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Clients Ask: What Does Comedogenic Mean?

If you’ve ever helped Clients suffering from acne, you’ve probably come across the term "comedogenic." Skin care products are formulated with a wide range of ingredients that can be classified as comedogenic or non-comedogenic, among other categories. When Clients suffer from breakouts, it's essential that you understand the science behind what's considered comedogenic and what skin care products to avoid. Read on for tips and products to use for Clients concerned with their blocked pores.

What Does Comedogenic Mean? 

Put simply, comedogenicity is the tendency of an ingredient or product to clog pores. The root of this word is “comedo.” According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, comedones are small, flesh-colored, white, or dark bumps that give skin a rough texture. Comedogenic ingredients cause the pores to get filled or "blocked," leading to blackheads, congestion and breakouts over time. As explains, when your body produces excess sebum, it mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to potentially plug up the pore. This results in a pimple — a comedo. 

HowStuffWorks states: “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.” If you're noticing tiny, white bumps prominent on the skin, you may be developing this type of comedone. Individual skin types and conditions can influence the extent of an ingredient’s comedogenicity, so skin reactions vary differently between each person. As Skin Inc states, “One person may have no reaction, while another may have excessively clogged pores in a few weeks.” 

The Difference Between Comedogenic And Non-Comedogenic 

What’s the difference between comedogenic ingredients and non-comedogenic ingredients? To find out, we asked Dr. Hooman Khorasani, MD, a quadruple board-certified dermatologic and skin cancer surgeon in New York City.

“Common examples of comedogenic ingredients are lanolin, petroleum jelly and talc,” says Dr. Khorasani. “These ingredients slow the desquamation” meaning your skin’s cellular ability to turn over “of skin cells, causing them to stick together, trapping dirt and bacteria in the pores, leading to congestion and breakouts, allowing acne (anaerobic) bacteria to thrive.”    

In comparison, non-comedogenic ingredients are specifically formulated to prevent blockages from occurring, minimizing your chances of developing these skin care conditions, explains Dr. Khorasani. Some acne-prone individuals may find that strictly avoiding comedogenic ingredients is the only way to avoid developing breakouts.

The term non-comedogenic that you see on products is a label that remains unofficial by legal or regulatory standards, but it is still a good guideline for those who are worried about blocked pores. According to “Products labeled non-comedogenic indicate that the manufacturer considers the product to be designed for people with oily or acne-prone skin and is less likely to cause acne.”

Tips For Dealing With Comedones

Tip 1: Identify 

Need a refresher on identifying comedones? According to, there are several types of comedonal acne blemishes. Closed comedones, or whiteheads, emerge when an oil plug develops beneath the opening pore of a hair follicle. They are whitish in color and are covered by a layer of skin cells. You are unable to pop them. In comparison, open comedones, or blackheads, occur when the oil plug is near the opening of a pore. 

Once you identify the skin does indeed have comedones, consider offering the following advice and skin care products to improve your Client's complexion.  

Tip 2: Advise Clients To Avoid These Ingredients

It is recommended that individuals prone to acne and clogged pores avoid lanolin, petroleum jelly and talc. You can also check the order of ingredients on the label. The order listed can give you a rough idea of the concentration level of a comedogenic ingredient in a product. If the comedogenic ingredient is last on the list, you can gather that this ingredient exists in the lowest percentage of all ingredients in a product and may be less of a concern.

In addition to advising Clients to avoid comedogenic ingredients, you can also recommend they seek out non-comedogenic ones, which are non-clogging and hydrating. A few examples of non-comedogenic ingredients include grapeseed oil, hemp oil, salicylic acid and Vitamin A. Dr. Khorosani says: “These ingredients may encourage your skin's desquamation, minimizing the risk of build-up, and maintain skin hydration to prevent dryness, sensitivity and irritation.”

Product Picks

Tip 3: Skin Care Products To Reduce Problem Skin

Skin care products with non-comedogenic ingredients work well to minimize problem skin. Reduce the appearance of breakouts with the Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser. This cleanser includes almond milk and yogurt to reduce the visible signs of problem skin. It is also formulated without synthetic ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMOs and triclosan. 

You can also tone your Client’s skin using the Lime Refresh Tonique. Lime juice acts as an astringent while citrus fruit oils (lemon & grapefruit) tone and clear the complexion. The Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel gently exfoliates with salicylic acid to clear away dead skin cells and contains willow bark that calms the appearance of the skin. 

The Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser contains lactic acid to help remove dead skin cells to reduce the chances of breakouts. Three of our Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Collection products can assist as well. The Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant contains lactic acid to clear pores and congestion. Our award-winning Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Serum contains naturally occurring salicylic acid from strawberries, as well as a Biocomplex2™ to bring back a look of radiance and strength to your skin. You may also enjoy our Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Hydrator, which contains also contains naturally occurring salicylic acid from strawberries. It also contains a Botanical Hyaluronic Acid Complex that deeply hydrates and preserves moisture in the skin.

Watch our Lead Skin Care Trainer, Natalie Pergar, as she provides much-needed advice on extracting whiteheads as well as tips on how to prevent and remove whiteheads once and for all.

How regularly do you see Clients with comedones? Share your experiences with us in the comments below and join the conversation on social media. You can also find out how to become an Eminence Organics Spa Partner here.