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Pore Clogging Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Acne

4 Pore-Clogging Ingredients That Are Keeping You From Having Clear Skin

You've set up a strict skin care regimen, exfoliate regularly, keep your hands off of your face, and never go to bed without removing your makeup. If congestion and pimples are still making a regular appearance, it may be due to pore clogging ingredients in your products.

Acne treatment products are designed to clear pores, clean the skin, remove dead skin cells, and quell breakouts. All important factors in a pimple-free complexion. The problem is, many acne solutions contain ingredients that actually cause clogged pores.

When shopping for skin care and makeup to suit acne-prone skin, you likely look for products that are noncomedogenic, meaning the product is formulated not to cause blocked pores. But here's the deal: there are no set regulations for the term. This means any product can carry the noncomedogenic claim but may still clog your pores.


Another hot term in acne solutions is "oil-free." It's often associated with products that will keep pores clear and ward off breakouts, but often products that claim to be oil-free contain other comedogenic ingredients to make skin feel soft and smooth. On the flip side, products that dry out the skin can also lead to acne and congestion. These pore-clogging ingredients can also be found in makeup, so it is important to check your product labels thoroughly.

The good news is, these ingredients are easy to identify. Here's what to look for on product ingredient listings.

1. Alcohol

These ingredients are mainstays in most acne systems. Alcohols are used to cleanse, tone, and provide antibacterial benefits. They are also drying, irritating, and disrupt the skin's natural balance.

Contrary to popular belief, dehydrating oily skin is not the best solution. When drying ingredients are used on oily skin, the skin reacts by producing even more oil. This excess sebum is then trapped under the flaky layer. Zits are the result.

Avoid: ethanol or ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol.

Opt for: toners made with skin-clarifying ingredients that won't strip away natural oils, like witch hazel, green tea, floral waters, and cucumber water.

2. Petroleum Ingredients

If you have oily skin, you are likely not looking for overly emollient products. You may be surprised to find petro-ingredients, like petrolatum and mineral oil, lurking in your skin care. These ingredients give products a moisturizing feel but are occlusive. They form a barrier on top of skin which prevents it from drawing moisture from the air.

Even though this ingredient is often marketed as noncomedogenic, anything that seals off the skin from air and moisture will also trap dirt, oil, and debris in pores.

Avoid: petroleum jelly, petrolatum, mineral oil.

Opt for: jojoba oil is most closely matched to the skin's naturally produced oils and vitamin E is lightly hydrating, both great options for oily or acne-prone skin.

3. Silicones

Oil-free products have to get smoothing and softening properties somewhere, and often it's from silicones. These ingredients are used in facial products and hair care to give a smooth, slippery feel, but they also cause congestion. Like petro-chems, silicones form a seal on skin, trapping grit and bacteria in pores. That silky feel isn't worth skin irritation and worsened acne.

Avoid: dimethicone, dimethiconol, dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone, methicone, phenyl trimethicone.

Opt for: natural oils of avocado, rosehip, and jojoba give skin a smooth surface and cushiony feel.

4. Sulfates

Synthetic surfactants are regularly used to make a product foamy and give that ultra-clean feel. These harsh cleansers not only cause dryness, but are linked to irritation and inflammation. As with alcohols, this drying effect means flakiness, over production of oil, and further breakouts. Redness and sensitivity are also common with continued use of synthetic cleansers.

Avoid: sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES).

Opt for: mild plant and sugar-derived ingredients, like glycerin glucoside and lauryl glucoside, which cleanse without drying or irritating the skin.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio
Product Credit: American Apparel Bodysuit
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