Aug 19, 2022 · 9 min read
“Non-comedogenic” may seem like a mouthful to say, but if you have acne-prone skin, it’s one of the most important labels to keep in mind when choosing any product that goes on your skin. That includes makeup.
What is non-comedogenic makeup? In short, it’s makeup that won’t clog your pores. That doesn’t mean it will clear up acne, but it can help prevent new acne from forming. Finding non-comedogenic products might seem tricky, especially when popular media highlights miracle skincare ingredients that can actually clog your pores instead, like coconut oil. (On that note, here’s the truth about non-comedogenic oils.)
With a bit of know-how, figuring out which ingredients to watch out for isn’t all that difficult. We’re here to help with this helpful cheat sheet and a long list of expert-approved non-comedogenic makeup for you to try.
Knowing whether a product is comedogenic (or pore-clogging) is key because more inflamed acne can form from clogged pores or comedones (blackheads are open comedones, while whiteheads are closed comedones). Pores can become clogged when excess sebum—the skin’s natural oil— and dead skin cells mix together. Bacteria (specifically C. acnes) thrive in the excess oil which can lead to inflammation - acne!¹
Comedogenicity is a complicated subject, and the truth is many factors can contribute to an ingredient’s ability to clog pores, including how much of the ingredient is in a product. Also, some ingredients may be pore-clogging for some individuals but not others. Even products labeled “non-comedogenic” can still block pores. (But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to easily deal with clogged pores!)
In the world of skincare, the word “non-comedogenic” has become a buzzword. Chances are you’ve seen it before, and whether you know it or not, you may already own non-comedogenic products. But if you’re just learning to wear makeup, you’ll need to know how to tell if you’re purchasing non-comedogenic makeup. Here are a few tips:
Check the label. The beauty industry has a habit of using all the cool buzzwords, and non-comedogenic is definitely one of those!
Cross-reference ingredients. Here’s a list we’ve put together of common comedogenic ingredients you’ll want to avoid.
Use common sense. If you’re unsure, compare products to other non-comedogenic products on the shelf. Do they tend to have the same ingredients listed?
Until you know what you’re looking for—and how your unique skin responds to the products—it can feel like a game of trial and error. Start by adding just one product, like a non-comedogenic foundation for acne-prone skin. If you notice breakouts, switch it up for another non-comedogenic makeup product. The last thing you want is your makeup or makeup remover to contribute to acne. (That’s why we recommend adding micellar water to your skincare routine!)
It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s not as simple as picking just any ol’ item off the shelf labeled non-comedogenic. It can also depend on the product—are we talking about sunscreen, moisturizers, cleansers, or makeup? Here’s what to keep an eye out for:
Zinc oxide: Zinc oxide provides a physical barrier from the sun that blocks UV rays. Zinc-containing compounds may also help soothe skin² and absorb excess oil, which may help prevent breakouts.³
Titanium dioxide: Another common sunscreen ingredient, titanium dioxide provides a physical barrier from the sun, reflecting UVA and UVB rays.
Salicylic acid: It buffs away dead skin cells and unclogs pores. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliator that removes dead skin cells to give you a brighter, even-toned appearance.
Hyaluronic acid: This is excellent for attracting and retaining moisture in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin.⁴ Its hydrating properties can also be used to relieve symptoms of conditions like eczema or allergic contact dermatitis.⁵
Glycerin: Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture.⁶ It also plays a role in skin hydration, elasticity, and barrier repair.⁷
Silica: Used as a thickener in makeup, silica isn’t known to clog pores. However, it may be paired with other comedogenic ingredients that might contribute to breakouts. Always make sure to read the full ingredient list!
Some oils are known to be comedogenic, and contrary to popular opinion, coconut oil is one of the worst offenders.⁸ It is not advised to use coconut oil on acne-prone skin. Other ingredients we recommend avoiding include:
Alcohol denat is denatured alcohol and can leave your skin dry and irritated, as may be the case with any product that contains this type of alcohol.
Added fragrance is a common irritant in skincare products, and for some, it may even cause an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis).⁹ Since manufacturers don’t have to include fragrance on the label, look for products that are specifically fragrance-free.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent and is able to break down oil and product residue. SLS is a common comedogenic ingredient that can trigger breakouts.¹⁰
Yes, plenty! Here’s a list of some of our favorite non-comedogenic makeup products, all perfect for acne-prone skin.
NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation is a lightweight liquid foundation that gives you a natural, healthy-looking finish while helping hydrate your skin.
Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation is a lightweight formula that transforms from a liquid to a powder, leaving a velvety matte finish. Best of all, this long-wear foundation is available in 22 shades.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint is one of the best non-comedogenic foundations for dry skin, formulated with Neutrogena’s hydro boost moisturizer to help keep your skin smooth and fresh all day.
