Why Should Use Noncomedogenic Skin Care Products

Noncomedogenic is a term used to describe skincare and makeup products that are formulated in such a way that they are not likely to cause pore blockages (comedones) and breakouts. It's mainly used to describe skincare products and cosmetics.

A product labeled noncomedogenic does not contain ingredients that are known to clog the pores. If you have acne, blackheads, or are prone to clogged pores, using noncomedogenic skincare products and cosmetics might help reduce the number of breakouts you get.

Comedones on forehead

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Rating Noncomedogenic Ingredients

To determine which ingredients are least likely to cause comedones, as well as the ingredients that will, the rabbit's ear assay is most often used. The substance being tested is applied to a rabbit's ear for a period of time. Then, it's a waiting game to see if comedones develop.

The ingredients are rated on a comedogenicity scale from zero to five. A score of zero means no comedones developed so it won't clog pores. A score of five means there's a high likelihood it will cause comedones.

How accurately the rabbit's ear assay transfers to the real world is a matter of some debate, though. A rabbit's ear is not human skin. The ingredients can have a different result on people.

But, in general, if the animal doesn't develop comedones or develops very little, it's likely the ingredient won't clog our pores either.

How to Check Products

If you're breakout-prone, you may want to buy noncomedogenic skincare and cosmetic products just for the added peace of mind. Check the label—it will say noncomedogenic (or non-acnegenic) right on the product.

The feel of a product isn't a good indication of whether it is noncomedogenic or not. There are some very emollient, greasy-feeling products that don't contain comedogenic ingredients, and very light products that do.

If you're an avid label reader, you might think it's interesting to check the ingredients in your products on a comedogenicity scale. Any ingredient with a score of 2 or less is considered noncomedogenic.

Don't drive yourself too crazy, though. Even ingredients with a higher number can be OK, depending on the formulation and how much is actually in the finished product.

Are They Guaranteed to Not Clog Pores?

Just because a product is labeled noncomedogenic does not mean it won't cause comedones, it just means it's less likely. Everyone's skin is different and reacts differently to every product.

Even noncomedogenic products can clog pores in certain people. So, if you're noticing lots more blackheads, whiteheads, and bumpiness after using a certain product, even if it is labeled noncomedogenic, you might want to stop using it and see if the breakouts improve.

Also, remember that simply because a product is not labeled noncomedogenic doesn't automatically mean that it will clog your pores. If you've been using a product for years and you love the way it works for your skin, there is no reason to ditch it if it doesn't carry the noncomedogenic label.

Will They Clear Acne?

Noncomedogenic has become a big buzzword in the skincare industry. But, really, there is nothing magical about those products.

Using noncomedogenic products alone won't clear up a case of acne. For that, you'll need proven acne treatment, whether over-the-counter acne products or stronger prescription acne medications.

If you need help getting your acne under control, a visit to the dermatologist is always in order.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kraft J, Freiman A. Management of acne. CMAJ. 2011;183(7):E430-5. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090374

  2. Wang Q, Jiang C, Liu W, et al. A new optical intra-tissue fiber irradiation ALA-PDT in the treatment of acne vulgaris in rabbit model: improved safety and tolerability. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(3):350-355. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175543

Additional Reading
  • Baek JH, Ahn SM, Choi KM, et. al.  "Analysis of comedone, sebum and porphyrin on the face and body for comedogenicity assay."  Skin Res Technol.  2015 Jun 10. DOI: 10.1111/srt.12244

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.