What Does Comedogenic Mean? and What's Best For Your Skin

Darrell Johnson

Posted on March 18 2018

What Does Comedogenic Mean? and What's Best For Your Skin

You may have seen or heard of comedogenic and non-comedogenic ratings for oils, and either said, hmm what is that, or "is it good or bad"?

To understand what "non-comedogenic" means, lets break down the word. A comedo (or comedones, if more than one) is a type of pimple, or lesion that can form on your skin. Pimples differ according to their appearance and what causes them.

A comedo, the least severe form of acne, is the result of a clogged pore [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Pores are the tiny openings in your skin that you can see when you look very closely, especially in a magnifying mirror. Inside those pores are hair follicles -- sacs beneath the skin that house the hair root -- and that's where pimples begin. When your body produces excess sebum, it can combine with dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria to plug up the pore. The result is a pimple -- a comedo. If the comedo is closed at the skin's surface, it's called a whitehead. When it's open at the skin's surface, and you can see the plugged follicle darkened by melanin buildup, it's called a blackhead.

Comedogenic vs Non-comedogenic ratings for oils

A comedogenic rating tells us how likely it is that an ingredient or oil will clog pores. People who are prone to breakouts should avoid comedogenic oils as they will exacerbate pimple formation.

Ingredients are rated with the following numbers:

0 - Will not clog pores
An oil that has a comedogenic rating of 0 is widely believed to be non comedogenic and will not clog your pores.

1 - Low likelihood of clogging pores
A comedogenic rating of 1 signifies a slight chance that the oil will clog your pores.

2 - Moderately low
A comedogenic rating of 2 tells you that the oil will not clog pores for MOST people, but some will begin to notice clogged pores or a “purge” in some cases.

3 - Moderate
A comedogenic rating of 3 is where a lot of people will break out using this oil, but a lot of people may not break out depending on their skin type.

4 - Fairly high
A comedogenic rating of 4 suggests that MOST people will break out using this oil unless they have a good tolerance to it. This largely depends on a number of skin type factors.

5 - High likelihood of clogging pores
A comedogenic rating of 5 is basically a guaranteed chance of breaking out. Very very few people can tolerate oils labeled as a 5, but they do exist!

Best Oils for Your Skin

The best oils for your skin are not necessarily those with the lowest ratings for comedones and irritation. At a rating of zero, mineral oil has a very low likelihood of causing clogged pores or irritation; however, it is questionable whether its use provides any actual benefit to your skin.

If you’re looking to benefit from natural oils, choose non-comedogenic oils that are known to give an extra boost to your skin. For example, sunflower oil is considered non-comedogenic, at a rating of 2; it also provides essential fatty acids, nourishment, and moisture to the skin, and can be used as a gentle, colloidal cleanser. (Colloidal cleansing is a method of cleaning dirt and soil from the skin’s surface using an oil-based product. The oil particles attach themselves to dirt, makeup, or other irritants on your skin, and then can be wiped away easily with a soft cloth).

Argan oil is rated zero for comedogenity, and can make an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair.

Here are the best oils for your skin.

argan oil

Argan Oil

  • comedogenic rating of 0
  • extracted from the root of the Argan tree, native to Morocco
  • rich in both Vitamin E and fatty acids
  • restores the elasticity of your skin
  • re-hydrates your skin
  • reduces wrinkles, restoring elasticity
  • rich in nutrients and antioxidants

jojoba oil

Jojoba Oil

  • comedogenic rating of 2
  • made from the seeds of the Jojoba Shrub
  • structurally and chemically very similar to human sebum, making it readily absorbed by the skin
  • deeply penetrates the skin and dissolves any deposits that might be causing pore blockage and acne breakouts
  • helps get rid of any bacterial infections
  • acts as a barrier, both preventing damaging molecules from coming in touch with your skin and keeping the moisture in

safflower oil

Safflower oil

  • comedogenic rating of 0
  • made from Safflower seed (not to be confused with the Sunflower)
  • neutralize any smells that your skin might produce
  • rich in Magnesium, which reduces skin oiliness and provides stress relief for acne burdened skin
  • rich in Vitamin B6, which plays a vital role in skin rejuvenation and regrowth
  • comes in two varients: high in oleic acid or high in linoleic acid, both are beneficial to skin
    • oleic acid: promotes skin health; acts as a natural moisturizer; has strong anti-inflammatory properties
    • linoleic acid: more lightweight than oleic acid, penetrates the skin deeper, absorbs much quicker; very effective in breaking down impurities
  • to help moisturize your skin and prevent breakouts, Safflower Oil high in Linoleic acid is the way to go
  • for sensitive skin that does not experience regular breakouts, Safflower Oil high in Oleic Acid is a better choice

