
- PEG 20 Stearate
- Pentaerythrityl Tetra Isostearate
- PG Caprylate/Caprate
- PG Dicaprylate/Caprate
- PG Dipelargonate
- PG Dipelargonate
- Polyethene Glycol (PEG 400)
- Polyethene Glycol 300
- Sandalwood Seed Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Sorbitan Laurate
- Steareth 2
- Steareth 20
- Stearic acid
- Stearyl Alcohol
- Vitamin A Palmitate
- Zinc Oxide
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If any pimples suddenly rear their ugly heads on your face, look out for these on the ingredients list. Once may be a coincidence but if every time you use a cream with myristyl myristate, those annoying pimples suddenly pop up, stop putting that stuff on your face!
Do any of these ingredients make you break out? Share your experience in the comments below.
WOW the list is huge, thanks for posting this! im on the look out for those kind of ingredients 😀
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For me at least, it’s more about the formula than anything else, I have used products with the so called “highly” comedogenic ingredients but I am fine with those but with others products even they looks light and apply lightly, they manage to cause some trouble…
Interestingly, I am having most problem with prducts labled “for sensitive skin” or “non comedogenic”…they are truly what drives me away when I see these in a bottle.
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This is a good list. Thank you, Gio!
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wow thanks for sharing, I didn’t know these, 🙂
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Nicola: it really is huge! It took me ages to finish the post but glad you find it useful 🙂
Citrine: the formula and the concentration of the ingredients are very important factors too. My skin is pretty good and I usually don’t have a problem with most high-comedogenic ingredients. But I aadmit that if I saw them at the top of the ingredients list I tend to avoid the product, esp if it contatins Isopropoyl Palmitate. That breaks me out really bad.
It’s a shame non-comedogenic or hypoallergenic products don’t work for you. Unfortunately those products can contain pore-clogging or irritating ingredients too so it’s always best to check the ingredient list first. That way, if you know what ingredients are causing the problem, you can avoid them easily.
Dao and Nikki: you’re both very welcome 🙂
very useful post, now excuse me, i need to take out my stuff n counter check
Whoa what a complete list! Thanks Gio! I’m so going to print out this post for future references. Really, it’s that informative and I dont think I cant remember all the ingredients.
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prettybeautiful: thanks, hope you didn’t find too many products with highly comedogenic ingredients..
Hanna: you’re wlcome, I’m glad you find it useful. It took me a lot of time to complete the list and I’m sure there are some ingredients I missed out. And I can’t remember all the ingredients either, they’re too many! So, I usually just check ingredients lists online before deciding which products to buy.
I have a big list of comedogenic ingredients on my blog too, and avoiding these ingredients has helped me immensively to prevent acne. I used to have pretty bad adult acne, and half of the problem was the ingredients in my makeup, and even my acne products had pore clogging ingredients! It’s crazy!!! At this point I have most of these ingredients memorized, so I know what to avoid when I look at the ingredients of a product, but sometimes I’ll forget, and accidently make an impulse purchase that causes breakouts.
Jeni, I’m sorry to hear you had bad adult acne but I’m glad things are better now. Certain ingredients in makeup do make everything worse, don’t they? I used to have bad breakouts when I was a teen and thought it was just hormones acting up but they were actually due to the skincare products I was using, which contained highly comedogenic ingredient. My skin has been pretty much ok ever since I stopped using them. Like you, I know now which ingredients can cause problems for me and avoid them, which is why it is so important to know what the ingredients in our products do. But yeah, impulse shopping can have pretty bad consequences.. 🙂
fabulous post! bookmarking! 🙂
Denise, thank you! I’m glad you find it useful!
Actually your wrong about the ingredient list order. a company is aloud to put whatever ingredient they want in whatever order they want. common misconception. just because it is toward the end of the list does not mean there is very little of the product in it. Same goes for the beginning of the list. Often times they will put a nice ingredient close to the front to fool you into thinking there is alot of that good ingredient inside when really its a minuscule amount. It sucks but there really isnt a way to tell.
