The Acne Whisperer: What does Comedogenic mean?

For those of you with Adult Acne, this is real information you don’t want to miss!

I’m sure
you’ve seen this term before.

Let’s break it

comedo = an impaction of varying
size containing a 
mixture of sebum (fancy name for our skin’s oil) and dead
skin cells, often known as a “blackhead”;  

genic = creating.  

The scientific term for “blackhead” is Comedo
(many, like me, say Comedone).
  The start
of every acne pimple is a microscopic blackhead, known as a Microcomedone,
which is actually in many of our pores, but doesn’t always develop enough to
lead to a full blown zit.
  A comedogenic
ingredient makes the process so much worse, it can aggravate an acne condition,
or even start one.

Often in a facial, I can tell that comedogenic products are being used!

matters about these closed comedones is that when there are enough of them on
the face, especially the bottom half where makeup and lotions can gather at the
end of the day through gravity, it can show me in a facial that an acne problem
is likely to be cosmetic more than anything else.
  Occasionally it can mean a hormonal
imbalance, but other symptoms have to be there in order for me to suggest it.

The reason why the issue of pore clogging
ingredients is such an big deal, and why the listing of all products used is
such a large part of my
Eval by Email® online skincare coaching service, is
that there are so many of these ingredients, and so many products
that contain them.
 Why is this
  Because the issue of substances
clogging pores molecule by molecule is largely overlooked and underappreciated
by both the medical community and cosmetic chemists and formulators.
 I’ve even come across those who don’t believe
it even happens!
We’re often told that the solution to an acne
problem caused by cosmetics is to look for products that are “Oil Free”.  Sounds like it would make total sense – after
all, oil is a big part of acne formation (not the primary part, but a
significant one).  Any product with an
oil as an ingredient, no matter what kind, will add oil to the skin making it
clog up, or at least, make it greasy and uncomfortable.  It goes back to a time when liquid and cream
foundations were all made with oils like mineral oil.  Heavy, gross, greasy.  Thing is, oils mix with water through
emulsifiers to make foundations and lotions that spread around easily and
soften the skin at the same time.  How
can we do without them?  Chemists had to
figure out how to replace oils in lotions and makeup.
"Oil Free" can often be a red flag for adult acne!

The solution chemists came up with is a group of
ingredients that now make up the base of most lotions and creams as well as
many foundations, powders and concealers.
 These ingredients answer the call to make
products spread well and penetrate, without being greasy.
 These magic ingredients happen to be quite softening
as well.
  What are they?  They’re actually oils and fats fused with
certain kinds of alcohol to make what are called Fatty Alcohols or Fatty
 These ingredients not only
spread really well, but also penetrate so that they give a softening effect
while also giving a feel of not sitting on top of the skin or feeling greasy at
  In fact, together with hydrating
ingredients, these Fatty Alcohols make the skin feel really, really good.
  The truth is, enough people out there are not
clog-prone or acne-prone that the positive aspects of these ingredients, as
well as the long periods of time it takes for them to have any negative impact,
that these products have no problem selling, and can often be completely fine,
even great.

I use oil free moisturizer and makeup. Why am I still breaking out??
However, since their molecule sizes can be quite
tiny, these waxy substances can get stuck inside the pores of people who are
clog-prone and acne-prone, building up molecule by molecule.  Once a pore gets enough of a buildup of this
substance, the proper flow of oil and dead skin cells can get obstructed, and
the mixture eventually creates an impassable impaction.  Thus is born an acne lesion.
The worst part of this is that because these
substances are made of oils rather
than actually being oils, a product
containing them can say “oil-free” on the label even though it can
actually clog the skin like crazy.  Tricky, huh?  
Manufacturers love these ingredients because, as I
mentioned before, they really do feel very good, penetrate immediately, but
they are also VERY cheap!  There are
quite a few of them, and some are more clogging than others.  The fact that the degree to which a substance
will clog pores can really make a huge difference, because some can be included
in a formula further down the list where the final product all together can
test as non-clogging.  This is why I
don’t encourage consumers to familiarize themselves with lists of comedogenic
ingredients.  It can actually happen that
a product can contain one or two, with the final formula being found
non-comedogenic.  It all depends on how
much there is of the ingredient(s) and what else is in the formula that can
actually render the ingredient completely harmless.
This is what pore clogging looks like,

Some products containing clogging ingredients may
surprise you – just to name a few, Aveeno, Body Shoppe, Kiehl’s, Loreal, and
even the base ingredients of the generic Retin-A cream.
 Most makeup artist and designer skin care
lines have these ingredients.
 In the
case of pressed powder foundations, such as Mac
® Studio Fix, and most pressed
bronzers, the most problematic ingredients are the ones that hold the cake
together yet allow the powder to spread evenly around the face and adhere to
the skin.
 Many liquid foundations have
these in order to facilitate an even application.

Remember – pore clogging happens molecule by molecule,
so it generally takes three to six months for a clogging ingredient to show up as a
Most vegetable oils are extremely pore clogging and can aggravate Adult Acne!There are also some natural ingredients that can clog pores terribly, too, some of
which do so by mimicking our own oil (which is why they’re great for
genetically dry skin), and some that contain certain fatty acids that are so
tiny and sticky they just build up and up, making a mess in our pores.
 The worst are coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea
butter, sesame oil, soybean oil and wheat germ oil.
 Others are avocado oil, and all nut oils.  Everyone with acne-prone oily skin should
avoid all of these.
  Some oils are not a
problem, though!
  They are jojoba,
sunflower, non-GMO safflower, hemp and castor.
These are totally ok.

Remember, we’re talking molecule by molecule, so
using something very pore
clogging even
do the trick.  This means no
matter how often or seldom you use a product, a clogging ingredient will always
cause a problem for a skin that is acne prone!

Your acne problem has a source, and clearing your skin requires finding that source and either eliminating it or healing it.  You can start that right now by filling out my Eval by Email® Online Skincare Consultation Form created specially for ages Gen-X to Baby Boom!

Eval by Email, Virtual Skincare Coaching specially designed for acne sufferers ages 24 and up.

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