In today’s post I’m talking about all the pore clogging ingredients commonly found in skin care and cosmetics. I’ve also created a FREE handy downloadable list of all the pore clogging ingredients you need to avoid for acne!
If you’re struggling with chronic inflamed acne, or those annoying colourless bumps on your skin that just won’t go away – it’s important that you check every ingredient in your beauty cabinet as there are many pore clogging ingredients out there that could be making your skin worse.
Pore clogging ingredients to avoid for acne prone skin
Suffering with bumps and spots around your hair line? Check your shampoo and conditioner! Pore clogging ingredients such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate are often found in shampoos (and even cleansers!) and silicones are commonly found in conditioners. These two ingredients are known to strip the skin of it’s natural oils but they also coat the skin in a pore clogging film which spells double bad news for those with acne prone skin!
acne starts life as a clogged pore
Every pimple starts with a clogged pore so if you can minimise the chances of developing clogged pores then you can really help to reduce the amount of pimples that could develop. Clogged pores are the result of a combination of dead skin cells, debris and sebum and when a pore gets clogged up, it creates the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive. The bad bacteria then over populates the pore and causes a bacterial infection which the body will then attempt to fight, resulting in acne symptoms such as redness and inflammation.
One of the easiest ways to prevent clogged pores on your skin is to reduce the amount of comedogenic ingredients that you apply on a regular basis.
what does non comedogenic mean?
Non comedogenic simply means it won’t clog your pores. Other marketing terms that are often thrown around by brands are “non pore clogging”, “non-acnegenic”, “oil-free”, “dermatologist tested” and “dermatologist approved”. Unfortunately, these claims are meaningless and you need to dig a little bit deeper to find out if your products really are free from pore clogging ingredients.
why you need to check for pore clogging ingredients…
Just a brief walk down a skin care aisle or a 5 minute browse at a beauty counter and you’ll see tonnes of “non-comedogenic” and “acne friendly” labels screaming at you. Don’t be fooled by these questionable marketing claims! These phrases do not actually mean the product is free from pore clogging ingredients. These claims are not regulated by an governing body which means that a brand can claim their product is free from pore clogging ingredients without having to get it tested or approved.
So don’t just look out for the words “non comedogenic”, check your labels with every pore clogging ingredient on this list to make sure you don’t fall into the trap!
is shea butter pore clogging for acne?
Many of you are probably wondering why Shea Butter doesn’t appear on this list. A friend of mine commented on a previous blog post voicing their concerns over the use of shea butter in cosmetics and it was her comment that got me thinking about all the different pore clogging ingredients in skin care and make up. It’s a complete myth that Shea Butter is pore clogging! In fact, Shea Butter has a comedogenic rating of 0, meaning that it’s very unlikely to clog pores! Before I researched it, I too thought Shea Butter was a definite no-no for acne prone skin, I mean – the texture alone feels so thick and heavy, nothing like the light acne-friendly oils such as Hemp that I was so accustomed to using.
Shea Butter is also rich in Vitamin A, E and K which are all great for acne-prone skin and also contains unique cinnamic esters that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties! Obviously, everyones skin reacts differently to different ingredients but Shea butter is generally very well tolerated by acne sufferers and can even improve the condition – as long as it’s unrefined and of the highest quality possible!
If you think you’re reacting badly to a product and thought that Shea Butter was to blame, it’s worth looking back at the formulation and cross referencing with the pore clogging ingredients below! You’ll probably find a number of other ingredients that could actually be the issue! For example, Shea Butter is often teamed with Cocoa Butter which is highly comedogenic and much more likely to be the reason behind your clogged pores!
does algae clog pores?
Algae is an ingredient gets a lot of bad hype about being highly comedogenic however it’s important to remember that the term ‘algae’ refers to every single marine plant in existence! It’s no different from saying that “oils clog pores”… Yes, many oils can clog pores but there are also a handful of oils that don’t and are amazing for acne skin! Problematic algaes include Carrageenan, Sodium Alginate and Irish/Icelandic Moss but algae such as Astaxanthin will cause very little issues. If you’re still not convinced then check out this lengthy post on why you need to stop worrying about algae being pore clogging!
oil vs extract
One ingredient that’s commonly found in natural skin care is Olive oil. Unfortunately Olive oil can be quite problematic for acne prone skin but that doesn’t mean you have to run for the hills when you see the word Olive in the ingredients list. Some of my favourite products for acne include plant and fruit extracts – this is a completely different ingredient to oils as the extract is usually a water-based ingredient that has been extracted from the plant or fruit whereas the oil is from the nut or seed (or flesh in the case of Avocado and Olive). Extracts are often much more potent and many have fantastic medicinal properties that can be very beneficial to skin conditions so don’t write off a product just because it contains Olive Leaf extract or Pomegranate extract as these ingredients are NOT pore clogging.
have you removed all pore clogging ingredients but still getting tiny bumps and blackheads?
