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Do comedogenic ingredients cause pimples?

Comedogenic means something is clogging the pores. This is a trigger for skin blemishes, because germs cavort under the blockage. However, the classification of ingredients into comedogenic and non-comedogenic is problematic. And it leads to misunderstandings. Find out if it makes sense for you to pay attention to it.

Do comedogenic ingredients cause pimples? | Five Skincare

There are many misconceptions about comedogenicity

Beautiful skin is clear skin. When shopping for skincare and makeup, it's only natural to worry about whether a product promotes breakouts. After all, the individual products serve very different skin needs. And some are actually not suitable for oily or impure skin. However, not every woman has this skin condition. Nevertheless, many comedogenic ingredients are avoided. Some only buy products that say “non-comedogenic”. Or "oil-free" - and this is where the misunderstandings begin.

Oils are not comedogenic per se. And even with comedogenic oils, many women and men have good skin care experiences. Because several factors determine whether you tolerate an ingredient well. So let's clear up the misconceptions surrounding comedogenicity. This article is about how exactly it affects the skin and when you should pay attention to it.

What do comedogenic substances do to your skin?

Comedogenic substances disrupt the removal of sebum, protein and germs. These collect in the tiny bags on the hair follicles as part of the skin renewal process and as a result of environmental influences. Usually they are pushed out naturally . But if too much accumulates here, the dirt becomes trapped in the skin. Bacteria feel quite comfortable here. The result is comedones, i.e. blemishes that can make the skin so uneven. They can also grow into real pimples . So the problem is that the skin doesn't get rid of its waste properly.

If you've already researched the topic a bit, you may have noticed that the comedogenicity lists do not match. This is because there is disagreement as to how to reliably test whether an ingredient is comedogenic. In addition, some lists have been supplemented with empirical values. And they can be very different.

Comedogenicity is not immediately apparent . It usually takes weeks or even months before you feel a change.

How significant is comedogenicity?

The idea of ​​identifying and avoiding comedogenic ingredients is a good one in itself. But the concept is not fully developed. Firstly, the comedogenicity model is based on a test on rabbit ears. Well, the poor Hoppler used to have to be used for many cosmetic tests. However, the results from rabbits are not directly transferrable to humans. Good for the wobbly noses, because that was an important argument for the abolition of cosmetic animal testing in the EU. Bad for the informative value. What's clogging bunny's pores may have a very different effect on you.

Comedogenicity is individual

Going strictly according to comedogenicity lists only makes limited sense. First, it is not always clear how scientifically sound the claims are. Lists from less serious sources are sometimes supplemented with personal experience. Whether an ingredient clogs your pores or not also depends largely on the chemistry of your skin . It's a little different for all of us. That's why there are different skin types.

Many women have had very good experiences with coconut oil, for example . It is also classified as comedogenic in reputable lists. However, coconut oil has an antibacterial and calming effect at the same time. This can be quite positive for some skin conditions. I don't want to talk you into coconut oil here. The example is only intended to illustrate how important the skin texture is.

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A comedogenic substance is homemade

You can't get rid of a clogged pore anyway: the skin's own sebum can also have a comedogenic effect . The fat mixture that your sebaceous glands produce themselves can clog the pores. The composition and amount of sebum varies from person to person. If it's particularly tough or there's just too much of it, it won't drain properly.

For people who tend to have oily skin, blemishes can also occur if they treat their skin with absolutely nothing. Here it is of course important not to add anything to the skin that additionally clogs the pores. Instead, plenty of moisture is called for.

☝️ Do you have greasy or impure skin? Below is a care tip for you!

Ingredients work together

Second, ingredients in cosmetics do not work in isolation. They complement each other and strengthen or weaken certain effects. That way, the whole product doesn't clog pores because one of its ingredients is on the list. Maybe it comes in a small dose. Or other ingredients specifically counteract clogged pores, for example by softening cornifications.

Does oil clog pores?

This is a question that often comes to me. Oils in particular have a reputation for causing pimples. Comedogenic ingredients can be found in all possible categories such as emulsifiers, consistency enhancers and even surfactants. On the other hand, many oils are not comedogenic at all . The claims "oil-free" and "non-comedogenic" are two completely different things. It is therefore not true that oil basically clogs the pores. Your skin actually needs lipids to function properly.

Facial oils are specially composed for this delicate skin area. However, you must not apply oil as lavishly here as you would for an aromatic back massage. It's not the oil per se, it's just the amount the skin may react to. One or two drops of facial oil are enough. Also, always apply oil with moisture. The skin needs water to absorb the lipids. 

💡 By the way, there are oils especially for impure skin . They have an antibacterial effect and regulate sebum production. Discover, for example, the FIVE facial oil for impure skin with black cumin oil - it even has its own article .

Are rich oils more likely to be comedogenic?

Some oils absorb super quickly, others spread a little more leisurely on the skin. These oils tend to feel firmer or heavier. Shea butter, argan oil and jojoba oil, for example, spread rather slowly. However, none of them are comedogenic. With coconut oil it is the other way around. It feels super light on the skin but is classified as comedogenic. So consistency has nothing to do with comedogenicity . You don't have to be afraid of rich oils in facial care. They just seem a lot longer.

Changing care takes time

If you're trying out a new face oil or other natural cosmetic product, give it some time. Your skin works with the active ingredients in it. If you have previously used conventional cosmetics, it will initially strain your skin. It's like the first days of work after vacation. 

Hold on for at least 4 weeks ! That's how long it takes your skin to renew itself. During this time she gets used to new things. More on this under Skin renewal: How quickly does your skin get used to new care? However, you should stop using a product if it burns or itches. This could indicate an allergic reaction.

Who should watch out for comedogenicity

As I said, you always have a comedogenic substance on your skin, sebum. If this is already causing you problems, you should rather use non-comedogenic products. So if you suffer from oily skin, impure skin or acne. Everything here is poison that could fuel impurities further. And experiments are especially frustrating. Appropriate skin care is essential for these skin conditions. It should:

  • Promote the removal of dirt.
  • relieve inflammation.
  • prevent cornification.
  • Regulate sebum production.
  • Provide plenty of moisture.

☝️ Reading tip: Under Care for oily skin you will find step-by-step instructions for your morning and evening routine.


Comedogenicity affects quite individually. This is because ingredients interact with each other and with your skin. Because it also produces a comedogenic substance, sebum. This also shows that comedogenicity does not have to be a knock-out criterion for healthy or even rather dry skin. Sometimes the benefits of a comedogenic oil outweigh the disadvantages. Some even have very good experiences with it. 

On the other hand, if you have oily, impure or acne-prone skin, you should avoid comedogenic ingredients. They can amplify your problem. But that doesn't mean that you should generally avoid oils. They are important for skin health. And not all oils are comedogenic. For example, you can safely use argan oil, shea butter and jojoba oil. Black cumin oil even counteracts skin impurities.

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