You already know that if you are in the least acne-prone, you never want to put anything on your skin or in your hair that is going to clog your pores.
But there are many products labeled “Non-comedogenic” and “Won’t Clog Pores” and “Hypoallergenic” that have some of the worst ingredients for clogging your pores.
Why would a manufacturer put an ingredient that will clog pores into a skin care product? There are lots of reasons. Some highly pore-clogging ingredients give the product a smooth, elegant feel. But the same properties that make it feel smooth and elegant make it glide down into your pores and stay there, blocking them. Some give make-up its color.
Research has shown that some algae products have the ability to strengthen the walls of blood vessels, leading some researchers to hypothesize that they will be good for helping to combat rosacea. So some manufacturers put it in their rosacea products, but algae products are highly comedogenic. A real puzzle for rosacea sufferers, because like acne sufferers, they need to avoid pore-clogging ingredients.
Some of the worst offenders are natural products, and consumers are drawn to natural products because they believe them to be safe.
But the only way for an acne sufferer to be safe is to always, always check the ingredients. Don’t use the product if it contains any of the ingredients listed below. If you are getting break-outs around your mouth, check your toothpaste as well. If you are getting breakouts on your scalp or around your hairline, or where you hair falls in your face, check your shampoo and conditioner. Don’t use products that have these ingredients.
Having made that statement, I will amend it slightly. If there is only one ingredient from the list in the formulation, that product only gets a 3, and it is way down on the ingredients list, (ingredients in higher concentrations appear at the beginning of the ingredient list on a product, and they decrease in concentration as you go down the list) it may be okay for you to use. But watch for signs of clogging pores. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.
Some of these ingredients are really good for other skin conditions, and if you weren’t prone to acne, they could be good for you. If you are, they will make your struggle to overcome your acne more difficult.
I have tried to put the reasons manufacturers include these “bad boys” in their formulations, but if you find that column totally snore-worthy, you have my permission not to read it! In fact the printable version skips that column altogether.
Print out the list and take it with you when you shop. We have put the list in alphabetical order to make it easier to find the ingredients, but we have highlighted the worst offenders.
Don’t try to memorize the list. You’ll go crazy because lots of things seem to make no sense if you aren’t a chemist. For example Octyl Palmitate and Octyl Stearate are really bad, but Octyl Salicylate is fine. Isopropyl Alcohol won’t clog your pores, but Isocetyl Alcohol will. So trust me, just take the list.
But the one you should remember is Isopropyl Myristate. (Ice-a-pro-pl Meer-estate). It’s in a lot of products and it is perhaps the worst offender of all.
The ingredients that are the most pore clogging have a five (5) after them. The scale runs zero to five. If an ingredient scored less than a three (3) on the pore clogging study, we didn’t include it. Download PDF of Pore Clogging Ingredients
List of Pore Clogging Ingredients
Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol4
Algin (Alginic acid; potassium alginate; sodium alginate)4
Cetearyl Alcohol + Ceteareth 204
Coconut Oil, Butter, Cream4
Cotton Seed Oil3
D&C Red #173
D&C Red #213
D&C Red # 33
D&C Red #303
D&C Red #363
Disodium Monooleamido PEG 2- Sulfosuccinate4
Glyceryl Stearate SE3
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil3
PEG 16 Lanolin4
PEG 75 Lanolin3
PEG 200 Dilaurate3
PEG 8 Stearate3
PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate4
Propylene Glycol Monostearate4
Shark Liver Oil3
Sodium Laureth Sulfate3
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate5
Stearic Acid TEA3
Sulfated Castor Oil3
Wheat Germ Glyceride3
Wheat Germ Oil5
Ingredient#What it is and why it’s in there
Acetylated Lanolin4Lanolin derivative – Lanolin is a wax from the sebaceous glands of sheep that allows the wool to shed water. In cosmetics and skin care products it acts as an emollient that forms a water repellent film on the skin.
Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol4Lanolin derivative a skin softener with anti-allergenic properties.
Algae Extract5Botanical- used to normalize the skin’s moisture content and provide suppleness and firmness to the epidermis. There are many different types of algae and they exhibit different properties. Manufacturers rarely disclose the specific strain of algae used.
Algin (Alginic acid; potassium alginate; sodium alginate)4Botanical – from the cell walls of Brown Algae, it is used as a thickener, stabilizer and gelling agent.
Butyl Isostearate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – Fatty acids are lubricant ingredients derived from plant oils or animal fats.
