The Ultimate List of Comedogenic Ingredients to Avoid for Clear Skin

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If you have acne, you probably carefully purchase skin care products marketed to help clear up your acne and prevent further breakouts. This means you probably have bought skin care products with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and/or alpha hydroxy acid.

But what about the comedogenic ingredients contained in products that are dedicated to cleaning acne? The Journal of American Academy of Dermatology put together a big list of pore-clogging ingredients broken down into 6 levels of pore-clogging power.

In this blog post, I have converted that list into something more user-friendly. comedogenic ingredients, and break down the major ones that are in skin care, which could end up doing more harm than good for your skin.


What Does “Comedogenic Ingredients” Mean?

Comedogenic means “to clog pores and encourage the formation of blackheads.” These are the things we want to keep away from our skin, especially if it is prone to acne (as mine is).

It is a word that is used to indicate that a skin care ingredient will clog your pores and cause comedones, which are small raised bumps on the skin. And this is something that you’ll definitely want to avoid if you are prone to having any form of breakout on your face.

Have you ever considered what the comedogenic ingredients are in your skincare, and what they actually do? Well, you probably should, because they can cause harm to your already sensitive acne-prone skin (as well as your mental health!).

Choosing Your Skin Care Products

Many of us choose our skin care products due to brand loyalty, or because we want to try the latest active ingredient promoted by influencers on TikTok. But choosing your skin care based on its (lack of) comedogenic ingredients may offer you more benefits than you might think at first.

And the majority of skin care products (even any of the dedicated “acne ones”) contain a range of comedogenic ingredients — and there are more than 120 of them!

It is up to you to be vigilant about what you actually put on your face, especially if it’s susceptible to breaking out in pimples.

It is up to you to be vigilant about what you actually put on your face, especially if it’s susceptible to breaking out in pimples.

You should also be aware that even if you choose to use more natural and vegan skin care products, that doesn’t mean the product contains non-comedogenic ingredients.

Because many of these lotions and potions contain natural oils that are considered comedogenic, and will definitely clog your pores.

Of course, many will not break out in a swarm of blackheads just by using skin care products that include comedogenic ingredients. But if you have acne, larger pores, or sensitive skin, then they are something that you should consider steering clear of in your daily routine.

Do you find comedogenic ingredients in all skin care products? Well, basically yes, because these pore-clogging concoctions are included in formulations ranging from face masks and sunscreens to liquid foundations, and even facial cleansers.

The 6 Rating Levels of Comedogenic Ingredients

This is why the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology has produced a rating for many of the more than 120 known comedogenic ingredients that you’ll find in the majority of skin care products currently on the market. 

So now, let’s go over the list of these ingredients, along with their ratings. With this list, you will have a better idea of what you’ve been putting on your face, and which products you need to avoid to help clear up and heal your acne-prone skin.

Level 5 Ingredients: Highly Comedogenic

The comedogenic ingredients that the JAAD has given a High 5 rating will most likely clog your pores after application. You should definitely not use any products containing these if you’re at all susceptible to breakouts

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

Level 4 Ingredients: Fairly High Comedogenic Rating

This rating means that although there is a chance that they won’t affect your skin adversely, more than likely these comedogenic ingredients will.

You will probably want to avoid products with these ingredients too:

  • Algin 
  • Cocoa Butter 
  • Coconut Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Glyceryl-3-Diisostearate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Marula Oil
  • Oleyl Alcohol 
  • PEG 16 Lanolin
  • Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate 
  • Steareth 10
  • Sulfated Jojoba Oil 
  • Syearyl Heptanoate

Simple, natural ingredients like coconut oil and cocoa butter are level 4. They are in tons of products!

Level 3 Ingredients: Moderate Pore-Clog Risk

Comedogenic ingredients that have this rating tend to clog pores. This means if you have any skincare products that contain these, if they’re among your favorites, then you may want to use them only sparingly:

  • Colloidal Sulfur
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil 
  • Dioctyl Succinate
  • Glyceryl Stearate SE
  • Laureth 23
  • Lauric Acid
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Mink Oil 
  • Myristic Acid
  • Soybean Oil
  • Shark Liver Oil
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sorbitan Oleate
  • Wheat Germ Glyceride

Level 2 Ingredients: Moderately Low Comedogenic Risk

These ingredients have an even lower risk rating. This means that they are less likely to clog your pores with regular use, but there is still a potential chance that they may.

