omedogenicity in cosmetic products has
been studied for decades, but it has been
a particularly hot topic the last few years.
Clients and skin care professionals alike
search through ingredient labels looking for terms
such as “noncomedogenic” or “nonclogging,” hoping
it will do no harm to acne-prone skin. But what
does this term really mean and does it have validity?
A closer analysis reveals that comedogenicity is a
complicated and highly debated issue.
The process of clogging
Simply put, a comedogenic ingredient means
that it clogs pores. It does so by increasing follicular
hyperkeratosis—an increased production of keratin
in hair follicles. Over time, this leads to clogged
follicles and comedones. This doesn’t always
happen quickly, and it can take months of using a
comedogenic product before clogging is noticeable.
Individual skin chemistry can determine the extent
of an ingredient’s comedogencity, so it is highly
variable between people. One client may have no
reaction, while another may have excessively clogged
pores in a few weeks. Even ingredients that are not
typically comedogenic can become so by a person’s
own unique skin enzymes. Human sebum is naturally
comedogenic, so even if clients who are prone to
clogging avoid all likely comedogenic products, they
are not necessarily guaranteed protection against
comedones. If this is the case, how do skin care
professionals know if ingredients are playing a role in
their clients’ clogged or acne-prone skin?
By Michelle Calvarese, PhD