rosehip seed oil

Rosehip Seed Oil

  • comedogenic rating of 1
  • made from the seeds of the Rosehip fruit, native to Chile
  • rich in essential fatty acids, linoleic, alpha-linoleic acid
  • fatty acids help skin restore elasticity and smooth wrinkles
  • rich in Vitamin E, C, D, and B-Carotene, which help prevent acne outbreaks

shea butter

Shea Butter

  • comedogenic rating of 0
  • made from the nuts of the Shea tree native to Western Africa
  • rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A binds to and removes free radicals on the skin's surface, while controlling the sebum your face produces
  • Vitamin E creates a protective coating on the skin's surface
  • Kickstarts the production of collagen, the building block your skin uses to build new cells
  • regulates the oiliness of your skin

raspberry seed oil

Raspberry Seed Oil

  • comedogenic rating of 1
  • on par with Argan Oil and Jojoba Oil
  • high in antioxidants, which aid in skin repair and even out wrinkles
  • high in Vitamin E,
  • high in linoleic and alpha linoleic fatty acid, while low in oleic acid
  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 50

mango butter

Mango butter

  • comedogenic rating of 0
  • alternative for people allergic to nuts and unable to use shea butter
  • high in oleic acid, moderately low in linoleic acid
  • high in Vitamins A, C, and E, putting it on par with Raspberry Seed Oil
  • beneficial for people suffering from acne
  • useful for all skin types
  • shelf life of 1 - 1.5 yrs

hemp seed oil

Hemp Seed Oil

  • comedogenic rating of 0
  • used in Eastern cultures for a variety of things, including acne and skin care
  • high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • contains virtually 0 THC (the active compound in marijuana)
  • useful for treating dry skin and healing of scars and wrinkles

Full list of Oils and Comedogenic Ratings

Name of Oil Comedogenic Rating
Argan oil 0
Watermelon Seed Oil 0
Mango Butter 
0
Hemp Seed Oil 0
Prickly Pear Seed Oil 0
Shea Butter 0
Safflower Oil 
0
Camelina Oil 
0
Babassu Oil 1
Black Currant Seed Oil
1
Black Cumin Seed Oil 1
Black Raspberry Seed Oil 1
Blackberry Seed Oil 1
Broccoli Seed Oil 1
Blueberry Seed Oil 
1
Cucumber Seed Oil
1
Calendula Oil 1
Castor Oil
1
Emu Oil 1
Elderberry Seed Oil 1
Goji Seed Oil 1
Grape Seed Oil 1
Green Tea Seed Oil 1
Guava Seed Oil 1
Kiwi Seed Oil 1
Maracuja Oil 1
Meadowfoam Seed Oil 1
Milk Thistle Seed Oil 1
Neem Oil 1
Plum Kernel Oil 1
Poppy Seed Oil 1
Pomegranate Oil
1
Red Raspberry Seed Oil 1
Rosehip Seed Oil 1
Sacha Inchi Oil 1
Sea Buckthorn Oil 1
Strawberry Seed Oil 1
Tomato Seed Oil 1
Walnut Oil 1
Almond oil 2
Apricot Kernel Oil 2
Avocado oil 2
Borage seed Oil 2
Baobab Seed Oil 
2
Brazil Nut Oil 2
Camphor Oil 2
Cherry Kernel Oil 2
Cranberry Seed Oil 2
Evening Primrose Oil 2
Hazelnut Oil 2
Jojoba Oil 2
Kukui Nut Oil 2
Lanolin Oil 2
Olive Oil 2
Peach Kernel Oil 2
Pecan Oil 2
Peanut Oil
2
Pine Nut Oil 2
Pumpkin Seed Oil 2
Rice Bran Oil 2
Sandalwood Seed Oil 2
Sunflower Oil 2
Sweet Almond Oil 2
Tallow 2
Tamanu Oil 2
Carrot Seed Oil 3
Chia Seed Oil 3
Cottonseed Oil 3
Date Seed Oil 3
Macadamia Nut Oil 3
Marula Oil 3
Mink Oil 3
Mustard Seed Oil 3
Papaya Seed Oil 3
rose oil 3
Sesame Oil 3
Coconut Oil 5
Linseed Oil (Flaxseed Oil) 4
Palm Kernel Oil 4
Red Palm Oil 4
Soybean Oil 5
Wheat Germ Oil 5

 

Other Comedogenic Ratings

Wax Comedogenic Rating
Lanolin 1
Candelilla
1
Carnuba
1
Ceresin
1
Emulsifying Wax NF 
2
Beeswax
2
Jojoba Oil
2
Sulfated Jojoba Oil 3

 

 

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