You will probably want to use any of your products that have these comedogenic ingredients in their formula sparingly, particularly if you are prone to breakouts:

  • Apricot Kernel Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Beeswax 
  • Benzoic Acid 
  • Borage Oil
  • Camphor 
  • Chamomile 
  • Cetearyl Alcohol
  • Emulsifying Wax NF
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Hazelnut Oil
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Kukui Nut Oil
  • Linseed Oil (also called Flaxseed Oil)
  • Mango Butter
  • Mango Seed Oil
  • Oleth-10
  • Olive Oil
  • Peach Kernel Oil 
  • Peanut Oil 
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil
  • Sandalwood Seed Oil 
  • Sesame Seed Oil
  • Steareth 2
  • Steareth 20
  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Tocopherol (more widely known as Vitamin E)
  • Vitamin A Palmitate

Level 1 Ingredients: Low Comedogenic Risk

Although this comedogenic ingredient rating means that you can usually use products containing these without much worry, if you’re currently having a breakout, then you will probably want to avoid using them until your skin clears up properly.

  • Beta Carotene
  • Butylene Glycol 
  • Calendula 
  • Candelilla Wax
  • Carbomer 940
  • Carnuba Wax
  • Castor Oil
  • Glyceryl Stearate NS
  • Glyceryl Tricapylo/Caprate
  • Hydroxypropyl Cellulose
  • Lanolin Wax 
  • Passionfruit Seed Oil (also called Maracuja Oil)
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG 400)
  • Polyethylene Glycol 300 
  • Rosehip Seed Oil
  • Sorbitan Laurate 
  • Squalene
  • Talc
  • Zinc Oxide

Level 0 Non-Comedogenic Ingredients

Last (but definitely not least), the comedogenic ingredients that have been given this rating by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology are the ones that you can safely use — even when your skin is having a breakout.

So, if your favorite products contain any of these ingredients, be confident that you’ll be able to use the product without concern.

  • Allantoin 
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Argan Oil (also called Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil)
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Behenyl Triglyceride
  • Black Walnut Extract 
  • Carbomer
  • Ceresin Wax
  • Chamomile Extract
  • Cold Pressed Aloe 
  • D&C Red #21 
  • D&C Red #3
  • Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether 
  • Emu Oil 
  • Ethylparaben
  • Flowers of Sulfur
  • Glycerin
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Kaolin
  • Magnesium Aluminum Silicate
  • Mineral Oil
  • Panthenol 
  • Polysorbate 20
  • Polysorbate 80 
  • Precipitated Sulfur 
  • Propylene Glycol 
  • SD Alcohol 40
  • Sterol Esters 
  • Papain
  • Petrolatum 
  • Propylparaben
  • Safflower Oil (you may also see it as Carthamus Tinctorius on the label)
  • Shea Butter 
  • Sodium Hyaluronate
  • Sodium PCA
  • Sorbitol 
  • Steareth 100
  • Sunflower Oil 
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc Stearate

Ingredient List Order and Comedogenic Levels

Just like the ingredients list for food, the order of the ingredients in your skincare products is important. The most abundant ingredients are listed first, and the less abundant ingredients are listed later.

What all of this comes down to is this: if the comedogenic ingredients you find listed above have a rating of either 3, 4, or 5, even if you only use these skin care products sparingly, then you want to make sure they are not among the first seven listed ingredients on the label.

If the comedogenic ingredients you find listed above have a rating of either 3, 4, or 5, even if you only use these skin care products sparingly, then you want to make sure they are not among the first seven listed ingredients on the label.

If they are fairly high up on the list, then you should reconsider whether you want to keep using the product or switch it up for something different.

Comedogenic ingredients that are one of the first seven ingredients, and have a rating of 1, 2, or 0 will be best for use on your acne-prone skin.

Final Thoughts

Of course, there’s absolutely no guarantee that an ingredient that has a lower comedogenic rating won’t clog your pores, especially if you have really sensitive skin. And conversely, some ingredients higher up on the list may be fine on your skin.

Whiteheads, blackheads, and bumpiness can happen whenever your skin is irritated, regardless of what skin care products you’re using.

But it’s a risk-reward thing.

This all boils down to the fact that it would probably be best to avoid using skin care products containing comedogenic ingredients (especially in the first seven listed on the label) if you have a current breakout or have acne-prone skin.

Written by Jacqueline Ames

Jackie is the resident fashion and nail design guru at Luxe Luminous. With a degree in Management and a deep-seated passion for the glamorous styles of the 50s and 60s, Jacqueline offers a unique fusion of business acumen and vintage fashion flair in her captivating articles.