It's a common misconception that moisturisers and oil-based products cause breakouts. Instead, comedogenicity is based on specific ingredients: some oils can cause you to break out, but some water-based ingredients can too.
Moisturisers are appropriate for all skin types: dry, normal, combination, and oily. Their unique multitasking formulas of hydrating waters, humectants, emollients, and nourishing vitamins address specific skin concerns while also conditioning. It's this richness of ingredients that, while beneficial, can cause concern about acne breakouts.
The question on your lips: do moisturisers cause acne?
Back in the '40s, scientists began to suspect a new form of acne: acne cosmetica. As you've probably guessed, this acne condition is provoked by use of makeup and skincare products. The theory behind acne cosmetica revolved around particle size—specifically, the size of ingredient particles within cosmetics.
If too large, particles remain mostly on the upper layers of skin. If particles are small enough, they wash straight out of your pores. However, if sized just right, particles have the ability to lodge within pores.
With the possibility of cosmetics provoking congested pores, scientists wanted to discover whether acne cosmetica was reality or fiction. In the late '80s, testing began. Results showed that some ingredients had a high potential to congest pores, with the highest rated ingredients including:
- Myristyl myristate
- Coconut butter
- Cocoa butter
- Steareth- 10
Coconut oil has risen to skincare fame over the last few years, and you'll often hear it recommended for acne. Coconut oil is a confusing ingredient because it possesses antibacterial qualities, which could kill acne-causing bacterium P. acnes. However, the oil also has a high potential to clog pores and encourage acne.
When reviewing this list of comedogenic and irritating skincare ingredients, bear in mind that they've been tested at 100% concentration. When these ingredients are high on a product's ingredients list, it's advisable to avoid that product if you have acne-prone skin. However, if these undesirable ingredients are lower on the label, their pore-clogging abilities are diluted.
The list linked above also shows that oiliness doesn't necessarily correlate with an ingredient's ability to block pores. Some of the lowest-rated ingredients are oils, including:
- Even mineral oil!
Instead of banning all oils and moisturisers from the skincare diet of an oily or combination type, it's better to vet products and formulas selectively. Many oils have significant benefits for acne-prone skin.
When choosing an appropriate moisturiser, you should look for two things:
- Omega-3 and omega-6 oils (especially ones high in linoleic acid)
- The word 'non-comedogenic' (which is a clue, but not the be-all and end-all)
We'll explain each item in detail.
1. Omega-3 and omega-6 oil moisturisers to help prevent acne breakouts
A 1998 study concluded that a certain type of oil—one high in linoleic acid, a form of omega-6—could in fact reduce the incidence and severity of acne. The study lasted four weeks and showed a 25% decrease in the incidence of acne microcomedones.
Now, you're probably wondering which oils are linoleic-high. You've likely heard of most of these already:
Combining our knowledge of comedogenicity ratings and oils high in omega-3 and omega-6, we've carefully chosen the following formulas perfect for acne-prone skin:
- Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream, highest in rosehip oil
- Dr LeWinn's Vitamin A Rejuvenation Cream, highest in acne-friendly oils such as mineral and sunflower
- Jurlique Balancing Day Care Cream, with a high content of rosehip and safflower oils
2. Non-comedogenic moisturisers to help prevent acne breakouts
The other way to select a moisturiser perfect for acne-prone skin is to look for the word 'non-comedogenic' on the label. This terminology is used to describe skincare and makeup products that contain mostly ingredients with a low potential to clog pores. 'Non-comedogenic' might also indicate a formula that's been proven not to cause acne cosmetica.
Acne-friendly products aren't always labelled 'non-comedogenic', as this is one of several skincare claims that isn't industry-regulated. This means there's no industry standard, so one cream that claims to be non-comedogenic may have used a different test of proof than another. Take this claim as a guide only to help you pre-select moisturisers before looking at the specific ingredients.
Now you know that many moisturisers are perfect for acne-prone skin. You can shop for Adore Beauty skincare and makeup using the search term 'non-comedogenic'. Learn whether you need a different moisturiser at night and more fabulous beauty tips from our Ultimate Guides.