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Why non-comedogenic makeup is important for preventing acne

It won’t clog your pores, which can help you avoid future breakouts!

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
Non comedogenic makeup
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
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.

“Non-comedogenic” may seem like a mouthful to say, but if you have acne-prone skin, it’s one of the most important labels to keep in mind when choosing any product that goes on your skin. That includes makeup. 

What is non-comedogenic makeup? In short, it’s makeup that won’t clog your pores. That doesn’t mean it will clear up acne, but it can help prevent new acne from forming. Finding non-comedogenic products might seem tricky, especially when popular media highlights miracle skincare ingredients that can actually clog your pores instead, like coconut oil. (On that note, here’s the truth about non-comedogenic oils.)

With a bit of know-how, figuring out which ingredients to watch out for isn’t all that difficult. We’re here to help with this helpful cheat sheet and a long list of expert-approved non-comedogenic makeup for you to try.

Why is comedogenicity important? 

Knowing whether a product is comedogenic (or pore-clogging) is key because more inflamed acne can form from clogged pores or comedones (blackheads are open comedones, while whiteheads are closed comedones). Pores can become clogged when excess sebum—the skin’s natural oil— and dead skin cells mix together. Bacteria (specifically C. acnes) thrive in the excess oil which can lead to inflammation - acne!¹ 

Comedogenicity is a complicated subject, and the truth is many factors can contribute to an ingredient’s ability to clog pores, including how much of the ingredient is in a product. Also, some ingredients may be pore-clogging for some individuals but not others. Even products labeled “non-comedogenic” can still block pores. (But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to easily deal with clogged pores!) 

How can you tell if a product is non-comedogenic? 

In the world of skincare, the word “non-comedogenic” has become a buzzword. Chances are you’ve seen it before, and whether you know it or not, you may already own non-comedogenic products. But if you’re just learning to wear makeup, you’ll need to know how to tell if you’re purchasing non-comedogenic makeup. Here are a few tips: 

  • Check the label. The beauty industry has a habit of using all the cool buzzwords, and non-comedogenic is definitely one of those! 

  • Cross-reference ingredients. Here’s a list we’ve put together of common comedogenic ingredients you’ll want to avoid. 

  • Use common sense. If you’re unsure, compare products to other non-comedogenic products on the shelf. Do they tend to have the same ingredients listed?  

Until you know what you’re looking for—and how your unique skin responds to the products—it can feel like a game of trial and error. Start by adding just one product, like a non-comedogenic foundation for acne-prone skin. If you notice breakouts, switch it up for another non-comedogenic makeup product. The last thing you want is your makeup or makeup remover to contribute to acne. (That’s why we recommend adding micellar water to your skincare routine!) 

How to choose a non-comedogenic product 

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s not as simple as picking just any ol’ item off the shelf labeled non-comedogenic. It can also depend on the product—are we talking about sunscreen, moisturizers, cleansers, or makeup? Here’s what to keep an eye out for: 

In sunscreen 

  • Zinc oxide: Zinc oxide provides a physical barrier from the sun that blocks UV rays.  Zinc-containing compounds may also help soothe skin² and absorb excess oil, which may help prevent breakouts.³ 

  • Titanium dioxide: Another common sunscreen ingredient, titanium dioxide provides a physical barrier from the sun, reflecting UVA and UVB rays. 

In cleansers and moisturizers 

  • Salicylic acid: It buffs away dead skin cells and unclogs pores. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliator that removes dead skin cells to give you a brighter, even-toned appearance. 

  • Hyaluronic acid: This is excellent for attracting and retaining moisture in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin.⁴ Its hydrating properties can also be used to relieve symptoms of conditions like eczema or allergic contact dermatitis.⁵

  • Glycerin: Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture.⁶ It also plays a role in skin hydration, elasticity, and barrier repair.⁷ 

In non-comedogenic makeup brands

  • Silica: Used as a thickener in makeup, silica isn’t known to clog pores. However, it may be paired with other comedogenic ingredients that might contribute to breakouts. Always make sure to read the full ingredient list!

What should you watch out for when buying makeup? 

Some oils are known to be comedogenic, and contrary to popular opinion, coconut oil is one of the worst offenders.⁸ It is not advised to use coconut oil on acne-prone skin. Other ingredients we recommend avoiding include: 

  • Alcohol denat is denatured alcohol and can leave your skin dry and irritated, as may be the case with any product that contains this type of alcohol. 

  • Added fragrance is a common irritant in skincare products, and for some, it may even cause an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis).⁹ Since manufacturers don’t have to include fragrance on the label, look for products that are specifically fragrance-free.  

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent and is able to break down oil and product residue. SLS is a common comedogenic ingredient that can trigger breakouts.¹⁰ 

Is there non-comedogenic makeup? 

Yes, plenty! Here’s a list of some of our favorite non-comedogenic makeup products, all perfect for acne-prone skin.

Liquid foundation

Powder foundation



Other non-comedogenic skincare products we recommend

Young black woman applying moisturising cream

We’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing cleansers and moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Here’s your list! 



  • The moisturizer by Curology is a gel moisturizer with a lightweight and cloud-like texture. This is our minimalist moisturizer—just what you need and nothing else. 

  • EltaMD AM is a long-lasting non-comedogenic lightweight moisturizer with niacinamide and willow bark to help stimulate cell turnover for smoother skin. 

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream formulated with hyaluronic acid, this unique gel-cream moisturizer is non-comedogenic and oil-free.

  • The rich moisturizer by Curology is a gentle, yet ultra-hydrating dermatologist-tested formula that is vegan, fragrance-free, and suitable for all skin types.

Moisturizers with SPF 30+

Curology can help take the guesswork out of acne prevention

Still, looking for more info? Check out our no-breakout makeup series for more information on non-comedogenic makeup. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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When it comes to your skin, Curology does the hard work for you. We take the time to understand the uniqueness of your skin and provide a personalized skincare solution that just works. Just take a short quiz and snap a few selfies, and one of our licensed dermatology providers will evaluate your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a free 30-day supply of your personalized prescription formula* with three active ingredients for your unique skin—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling. Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology now!

Also, be sure to ask for micellar makeup remover by Curology—it’s a non-comedogenic makeup remover. It’s free during your trial month! 


Are non-comedogenic ingredients good for acne?

Non-comedogenic ingredients are non-pore-clogging—for most people (remember, everyone’s skin is different, and what works well for one person may not work for another). But non-comedogenic ingredients typically won’t treat acne—they’ll only help prevent future acne by not clogging your pores.

What are comedones?

Comedones are clogged pores. Pores become clogged when too much oil is produced—or trapped—and mixes with dead skin cells. There are two types of comedones: open and closed. Open comedones are blackheads, and closed comedones are whiteheads.

• • •

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

  1. Zaenglein, A.L., et al. Guidelines for Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2016, May 1). 

  2. Gupta, M., et al.  Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice. (2014).

  3. Abendrot, M., & Kalinowska-Lis, U. Zinc-containing compounds for personal care applications. International journal of cosmetic science. (2018).

  4. Papakonstantinou E., et al. Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging. Dermato Endocrinology. (2012, July-December).

  5. Walker, K., et al. Hyaluronic Acid. National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 15).

  6. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slipper Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (2016, May-June).

  7. J.W. Flurh, et. al. Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. The British Journal of Dermatology. (July 2008).

  8. Francis A. &, Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (2019, August). 

  9. Litchman, G., et al. Contact dermatitis.StatPearls. (2022, May 8). 

  10. Fulton, J. E., et al. Comedogenicity of current therapeutic products, cosmetics, and ingredients in the rabbit ear. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1984).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
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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