Butyl Stearate3Fatty Acids & Derivatives – typically used in very small quantities as an emulsifier for creams and lotions. It has been shown to cause allergic reactions
Carrageenan4Botanical – another seaweed, carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years. It is used in cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes and other skin care ingredients as an emulsifier and thickener, it can help the skin to remain soft.
Cetyl Acetate4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – Fatty alcohols are fatty acids that have been exposed to hydrogen. Fatty esters are produced from fatty alcohols and fatty acids. Cetyl acetate is a mixture of cetyl alcohol and acetic acid used as a skin-conditioning agent and emollient.
Cetyl Alcohol3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – derived from coconut and palm oils it can serve as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, binder, foam booster or emulsion stabilizer, depending on the formulation and need.
Cetearyl Alcohol + Ceteareth 204Fatty Alcohols & Esters – cetearyl alcohol is an emulsifying and stabilizing wax produced from the reduction of plant oils and natural waxes. It is used as an emollient and to give a high viscosity to the product. Ceteareth 20 is used as an emollient, emulsifier and lubricant. The combination is particularly comedogenic.
Cocoa Butter4Natural Oils – softens and lubricates the skin. It is solid at room temperature but melts between 90° and 100°, so is often used in lip balms and in massage creams. Like most natural oils it is comedogenic and may cause allergic reactions.
Coconut Oil, Butter, Cream4Natural Oils –used as a cream base it is found in soaps, ointments, massage creams and sunscreen forumulas.
Colloidal Sulfur3Minerals – colloidal means the sulfur is finely divided so it stays in suspension. It is a common ingredient used in acne preparations as it reduces oil gland activity and dissolves the skin’s surface layer of upper most cells. Interesting that while it does this, it also shows the ability to clog pores.
Cotton Seed Oil3Natural Oils –widely used in cosmetics it acts as a carrier. It is mildly irritating and can cause allergies.
D&C Red #173Pigments
D&C Red #213Pigments
D&C Red # 33Pigments
D&C Red #303Pigments
D&C Red #363Pigments
Decyl Oleate3Fatty Acids & Derivatives- an emollient with good penetrating properties, has a nice feel on the skin, contradicting what you might read on some websites that say you can tell if something is clogging your pore by how it feels on your skin. It is a component of human sebum and is produced commercially from olive oil and synthetically.
Dioctyl Succinate3Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an ester of succinic acid it is found in lichen and fungi and acts as a wetting agent. Some Old Spice and Oil of Olay products use it in their formulations.
Disodium Monooleamido PEG 2- Sulfosuccinate4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – a mild surfactant used as a cleansing agent.
Ethoxylated Lanolin3Lanolin Derivatives – an emollient and emulsifier.
Ethylhexyl Palmitate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – a non-greasy, non-oily moisturizer with good spreading and solvency properties.
Glyceryl Stearate SE3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emulsifier, solvent, humectant and consistency regulator.
Glyceryl-3 Diisostearate4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – widely used in make-up and moisturizers, it has humectant properties (draws water to the skin from the air) and leaves a lipid film on the skin.
Hexadecyl Alcohol5Fatty Alcohols & Esters – another name for cetyl alcohol, it is used as an emollient, emulsifier, or a thickening agent in creams and lotions, and as a surfactant in shampoos.
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil3Natural Oils – add hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils and you can make them solid at room temperature with a longer shelf life. Consuming these so-called “trans fats” is terrible for your arteries and putting them on your skin is bad for it, as well.
Isocetyl Alcohol4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – a skin conditioner with emollient properties, it can also increase viscosity.
Isocetyl Stearate5Fatty Alcohols & Esters –an emollient.
Isodecyl Oleate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient and moisturizer with wetting and pigment-binding properties.
Isopropyl Isostearate5Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient that leaves the skin surface with a smooth and supple finish. It also acts as a binder.
Isopropyl Lanolate4Lanolin Derivative – a skin softener and binder, it aids in the proper spreading of a product.
Isopropyl Myristate5Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient, moisturizer, binder, and skin softener, it aids in product penetration. It is an ester of myristic acid.
Isopropyl Palmitate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient and moisturizer, it also acts as a binder and solvent. It is produced from the combination of palmitic acid (coconut or palm oil) and isopropyl alcohol.
Isostearyl Isostearate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient resembling jojoba oil. It leaves an almost imperceptible afterfeel.
Isostearyl Neopentanoate3Fatty Acids & Derivatives – an emollient, binder, and skin-conditioning agent with a moisturizing and softening affect.
Laureth 233Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emulsifier, emulsion stabilizer, and surfactant.
Laureth 45Fatty Alcohols & Esters – a surfactant and emulsifying agent.