It’s always important to remember that acne is your body’s way of telling you something is not right within. A non comedogenic skin care routine can help calm redness and help to repair the skin but it will never fix the root cause of acne! Alongside your acne skin care routine, you also need to adopt a healthy, high fat/low carb diet and potentially add some supplements to your daily routine. The reason we develop tiny bumps and clogged pores is because of sebum oxidisation which occurs when our body is out of balance due to bad skin care (namely harsh acids and detergents), environmental pollution, diet, hormones, stress, gut issues and insulin resistance. These issues cause the good, protective sebum on our skin to oxidise and ‘go bad’.
you need to fight the most pore clogging substance of them all….squalene peroxide
When our bodies are inflamed and sending our hormones out of whack, the excess sebum that is created oxidises and turns into a substance called squalene peroxide. Squalene peroxide is by far the most comedogenic substance there is – yes way more pore clogging that ANY of the ingredients below!
squalene peroxide is so successful at blocking pores that scientists can give a rabbit full on acne by simply applying squalene peroxide to its ear!
You could be using the most non-comedogenic skin care routine in the world, but if your body is creating too much oxidised sebum (aka squalene peroxide) then you will never be able to banish those bumps! A great starting point is restricting you sugar intake by eating a healthy high fat/low carb diet rich in foods high in vitamin E as vitamin E is the single best antioxidant to prevent sebum oxidisation happening in the first place!
For more information on successfully committing to a high fat/low carb diet – visit this post here.
comedogenic ingredients: acne friendly oils
The following oils are generally safe to use for acne as they are all very low on the comedogenic scale, however, anyone can have a negative reaction to any ingredient, non pore clogging or not! While it’s quite common for your skin to purge a little during the first two weeks of switching to oil cleansing or using natural beauty products, if your skin feels tight, irritated or dry then these oils aren’t right for you:
- Hemp Seed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Squalane – my favourite for fungal acne!
- Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Shea Butter
- Rose Hip Oil
comedogenic ingredients: list of pore clogging ingredients to avoid
These are all the ingredients that can potentially clog pores and include synthetic and natural oils, fatty acids, waxes, alcohols, silicones, detergents and thickeners. I’ve included all the natural oils that have a comedogenic rating of 2 or above. Some people with acne can still tolerate natural oils with a comedogenic rating of 2 such as Avocado and Grapeseed in small doses in leave-on products such as moisturisers and higher doses with wash-off products such as cleansers, shampoos and conditioners. So, if they’re working for you, don’t stress out because you see them on this list! Trust your instinct and use what works for you.
Everyone’s skin reacts differently, but all of these are potentially pore clogging ingredients and have been known to cause problems with acne skin types. You may find some of these ingredients are perfectly fine with your skin but I wanted to provide you all with a comprehensive list of all the ingredients that I look out for and avoid when choosing my own skin care products and cosmetics.
Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
Apricot Kernel Oil
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
Cetearyl Alcohol & Ceteareth-20
Cheru Seed Oil
Carrageenan Moss/Irish Moss
C.I.Pigment Red 17 (C.I.12390)
C.I.Pigment Red 21 (C.I.12300)
C.I.Pigment Red 3 (C.I.12120)
C.I.Pigment Red 30 (C.I.12330)
C.I.Pigment Red 4 (C.I.12085)
Cotton Awws Oil
Cotton Seed Oil
Corn Starch (Zea Mays)
Dhupa Seed Oil
Disodium Monooleamido PEG2-Sulfosuccinate
Evening Primrose Oil
Flax Seed Oil
Glyceryl Stearate SE
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Kapok seed Oil
Laminaria Digitata Extract
Laminaria Saccharina Extract
Mahua Seed Oil
Nahor Seed Oil
Palm Kernel Oil
Peach Kernel Oil
PEG 100 Distearate
PEG 150 Distearate
PEG 200 Dilaurate
PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate
Propylene Glycol Monostearate
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate)
Rice Bran Oil
Sea Whip/Gorgonian Coral Extract
Shorea Robusta Seed Oil
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Myreth Sulfate
Stearic Acid TEA
Sulfated Castor Oil
Sulfated Jojoba Oil
Vitamin A Palmitate
Wheat Germ Glycerides
Wheat Germ Oil
Wild Apricot Oil (Chullu)
Phew! That’s a complex list right?!
This list is probably no where near the full list of pore clogging ingredients but it does contains all the most common culprits you may find cosmetics – even the ones marketed for acne sufferers!
Are there any other ingredients that you think clog up your pores that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll pop my detective cap on!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin
Sources: Face Reality Pore Clogging Ingredients List, Sage Skin Care, Let’s Talk Acne and Cosmetics, Beneficial Botanicals, Cary Skin Care