What ingredients can clog your pores?

For those who are proned to acne, using products that are labelled as non-comogendic may not be enough as I’ve come across some products labelled as such but they still containing pore clogging ingredients that can possibly aggravate acne.

Here are some ingredients that are rated as highly comedogenic:

– Algae Extract
– Carrageenan
– Hexadecyl Alcohol
– Isocetyl Stearate
– Isopropyl Isostearate
– Isopropyl Myristate
– Laureth 4
– Myristyl Myristate
– Octyl Stearate
– Oleth-3
– Potassium Chloride
– Red Algae
– Sodium Chloride (Salt)
– Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
– Wheat Germ Oil

Yes, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS is highly comedogenic. Many botanical or natural oils such as cocoa butter, coconut butter and coconut oil are also rated as having fairly high propensity to clog pores. If you have problems with acne, you may want to look up the full list here. Look at the ratings under the column listed COM. The higher the score, the more comedogenic it is.

But it’s kind of doubtful that mineral oil which is often said to be a pore clogging ingredient, is considered as non-comedogenic in the list. One explanation I read is that mineral oil does not penetrate our skin but just sit on top of it so it shouldn’t clog our skin. Whereas for some of the natural oils listed, they have a very small molecular structure and so they can clogs the pores.

In addition, if you have acne near your hairline, you might want to check your shampoos and conditioners especially those that leave a residue as it could be their ingredients giving you the problem.

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  1. hlpe says

    any recommendations for cosmetic products that are non comedogenic?

    hlpe: In terms of skincare, I thought Vichy, La Roche-Posay and Avene are worth a try. For makeup, a bit hard for me to recommend though…

  2. Rachel says

    Thanks for providing the link for comedogenic ingredients. I was wondering if you knew what ‘IRR’ stands for? It’s the column next ‘COM’.

    Does ‘IRR’ stand for Irritant?

    Rachel: Yes, it’s for Irritant. I should have clarified that too.

  3. says

    Thanks for the list! I had the whole shampoo/conditioner causing breakouts not only on my hairline but over my whole face! Stopped using and it was fine.

    paris: Yeah, I remember reading about that…

  4. says

    i personally find that any facial wash with “foam”, will clog pores & make the skin “foam” facial wash will clog pores & gives the skin tight feeling, even the expensive brand like shiseido , neutrogena, or Bioterm… the best is still the Gel tpye facial wash..

    Isabel: Interesting. I suppose it depends on the ingredients and also on your skin type. Some foaming wash do not have pore clogging ingredients though…

  5. Christine says

    Thank you SO much for this list, it was exactly what I was looking for. :)

    Christine: You’re welcome!

    • sesame says

      Mineral foundation and makeup range aren’t. They have very little ingredients so they don’t clog our pores. Some organic makeup too cos they don’t contain mineral oil or silicones.

    • sesame says

      I laid my hands off mineral makeup for awhile due to fear cos I developed allergies to using one of them. But recently, I found the ones from LA Splash really great. I had a review here http://www.vivawoman.net/2009/06/04/reviewla-splash-mineral-foundation-blush/ if you like to read. I really like how natural it looks on my skin. Everyday Minerals was okay for me too, but I had to go through trial and error to get the correct shade cos some oxidizes.

  6. Grace says

    Hi, I have found on the full list that aloe vera gel is one of the ingredient that clog pores?? Thast suprise me alot! My skin been prefectly fine until half a year ago it started break out like crazy, which I never have acne in my life ( only one or two during menstrual). I dont know if its the hormone that screw up or the BB cream i used. Right now im only using tinted moituriser. But im looking for a better alternative and am thinking of giving the Skinfood Aloe Vera bb cream a try.

    • rachel says

      this is rather late, but i just checked out the full list and aloe vera has a score of 0 for both COM and IRR, which should mean it doesn’t clog pores at all =)

  7. sesame says

    Why don’t you stop using your BB cream for awhile and see what happens. The problem with such creams is that there are too many ingredients and you can’t be certain what’s causing the problem.

  8. Zeke says

    Wonderful post you have it here. Yes as an acne-plagued person, I have switched numerous products to see what works best.

  9. says

    I started useing MAC studio fix liquid makeup. Not long after, I noticed my skin started to breakout. I was one who never broke out. After some research I found that MAC studio fix contains Algae Extract. Discontinued use immediatly and skin cleared up within a few weeks.

    • sesame says

      Glad you found the cause of your breakout. Sometimes, certain products just doesn’t agree with our skin even if it’s a good product.

  10. nanako says

    hi sesame,

    i m a research student who is working in chemistry lab…i m working with evaporative and carsinogenic chemicals quite frequently and thus i was subjected to some skin problems!i have acne over my checks which i what cosmetic products should i use in order to protect my face?


    • sesame says

      Your skin maybe too dry from all the testing. I suggest your use aloe vera to hydrate your skin and use an oil like evening primrose oil to calm the inflammation.

  11. littleredpoppy says

    I’ve never had bad acne before until recently when my forehead started breaking out in clogged pores… you can literally see the bumps and skin is dull and uneven.

    Examined my make-up regime and found that recently I started using Watson’s Water 360 moisturiser and Maybelline Clear Minerals BB Cream…

    Could it be that? I’m very unhappy about it, went for a facial and now my forehead is all red where they extracted :(

    • sesame says

      It might be…you can only find out after you stop using the products. If that’s the only new thing you’ve used before you start getting those breakout, stop using and see what happens. I also understand that acne from forehead is due to stress and a lack of sleep.

  12. anna says

    Hello, just acedently found your blog and have to say that i love it! As for skin care my skin is virgin from all SLS and other chemical cosmetic products. And i kave never had any problems with it even when i was teenager as I grew up in very clean and healthy enviroment. BUT i had to move to big city and there came probems. Now my skin became sensitive, combination and with clogged pores and acne breakouts. as i don’t even think to use any sls fancy cosmetics now testing many aromatherapy based products and often information confuse me. For example Jojoba is often told good for combination skin as it regulates sebum, but in this list it gets high com mark, and often rose hip oil is not recomend for acne thereas you recommend it/

  13. Cat says

    Salt, really..? I find that hard to believe as I have lived by the sea all my life and have never had a reaction to swimming in it. Further more I have friends who are surfers and practically live in the water, never seen a zit on them in my entire life. In fact I’ve never seen a zit on any of the surfers who travel down here for the waves, period. They always have such beautiful looking skin. So are you referring to iodised salt or salt that is somehow processed?? Because in my experience the natural sea water is a God send!

  14. M says

    What does COM stand for? Also, thanks for your article. I’m always on the lookout for help regarding acne care.

  15. rahul says

    Are plum seed oil and rice bran oil comedogenic……???..How safe are they??……What is Genhu Extract..??……..( I found it as ingredients in one of the moisturizing products and not able to find abt it in google….:O)…..Please help……

  16. Thelma Sansome says

    Could you please advise me what face oils may clog pores and which ones are more suitable for sensitive, mature skin?

    With many thanks,

    • Sesame says

      Avocado might work but I’m just about to try so can’t be sure. Virgin coconut oil and rosehip oil are worth a trial.


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