Are these acne causing ingredients clogging your pores?

Are these acne causing ingredients clogging your pores?

6 minute read

If you’re experiencing persistent breakouts, have you considered looking at the ingredients in your makeup and skin care products? Surprisingly, even some natural acne causing ingredients could be the culprit.


In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What is acne cosmetica
  • Which acne causing ingredients to avoid
  • How to find out if your products are acne-safe

Have you suddenly started breaking out but haven’t changed anything in your makeup or skin care routine? Is it worse on one side? Have you recently been in a hot climate? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing acne cosmetica from acne causing ingredients found in your beauty products.

What is acne cosmetica?


Acne cosmetica is the presence of rash-like bumps on the face caused by a blockage in the pores resulting in bacterial growth. You might notice some redness with little whiteheads in areas that skin care, hair care and makeup products are applied.


As a certified Skin Therapist, I most often see acne cosmetica in the cheek area of clients who are using low quality powder or cream blush. However, it can be present in any areas on the face such as hairline and forehead. I typically confirm more cases of acne cosmetica in the summer months when heat and humidity is higher and my client’s skin is producing more oil. Low quality products, pore clogging ingredients or dirty makeup brushes paired with an increased oil production is simply not a good combination for those who are breakout-prone. 


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What makes a product comedogenic?


You’ve probably heard or seen “non-comedogenic” skin care products. This is a marketing term used by companies to claim that their product won’t create comedones (in other words, clog your pores and cause acne). 


Although popular, the word non-comedogenic is not regulated, meaning anyone can use it whether or not the claim is true. In my skin care practice, I’ve discovered that a product is unfortunately not just the sum of its parts - ingredient combinations can turn a comedogenic product into a non-comedogenic one. 


More importantly, whether a product is comedogenic or not largely depends on your skin! Yes, your unique skin at this very moment (as your skin is constantly changing).


Therefore, we must consider:


  • How many comedogenic ingredients are in the product?
  • How high up on the ingredient list is the ingredient?
  • How was the ingredient extracted? Was it from a quality source?
  • Was it refined, hydrogenated or fractionated?
  • How large are my pores?
  • How much oil does my skin produce?


The list goes on….


Please keep the above in mind and use the following list as a guideline only. This is because not everyone will get acne from the ingredients below. Look at these ingredients as red flags in the products you use or are looking to purchase to avoid the likelihood of breaking you out if you have acne-prone skin.


Acetylated Lanolin

Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol


Almond Oil

Apricot Kernel Oil

Avocado Oil

Butyl Stearate


Ceteareth 20

Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetyl Acetate


Chondrus Crispus

Coal Tar

Coconut Alkanes

Coconut Butter

Coconut Oil (unfractionated)

Colloidal Sulfur

Cotton Seed Oil

D+C Red #3, 17, 21, 30, 36

Decyl Oleate

Dioctyl Succinate

Disodium Monooleamido

Ethoxylated Lanolin

Ethylhexyl Palmitate

Glyceryl Stearate SE

Glyceryl-3 Diisostearate

Hexadecyl Alcohol

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Isocetyl Alcohol

Isocetyl Stearate

Isodecyl Oleate

Isopropyl Isostearate

Isopropyl Linolate

Isopropyl Palmitate

Isostearyl Isostearate

Isostearyl Neopentanoate


Laminaria Digitata Extract

Laminaria Saccharina Extract



Lauric Acid

Mink Oil

Myristic Acid

Myristyl Myristate

Octyl Palmitate

Octyl Stearate


Oleyl Alcohol

Olive oil

PEG 16 Lanolin

PEG 2-Sulfosuccinate

PEG 200 Dilaurate

PEG 8 Stearate

PG Monostearate

PPG 2 Myristyl Propionate


Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate

Potassium Chloride

Propylene Glycol Monostearate


Sea Buckthorn Oil


Shea Butter

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium coco sulfate

Solulan 16

Sorbitan Oleate

Soybean Oil


Squalene from Shark Liver Oil

Steareth 10

Stearic Acid Tea

Stearyl Heptanoate

Stearyl Heptanoate

Sulfated Castor Oil

Sulfated Jojoba Oil

Wheat Germ Glyceride

Wheat Germ Oil



How to know if a product is acne-safe


The first step to take in determining if a product in question is acne-safe is to review the ingredient list. Scan for comedogenic ingredients and identify how high up on the list they are. The higher the ingredient is on the list, the higher concentration it will be in your product. 


For example, algae is a common ingredient found in high quality natural cosmetics. If algae is after the preservatives, it will be less than 1% concentration and therefore is most likely not causing your breakouts. On the other hand, if organic coconut oil is one of the first five ingredients on the list, you should probably avoid this product. 


Skin professionals like Skin Discovery have curated acne-safe products that you can find online to make skin care shopping easier. 


The easiest way to discover if a product is causing your acne is to simply remove the product in question from your skin care ritual for two weeks. Your skin will tell you if the product is causing your acne or not. 


If you’re unsure which product is causing you to breakout, look at where you are experiencing acne. Is it on your cheeks? Check the ingredient lists on your blush, foundation, sunscreen and moisturizer. Start with the one that has more comedogenic ingredients from the list above. 


It’s always best practice to take before and after photos so that you can properly determine if a product is triggering your acne. Take one before you stop using it, after week 1 and again after week 2. Compare your photos and decide if you should leave it out altogether.

If all else fails, reach out to a certified Skin Therapist who is ingredient savvy, such as myself. Book a Routine Review and we’ll get to the bottom of it together!


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