Chevelle, according to FDA regulations, ingredients should appear based on their concentration. Here is what it says on their website: “If the product is sold on a retail basis to consumers, even it it is labeled “For professional use only” or words to that effect, the ingredients must appear on an information panel, in descending order of predominance.”
Most brands comply with this, although I have sometimes come across ingredients listed alphabetically, which makes it impossible to know at what concentrations they are used. I’m not sure if other countries have the same regulations though but from my experience follow the order required by the FDA.
but would that only be comedogenic to you from that big list isnt everyones different?i found moisturizers that says there non comedogenic but have some of the things on your list in them how can that be?need a little info thanks
Kathy, this list is based on the risk of these ingredients causing breakouts. That means for instance that Isopropyl Palmitate is more likely to cause breakouts then say Azulene. But that doesn’t mean it will cause a break out. That depends on your skin (everyone’s different as you have rightly pointed out) and the concentration of the ingredient in the product. Still, it’s useful to know what ingredients are more likely to cause breakouts if you’re prone to them.
I wrote a post about comedogenic ingredients too. I knew the list will be too long to remember it so I tried to categorized them in a way anyone can remember it.
Erika, that is a great post and I love the way you divided the ingredients. It’s very helpful.
Coconut oil, coco butter, coconut oil, and vegetable oil are not comedogenic at all! Sure, sometimes when purchased alone, they can have harmful chemicals added, such as fragrances and waxes. Alone, these products are safe. Hope this doesn’t come off as rude, by the way. You honestly seem very kind, so I’d hate to offend you in any way.
Mia, you didn’t offend me at all. I do think, though, that it depends on the amount used and the person’s sensitivity. I know some people who break out when they use these ingredients, and others who experience no problems, only benefits.
Thanks for the response!
My pleasure.Thank you for your comment.
It would be good science if you posted the actual studies from which you compiled this list as citations; that way you add more credibility to your list, rather than compiling all the (sometimes wrong) data from the many lists out there on the web. I am saying this, because many lists are based on studies that were perfumed in the 60s and 70s, when the purity of the ingredients used in cosmetics was much lower than today a) due to more restrictive regulations, b) better process and analytical technology, and c) consumer awareness. In other words, some of your entires might be outdated, others might still or might no longer be true at all.
So, the corresponding citations incl. publication dates, will definitely be necessary, as science proceeds steadily. For example, the more recent dermatology literature is more or less unanimous that so called “comedogenic ingredients” are more of a red herring nowadays, and that skin cleansing routines and novel anti-inflammatory and mildly anti-bacterial ingredients are much more important whether or not one has a break-out resulting from particular skin care products: For example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20107752 and further citations therein. I hope this will help.
Dr Reimar, thanks for your comment. This was one of the first posts I’ve written for this blog and I agree that it needs updating. The problem is that to do it properly requires a lot of time. I will try and work on it a little at a time.
ok..what about beeswax? Is it comedogenic?? ?
Mim, beeswax is rated as moderately comedogenic 🙂
I’m surprised to see BHA as one of the ingredients. Always thought that Salicylic Acid is one of the best ingredients for exfoliating oil blackhead and acne prone skin.
Char, I think in this case BHA refers to Butylated Hydroxyanisole. 🙂
I was using IT cosmetics BB cream for an entire year and didn’t realize it was causing most of my breakouts until I ran out and didn’t have time to buy again. When I was out, I noticed my face started clearing up. How do I figure out what exactly was in the product that caused the breakout? I’d like to avoid whatever ingredients that caused the breakout. Thanks!
Kathy, sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, there is no clear way to do that. The best you can do is to compare the ingredients to those of other products that broke you out in the past and see if they have anything in common. You can also check if one of its top 5 ingredients is rated as highly comedogenic in the list above and avoid them going forward.
This is very interesting! I was recently ecstatic over getting a new Dove face wash made for sensitive skin, few ingredients, no dyes or parfums, basically every sensitive acne skimln girls dream. Used it once, woke up with nastiest case of dermatitis. The ingredients that are supposed to prevent breakouts and reactions became the ingredients that messed up my face for weeks and there was nothing I could do but wait. So yeah, different people react differently and it’s hard when even a product claiming to be for sensitive skin can give adverse reactions.