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Non-comedogenic oils: facts vs. fiction

Which facial oils are good for acne-prone skin?

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
Closeup of face with pipette of serum
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
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.

We know using oil in skincare might sound counterintuitive, especially if you’ve been told previously that“oil-free” products are best for acne. To make it even more confusing, some oils are comedogenic (meaning pore-clogging), so they can cause breakouts. The good news: some oils are actually good for you, inside and out, and can even be used to cleanse and moisturize the skin. We’re here to make sense of it all for you.

Which oils clog pores?

Avoid coconut oil

Yes, coconut oil can clog pores — but you don’t have to write off coconuts entirely! They’re a healthy food to eat and are rich in antioxidants. Pure coconut oil can also do wonders when applied to wet hair. Just don’t apply it to your scalp or face if you’re trying to avoid breakouts.

Avoid soybean oil

Yes, soybean oil (a.k.a. glycine soja oil) can clog pores. Soybean oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s a polyunsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol. But we think you should leave this oil in the pantry, because it has the potential to cause breakouts.

Which oils are skin-friendly?

Try olive oil

Good news — olive oil isn’t known to clog pores, and actually has some skin benefits! We prefer extra virgin olive oil, because it’s high in antioxidants. In skincare, olive oil is a natural occlusive moisturizer, meaning it helps lock water into the skin, keeping it hydrated. Look for products that list olive oil in their ingredient lists if you’re eager to give it a try.

Try jojoba oil

Jojoba oil doesn’t clog pores and can be a great skin moisturizer. Like olive oil, jojoba oil is a natural occlusive moisturizer. It’s also a popular carrier oil (more on those in a second). Jojoba oil is derived from the jojoba plant, which creates chains of waxes called esters. These chains create a barrier that helps trap moisture in the skin.

Try evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil doesn’t clog pores. It may help improve the moisture barrier function of the skin, so it’s another great ingredient to use for moisturizing. Unfortunately, there’s not much medical research to prove its health benefits, but we look forward to future studies.

These are just 5 oils we often encounter at Curology, but there are many more out there! Use the cosDNA test to check whether or not an ingredient is pore-clogging.

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How to use oils in skincare

Oil cleansers

Oil-based cleansers include not just straight-up oil, but also cleansing balms and oil-based cleansing creams — all of which may leave the skin looking and feeling more hydrated than traditional cleansers do. We recommend cleansing oils and balms for those with drier skin to lock in that extra hydration, but these can work for oily skin types as well (depending on the ingredients).

Moisturizing oils

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 slows down water loss. Look for moisturizers that contain jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, or olive oil.

Carrier oils

A carrier oil for skin is used to dilute essential oils so that they can be safely applied. But it’s still possible to have an allergic reaction to essential oils even when they’re diluted, and their benefits aren’t scientifically proven. If you tolerate essential oils, they may 1) help with dry, flaky skin, 2) provide some antioxidant benefit for your skin, and 3) provide therapeutic benefits for those who find the fragrance relaxing. Just be sure to do a couple of patch tests (first on your inner arm, then a small part of your face) before putting any oils on your face!

Dermatologist-led and rooted in science

If you want to take the guesswork out of skincare, sign up for a free trial of Curology. You’ll be paired with one of our in-house medical providers who can prescribe you a custom cream with a mix of 3 ingredients for your unique skin. We’ll also throw in our cleanser and your choice of moisturizer for no extra cost. Just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling on your first month of custom skincare.

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Curology Team

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