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Foundation is a cosmetic staple that serves as a base for all other cosmetic makeup. Designed to enhance color, even out skin tone and cover small blemishes, foundation is widely used and highly valued by makeup artists. As a consumer, foundation can be a confusing cosmetic product as it is marketed for varying skin types and tones and comes in a variety of formulas, but perhaps the most common phrasing associated with foundation is “non-comedogenic.” This term means that the product does not contain ingredients known to cause blockage of pores.
Non-comedogenic foundation is important because products that contain pore-clogging ingredients tend to exacerbate acne and skin irritation. Foundation comes into direct contact with the skin and is typically left there for periods of eight hours or longer. Avoiding products with ingredients that cause irritation seems the obvious answer, but the terms applied to makeup products can be confusing and occasionally misleading.
No cosmetic company would market any products that were labeled “acne-causing,” “pore-clogging,” or even “comedogenic.” They simply wouldn’t sell. At the same time, cosmetics in the United States are only loosely regulated by the FDA, meaning that "non-comedogenic" is not necessarily a thoroughly scientific product term. It simply means that products, such as non-comedogenic foundation, are mostly absent or contain only trace amounts of ingredients that are known or suspected to block skin pores. These ingredients vary from certain oils, lanolin, fatty acids, and some botanicals.
In the case of organic, botanical, or “natural” cosmetics, non-comedogenic foundation may be more difficult to find. By their design, organic or natural products contain botanical ingredients, many of which are known to clog or occlude pores. The tendency of a certain ingredient to clog pores may be high or low depending on the ingredient, but the ingredients are too numerous and under-researched to list with any certainty. The implication that a product is “natural,” however, does not imply that it does not contain skin irritants or potentially comedogenic ingredients.
The best practice for people who suffer from recurrent acne or sensitive skin is to seek the advice of a dermatologist when necessary and avoid products that cause irritation and breakouts. Certainly experiment with different non-comedogenic foundation, but more importantly, make sure to use either a facial moisturizer or foundation that contains some level of sunscreen, as the sun’s UV rays are more likely to cause permanent skin damage than potentially comedogenic ingredients.