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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Everything you need to know about non-comedogenic oils for skincare

Not all oils are bad—these options can actually be beneficial for acne-prone skin.

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Curology Team
Aug 11, 2022 · 6 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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If you’re looking for ways to get your glow on, you may have noticed that face and body oils are getting their time to shine. Using oils as part of your skincare routine might sound counterintuitive, especially if you’ve been told previously that “oil-free” products are best for oily, acne-prone skin. Possibly even more confusing, some oils are comedogenic (meaning pore-clogging), so they can lead to breakouts. But the truth is that some oils are good for you, inside and out, and can even be used to cleanse and moisturize the skin. We’re here to help make sense of it all for you.

Why use oils on your skin?

Using oil for acne might sound a little off, but hear us out. Oils can be very beneficial for your skin, as long as you use the right ones. Oils can have a range of benefits, like hydrating dry skin, healing wounds, calming inflammation, and treating acne vulgaris.¹ In short, body and face oils can be a soothing, skin-nourishing treat! 

Which oils clog pores?

One of the main things to be aware of when it comes to oil is if it is comedogenic. Comedogenic oil can clog your pores, leading to acne. When it comes to putting oils on your skin, the golden rule is to look for an oil with a low comedogenicity rating. If you have been trying to treat and prevent blackheads and whiteheads, non-comedogenic products are the ones for you.

Here are three natural oils commonly found in skincare products that also happen to be comedogenic (or potentially damage the skin)—so, steer clear!

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is amazing for many things, but unfortunately, it’s comedogenic.² So if you want to help keep pimples from popping up, it’s best to keep coconut oil off your skin. That said, it’s completely fine to use in the kitchen, so there’s no need to throw out your coconut oil altogether.  

Soybean oil

Yes, soybean oil (aka glycine soja oil) can also clog pores.³ Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fat, soybean oil can help lower cholesterol.⁴ But it’s probably best to leave this oil in the pantry because it may contribute to breakouts.

Olive oil 

What are the benefits of olive oil? This mainstay of the ever-popular Mediterranean diet is great for your health when eaten, as it’s high in antioxidants. But when applied topically, it can be a different story. Olive oil isn’t comedogenic and it has been shown to have antiinflammatory effects and promote wound healing. That said, some studies have shown increased water loss from the skin after olive oil is applied. This can lead to negative effects on the skin’s integrity.⁵ While you may hear people glowingly recommend using olive oil as part of your skincare routine, we typically don’t recommend it. But again, that’s not to say you can’t still use it in the kitchen for your favorite meals. 

What are some dermatologist-approved topical oils?

Now that we’ve covered what oils not to use, there are still many oils available that are great for your skin that don’t contain any known pore-clogging or damaging ingredients.

woman applying serum on her skin

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is derived from the jojoba plant, which creates chains of waxes called esters. These chains can help repair a damaged skin barrier.⁶ Jojoba oil is not known to clog pores and can function as a great skin moisturizer. Like many other oils, jojoba oil is a natural occlusive moisturizer. It’s also a popular carrier oil (more on those in a bit). 

Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil may have an anti-inflammatory effect and can be used as a natural moisturizer. While it’s not known to clog pores, there’s not much medical research to prove its health benefits, but we look forward to future studies.

Rosehip oil

Rosehip oil is great for your skin in many different ways. This nutrient-rich oil is packed with beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants. It can help reduce inflammation and skin damage.⁷

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has been shown to help reduce mild to moderate acne lesions,⁸ so if you’re looking for a natural remedy for your acne and want to incorporate an oil into your routine, this might be the one for you! Just remember to dilute tea tree oil before using it on your skin. 100% tea tree oil can be quite irritating!

Argan oil

Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, argan oil is a popular choice for people with acne-prone, dry or dull skin. If you’re looking to give your skin a healthy boost, argan oil has been shown to improve the skin’s elasticity and hydration and potentially help heal wounds.⁹ 

How to use oils in skincare

As with most skincare products, you have plenty of options when it comes to incorporating oil into your routine. Here are a few creative ways to soak up the benefits of topical oils.

Oil cleansers

If you’re looking to cleanse acne-prone or oily skin, you might feel like using an oil-based cleanser is just plain wrong. Counterintuitive as it sounds, certain oils can be effective at cleansing your skin of both makeup and excess sebum (our skin’s natural oil) without stripping, drying, or irritating. So, if you have extra-dry skin and find that cleansers can make it even drier, using a non-comedogenic oil-based cleanser may actually be a good alternative to lock in hydration.Oil-based cleansers include straight-up oil, cleansing balms, and oil-based cleansing creams. You may also want to try oil-based makeup removers to help gently cleanse your face of the dirt and debris that can pile up after a long day.

Moisturizing oils

Regardless of your skin type, you likely already know that you should typically moisturize morning and night—especially if you’re acne-prone and using a potentially drying treatment like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Some oils are occlusive moisturizers, which means they help “seal in” hydration. When used right after cleansing, when your face is still damp, the extra layer of oil on your skin’s surface can help slow down water loss. Look for moisturizers that contain beneficial oils like jojoba oil or argan oil. 

What are some of the potential side effects of oils?

Even if you use non-comedogenic and natural oils, adding oil to your routine could still have some possible side effects. This especially applies to essential oils. Allergic contact dermatitis can be caused by topical essential oils.¹⁰ We typically recommend doing a patch test first on a small area of skin to make sure it doesn’t cause a negative reaction. Remember that skin types can vary, and everyone’s skin is unique, so testing an oil first can be helpful, especially if you have sensitive skin and are prone to irritation.

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FAQs

Why use oils on your skin?

Oils can be very beneficial for your skin, they have a range of benefits, like hydrating dry skin, healing wounds, calming inflammation, and treating acne vulgaris.

Which oils clog pores?

Comedogenic oil can clog your pores, leading to acne. When it comes to putting oils on your skin, the golden rule is to look for an oil with a low comedogenicity rating. If you have been trying to treat and prevent blackheads and whiteheads, non-comedogenic products are the ones for you.

What are some of the potential side effects of oils?

Adding oil to your routine could still have some possible side effects. This especially applies to essential oils. Allergic contact dermatitis can be caused by topical essential oils. Testing an oil first can be helpful, especially if you have sensitive skin and are prone to irritation.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International journal of molecular sciences. (January 2018).

  2. Abel Francis and Anitta Shojan. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (August 2019).

  3. James E. Fulton, Jr. Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care products. Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. (1989).

  4. Bridges M.Facts about polyunsaturated fats. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 25).

  5. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  6. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  7. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  8. Enshaieh, S., et al. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian J Dermatol. (2007, January).

  9. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  10. Ismail F. F., et al.Allergic contact dermatitis to essential oils. DermNet NZ. (January 2020).

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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