Noncomedogenic Skin Care Products: Types and Benefits

Noncomedogenic products are those that are unlikely to cause pore blockages (comedones) and breakouts. The term "noncomedogenic" is mainly used to describe skincare products and cosmetics.

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

What Are Noncomedogenic Ingredients?

Noncomedogenic ingredients are ingredients in skincare products that have a lower risk of clogging your pores. These products don't treat acne, but they are unlikely to cause it or make it worse.

Noncomedogenic products may be labeled as "oil-free," or they may contain certain kinds of oils that are believed less likely to clog your pores. These noncomedogenic oils include:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Neem oil

Other ingredients that are considered noncomedogenic include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Witch hazel
  • Vitamin C
  • Rosewater
  • Dimethicone
  • Allantoin

Product Types

Any product type you put on your skin has the potential to be comedogenic. This includes things like:

  • Moisturizer
  • Makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Toner

People who have acne prone skin should avoid most toners or moisturizers that are designed for people with dry skin. But other products may also contain ingredients that have the potential to worsen your acne.

Foundation makeup is one of the more common causes of clogged pores. Even a noncomedogenic foundation will clog the pores if you overuse it. Generally speaking, you should lightly apply foundation and make sure to cleanse thoroughly at the end of the day with a gentle makeup remover.

Physical sunscreens may contain ingredients that clog your pores. Chemical sunscreens can make you sweat more, which can also contribute to blocked pores.

Benefits of Noncomedogenic Products

Noncomedogenic products are advertised as less likely to clog pores, which may help prevent pimples and blackheads. These claims aren't always proven, but if your skin is prone to breakouts and you're not sure why, you may find that switching to a noncomedogenic product helps improve the appearance of your skin.

Keep in mind that noncomedogenic is a term used by manufacturers of skincare products. There is no FDA definition of the term "noncomedogenic" and no medical standard for products that use it. This means the benefits of these ingredients are unproven. 

It is also important to remember that a product that contains noncomedogenic ingredients may still clog pores, since the combination of ingredients may be comedogenic even though the individual ingredients are not.

If you're not sure which noncomedogenic product you should try, ask your dermatologist. They may have a few products they recommend for people with your skin type.

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.

Skincare Tips

Good skincare practice can help you keep your acne under control. These include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Keeping your hands away from your face
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Washing your face with a cleanser designed for your skin type 
  • Avoiding too many different products or over-applying products

If you find that you continue to break out in spite of following these suggestions, it won't hurt to make an appointment with your dermatologist. Your dermatologist can recommend products or prescribe medications that will help reduce your acne.


Noncomedogenic products are those that contain ingredients that won't clog your pores. Keep in mind that noncomedogenic is a marketing term, not a medical term. Because products that claim to be noncomedogenic don't have to meet any standards, it's possible they may still clog your pores.

Look for products that contain noncomedogenic ingredients like aloe vera or sweet almond oil. And remember that even products labeled noncomedogenic may clog your pores, especially if you overuse them.

A Word From Verywell

Finding the right product that doesn't clog your pores may be a process of trial and error.

Remember that noncomedogenic products don't treat acne. It's possible that switching to a noncomedogenic product won't have any noticeable impact on your acne. If that's the case, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your dermatologist. Prescription medication or other dermatologist-recommended products may be the key to treating your acne.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is noncomedogenic the same as oil-free?

    No. Noncomedogenic products may be oil-free, but some contain certain kinds of oils that are less likely to clog your pores. These include oils such as sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and sweet almond oil.

  • How do I know if my makeup is noncomedogenic?

    There is no medical standard for noncomedogenic products, so you have to rely on the manufacturer to tell you the truth about its product. If you aren't sure, ask your dermatologist. Or, try testing the product for a few days on a small patch of acne-prone skin, such as behind the ear. If you don't break out, the product may be a good choice for you.

  • What are the best noncomedogenic products?

    Some healthcare providers recommend buying products that are labeled both "oil-free" and "noncomedogenic," but there are no guarantees. If you do buy products that contain oils, avoid coconut oil, lanolin, and cocoa butter and opt instead for products that contain noncomedogenic oils like grapeseed and hemp.

3 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. Maarouf M, Saberian C, Shi VY. Myths, truths, and clinical relevance of comedogenicity product labeling. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(10):1131-2. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.1741

  3. 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.