Bare Minerals Original Powder Foundation SPF 15 is made with just five ingredients, all non-comedogenic and also all vegan. It’s an oil-free foundation that lasts all day and has SPF.
NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Powder Foundation creates a matte finish with flawless-looking skin, a perfect non-comedogenic foundation for oily skin.
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Powder Foundation is lightweight and buildable, plus it comes in 50 shades so you can find the right non-cakey, non-comedogenic powder foundation for you.
e.l.f. Contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder contains a combo of pigments to create a natural-looking contour for your face with buildable coverage.
Laura Mercier RoseGlow Blush Color Infusion is a sheer, buildable, and silky cheek color that blends seamlessly with your skin.
Jane Iredale Corrective Colors Powder includes four shades to correct and conceal discoloration on your skin, including redness and hyperpigmentation.
NYX Can't Stop Won't Stop Contour Concealer is a highly pigmented, lightweight, liquid contouring concealer that’s easily blendable, with a matte finish.
Tarte Shape Tape provides full coverage while helping your skin look smoother and brighter.
We’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing cleansers and moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Here’s your list!
The cleanser by Curology is gentle and lightly foaming, leaving your skin balanced, hydrated, and refreshed. It’s formulated for sensitive skin but can work for all skin types.
La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser is a hydrating cleanser for normal-to-dry skin. It’s formulated with niacinamide and ceramides and helps to get rid of dirt, makeup, and grit.
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser is a gentle foaming cleanser formulated for sensitive skin. It won’t dry out your skin, and it’s non-comedogenic.
The moisturizer by Curology is a gel moisturizer with a lightweight and cloud-like texture. This is our minimalist moisturizer—just what you need and nothing else.
EltaMD AM is a long-lasting non-comedogenic lightweight moisturizer with niacinamide and willow bark to help stimulate cell turnover for smoother skin.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream formulated with hyaluronic acid, this unique gel-cream moisturizer is non-comedogenic and oil-free.
The rich moisturizer by Curology is a gentle, yet ultra-hydrating dermatologist-tested formula that is vegan, fragrance-free, and suitable for all skin types.
The sunscreen by Curology is a no-clog, grease-free lotion that absorbs quickly and gives skin a fresh finish. It’s a mineral-powered broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30.
Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is for all skin types. It helps hydrate your skin and provides sun protection against UVA and UVB rays.
EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 is a perfect moisturizing sunscreen for oily skin. It’s oil-free and formulated to protect acne-prone and sensitive skin.
Cetaphil Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF 30 is a lightweight, non-greasy lotion formulated to absorb surface oil, help reduce shine, and leaves a matte finish. Made for oily and sensitive skin types.
Still, looking for more info? Check out our no-breakout makeup series for more information on non-comedogenic makeup.
When it comes to your skin, Curology does the hard work for you. We take the time to understand the uniqueness of your skin and provide a personalized skincare solution that just works. Just take a short quiz and snap a few selfies, and one of our licensed dermatology providers will evaluate your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a free 30-day supply of your personalized prescription formula* with three active ingredients for your unique skin—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling. Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology now!
Also, be sure to ask for micellar makeup remover by Curology—it’s a non-comedogenic makeup remover. It’s free during your trial month!
Non-comedogenic ingredients are non-pore-clogging—for most people (remember, everyone’s skin is different, and what works well for one person may not work for another). But non-comedogenic ingredients typically won’t treat acne—they’ll only help prevent future acne by not clogging your pores.
Comedones are clogged pores. Pores become clogged when too much oil is produced—or trapped—and mixes with dead skin cells. There are two types of comedones: open and closed. Open comedones are blackheads, and closed comedones are whiteheads.
Zaenglein, A.L., et al. Guidelines for Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2016, May 1).
Gupta, M., et al. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice. (2014).
Abendrot, M., & Kalinowska-Lis, U. Zinc-containing compounds for personal care applications. International journal of cosmetic science. (2018).
Papakonstantinou E., et al. Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging. Dermato Endocrinology. (2012, July-December).
Walker, K., et al. Hyaluronic Acid. National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 15).
Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slipper Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (2016, May-June).
J.W. Flurh, et. al. Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. The British Journal of Dermatology. (July 2008).
Francis A. &, Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (2019, August).
Litchman, G., et al. Contact dermatitis.StatPearls. (2022, May 8).
Fulton, J. E., et al. Comedogenicity of current therapeutic products, cosmetics, and ingredients in the rabbit ear. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1984).
* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.
Kristen Jokela, NP-C