Lauric Acid4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – with foaming properties, lauric acid is widely used in soaps and detergents. It is found in many vegetable oils, particularly coconut and laurel oils.
Mink Oil3Natural Oils – a gentle and effective emollient, it softens skin and is occlusive. It comes from the subdermal fatty tissues of the mink.
Myristic Acid3Fatty Acids & Derivatives – a surfactant and cleansing agent. When combined with potassium it lathers well. It is naturally occurring in most animal and vegetable fats.
Myristyl Lactate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – a light emollient and moisturizer with good spreadability. It leaves a smooth satiny after feel.
Myristyl Myristate5Fattty Acids & Derivatives – an occlusive skin conditioning agent that enhances spreadability and reduces transparency. Good for emulsions that have to melt into the skin upon contact.
Octyl Palmitate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – a non-greasy, non-oily moisturizer with good spreading and solvency properties.
Octyl Stearate5Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emollient with properties similar to octyl palmitate.
Oleth-35Ethers & Sugars – an ether of oleyl alcohol, it is used as an emulsifier and solubilizer.
Oleyl Alcohol4Fatty Alcohols & Esters –an unsaturated fatty alcohol found in fish oils or made synthetically, oleyl alcohol works as an emollient, solvent, viscosity-increasing agent and carrier. It is found in a wide range of products.
PEG 16 Lanolin4Lanolin Derivatives – PEG is short for polyethylene glycol which can be blended with a wide range of other ingredients to produce the desired humectancy, viscosity, or melting point. The number after it indicates its molecular weight.
PEG 75 Lanolin3Lanolin Derivatives – an emollient, emulsifier, dispersant , plasticizer, and foam stabilizer.
PEG 200 Dilaurate3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emulsifier.
PEG 8 Stearate3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emulsifier and thickening agent generally incorporated into hair care products, hand and body creams and moisturizing preparations. Works as a superfatting agent for shaving preparations and foam baths.
PG Monostearate3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – oil soluble emulsifier with foaming properties.
PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – used as a skin conditioning agent and sometimes for thickening.
Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – a skin conditioning agent, emollient, surfactant, emulsifier.
Potassium Chloride5Minerals – increases viscosity in cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations.
Propylene Glycol Monostearate4Fatty Alcohols & Esters – an emollient
Red Algae5Botanicals – another seaweed. The case for seaweed is long both in terms of history, and positive properties. But some of its many benefits are due to the abundance of iodine in it, which makes it highly irritating to the follicle of acne prone individuals, causing them to form comedones.
Shark Liver Oil3Natural Oils – seen in skin care products more often as Squalane, it is a moisturizer and lubricant, it softens and smoothes the skin while replenishing skin lipids. Human sebum is comprised of 25% squalane.
Sodium Chloride5Minerals – used as a preservative, astringent and antiseptic to treat inflamed lesions.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate3Detergents – an emulsifier and versatile surfactact, with strong cleansing and foaming properties. It is known to be drying and irritating, though less so than its cousin sodium lauryl sulfate.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate5Detergents – surfactant with good foaming properties, dispersant and wtting agent. It is often found in soaps packaged with pump dispensers. Considered very irritating.
Solulan 164Lanolin Derivatives – Solulan 16 is a trade name for ethoxylated lanolin and ethoxylated fatty alcohols. It acts as an oil-in-water emulsifier, a foam stabilizer and it makes the skin feel soft and non-tacky after application.
Sorbitan Oleate3Thickeners & Emulsifiers – a mild emulsifier derived from sugar.
Soybean Oil3Natural Oils – used in numerous forms it is primarily a smoothing ingredient.
Steareth 104Fatty Alcohols & Esters – emulsifiers for water-in-oil formulations preventing separation.
Stearic Acid TEA3Miscellaneous – an emulsifier and thickening agent.
Stearyl Heptanoate4Fatty Acids & Derivatives – a non-greasy emollient that produces a highly water-repellent film.
Sulfated Castor Oil3Natural oil – a surfactant used as a cleansing agent.
Wheat Germ Glyceride3Fatty Alcohols & Esters – softens the skin and has good penetration ability. Commonly used in moisturizers.
Wheat Germ Oil5Natural Oils – an emollient, it helps improve the feel and texture of the skin. It has antioxidant and free-radical-scavenging properties. It is appropriate for use in antiaging products, as well as for dry skin, sunburned skin, eczema, and on stretch marks.
Xylene4Miscellaneous – this is very nasty stuff, classified as a surfactant and previously used in fine perfumes, it causes far more serious problems than clogged pores. If you find it on a skin care ingredient list, don’t even think about buying it!