What is Noncomedogenic?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Noncomedogenic is a term applied to oils, lotions, and skin creams that do not block pores. Noncomedogenic products are also sometimes referred to as non-occlusive. The theory behind using lotions that do not clog pores is that, by not blocking pores, they will reduce the incidence of pimples.

A tub of noncomedogenic lotion, which is formulated to not block pores.
A tub of noncomedogenic lotion, which is formulated to not block pores.

The cosmetics industry loves terms like noncomedogenic because they sound as though they are scientifically based, and therefore tested. They are at once intimidating and encouraging to customers looking to solve their skin care problems. While there is some evidence that noncomedogenic products may, by not blocking pores, reduce acne, this has not been proven in clinical trials and has not been tested by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Safflower oil, from the safflower plant, is noncomedogenic.
Safflower oil, from the safflower plant, is noncomedogenic.

Much anecdotal evidence exists, however, which attests to the value of these products. It does make sense that occluded pores are more likely to produce acne, particularly if one is prone to acne. However, some forms of acne result from more than one cause, like the presence of a high number of streptococcus bacteria on the skin. In such cases, using a product that doesn't block pores may not significantly reduce acne.

People with acne look for products that are noncomedogenic.
People with acne look for products that are noncomedogenic.

Some products are noncomedogenic, but can still cause skin rashes or irritation. Acne lotions often have citric acids, salicylic acids, or high levels of vitamin A, more commonly known as retinol. These can aggravate acne and cause burning, redness and itching. However, some people find them beneficial in reducing acne.

The fatty oil of the evening primrose flowering plant will not block pores when applied to the skin.
The fatty oil of the evening primrose flowering plant will not block pores when applied to the skin.

Since many women in their 30s and 40s still get acne, but are also trying to combat age with skin creams, turning to these products with anti-aging properties can assist in clearer, softer skin. However, even though anti-acne, anti-aging skin creams can help some women and men with skin problems, dermatologists recommend stopping use if such products cause further irritation to the skin. Along with anti-acne and anti-aging products, many sunscreens are now advertised as noncomedogenic. When products help reduce acne for an individual, it is advisable to look for sunscreens that are advertised as such, since wearing sunscreen should not be avoided.

If making one’s own skin care products, the best choices of noncomedogenic oils include almond, olive, evening primrose, peanut, safflower, and sunflower oils. Oils like corn, cottonseed and hydrogenated vegetable oil will occlude the pores somewhat. Oils made from coconut, cocoa butter, and wheat germ are considered very occlusive.

Many sunscreens now on the market are touted as being noncomedogenic.
Many sunscreens now on the market are touted as being noncomedogenic.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Is vaseline noncomedogenic? Many websites have said that vaseline can clog pores and result blackheads and acnes. Is this true?


I had major acne problems in my late twenties, even though I used natural makeup that was noncomedogenic. My dermatologist said my makeup wasn't to blame.

Bacteria and hormones were destroying my complexion. I had to be on medication for months to get rid of the acne, and I also had to have chemical peels at regular intervals.


@shell4life – Some sunscreens do clog your pores. Those are the kind that your skin absorbs.

However, there are some that contain titanium or zinc oxide that just sit on the surface of your skin and block the sun. These are noncomedogenic.

You can find mineral makeup that contains this sort of sunscreen. In fact, mineral cosmetics make great sunscreens, because they also serve as makeup, so you don't have to worry about the two products mixing or canceling each other out.


I don't understand how sunscreens can be noncomedogenic. Isn't their purpose to provide a barrier between your skin and the sun? How can they do this without blocking your pores?


I use a mineral powder foundation that is noncomedogenic. Even though it is made up of small particles that spread across my skin, it somehow doesn't clog my pores.

I love how natural it looks. It smooths out my complexion without making me look fake.


I agree that all those big words that companies use in the ingredients that are in their products are ridiculous and are scary. i am afraid to purchase products with the usage of big words.

If you are out shopping, and are reading the labels, and see those big words, and you do not know what the word means and you do not have a computer,

I say, if you cannot pronounce it, and/or you do not know what it means, do not buy it.


I say: I'm not understanding the confusion here.

the term Non Comedogenic means non-blocking. None pore blocking. But of course some skins will still get blockage. Nothing can be fully 100 percent.


Some of you seem unfamiliar with the concept of "the buyer beware," which means that, instead of castigating the companies, you need to educate yourselves. Of course it's easy to castigate the companies, those huge (definitely not always huge) bad, people who want to earn a living -- just like you. Vera


I think all of you that think any company is out to get you are silly. Noncomedogenic means its put through industry related tests to help you. the food and drug doesn't specify those kind of tests for products. You should be glad that the industry tries to regulate itself. There are always bad guys out there but it's sad how cynical you all sound.


And what if it closes the pores only 36 percent? Does that round to zero? In terms of every jargon-hungry product marketeer, hot terms are those that are just out of the grasp of the average person. Take 'chipotle' (a certain pepper) for example. Been around for 1200 years, but only now do we have it as the name of a mexican restaurant chain and tied to every hispanic food product you can think of. The marketing world is starved for novelty and false sophistication.


I understand that you mean to say that noncomedogenic creams may not significantly reduce acne, but my question is whether or not it has been proven that they actually do not clog the pours in the first place, in the way that others creams do. That in itself is valuable for the health of the skin, even if pimples still appear.


Breadcrumbs 51,

Yes, you have to be wary of all those pseudo scientific terms. I just laugh at them, since they're clearly stretching it beyond the bounds of truth.


It drives me crazy that cosmetics companies can use terms that sound scientific and tested and really mean nothing!

They get so much of our money every year because they sound so convincing. It is really sad and I wish more people were aware of the fact that they are often lying!

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