What is the Comedogenic Scale

The comedogenic scale is a five-point scale that tells you how comedogenic that ingredient is. An oil that has a comedogenic rating of 0 is widely believed to be non-comedogenic and will not clog your pores and oils that have a rating of 4 – 5 should be avoided as is basically a guaranteed chance of breaking out.

The scale uses a numbering system of 0 to 5. Here’s how the numbers rank on the scale:-

0 – won’t clog pores at all
1 – very low likelihood of clogging pores
2 – moderately low likelihood
3 – moderate likelihood
4 – fairly high likelihood
5 – high likelihood of clogging pores

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean

The skin naturally produces sebum, an oily, waxy substance produced by the body’s sebaceous glands. It coats, moisturizes, and protects your skin. The primary function of this oily substance is to protect your skin and hair from moisture loss.

However, when there is an excess of sebum production, skin can become congested and clogged, resulting in bacterial overgrowth and acne. If there is too little sebum, the skin is not sufficiently moisturized, therefore dry skin.

An ingredient that causes comedones is comedogenic. Non-comedogenic is a term used to describe skincare and makeup products formulated in such a way that they are not likely to cause pore blockages and breakouts. If you have acne, blackheads, or are prone to clogged pores, using non-comedogenic skincare products and cosmetics might help reduce the number of breakouts you get.

Skincare habits can have a direct effect on the skin’s sebum production. Using harsh products that are intended to remove oils from the skin may end up “stripping off” all the natural skin oil and result in the skin to produce excess oil in response. 

Complete list of Comedogenic Oils

The comedogenic scale ranks oils and butters based on their propensity to clog skin pores. Since vegetable butters and oils can be found extensively throughout many cosmetic products, it is very helpful to know what effect they are likely to have. You can get this comprehensive list from the e-books and guides

Iodine Values of Comedogenic Oils

Iodine value (IV) indicates the degree of unsaturation of a fat or oil. It is defined as the number of grams of iodine absorbed by 100 g of fat. 

The higher the iodine value, the less stable the oil, and the more vulnerable it is to oxidation and free radical production. High iodine value oils are prone to oxidation and polymerization. During heating, oils with a high iodine value readily oxidize and polymerize. 

When making or formulating your own skincare, you should protect your raw material from light, oxygen, and heat. Hence, it is important to know that you should try to avoid heating oils with an iodine value higher than 100 when making your own skincare. You should add them during the cool-down phase. 

The higher the iodine value, the more sensitive it is. Higher content of high sensitive oils in your own product, the more sensitive your overall product would be.

A very comprehensive list of vegetable butters and oils and its comedogenic scale for each skin type

Essential Fatty Acids in Skincare 

There are some researches to suggest that fatty acids prevent collagen breakdown, protect from UV damage, and increase skin’s metabolism. There is some research showing that applying vegetable oils that contain high amounts of essential fatty acids—like sunflower seed oil—may help repair that barrier in patients who have a history of EFA deficiency. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics found that topical omega-3 can reduce UV sensitivity in skin cells in a lab setting. Other studies have found similar links between topical omega-3 and a reduction in the signs of photoaging. And a 1998 study published in Archives of Dermatological Research showed that topical application of linoleic acid could reduce UV-induced hyperpigmentation in guinea pigs.

These essential fatty acids (EFAs) are those that your body can’t synthesize on its own, specifically omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Linolenic acid is the most common omega-3, while linoleic acid is the most common omega-6.

The body does not synthesize essential fatty acids on its own, which means that they have to be derived from diet or topical application.

Essential fatty acids applied topically to the skin, can help prevent and reverse some of the damage caused by UV overexposure. Because of their vital role in wound healing, essential fatty acids can prevent and repair the damaging aging effects of the sun.

What Are the Fatty Acids Benefit Your Skin 

Omega fatty acids are a type of Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) which our bodies require for good health but are unable to produce biologically. The most beneficial EFAs for our skin are:- 

Omega-3 — Alpha-linoleic Acid regulates oil production and contributes to skin elasticity. 

Omega-6 —Linoleic acid nourishes skin without feeling too heavy and is highly beneficial for individuals with oily skin or acne. 

Omega-9 — Oleic acid benefits balanced to dry skin types and tend to be occlusive. 

Omega fatty acids offer incredible benefits for the skin. They act as building blocks in the skin cells, strengthening the skin’s surface layers for a smoother, healthier, and younger-looking complexion. Topical application of omega fatty acids helps to:-

– Strengthen and smooth the skin’s surface
– Repair the skin barrier to improve moisture and elasticity
– Soothe irritated, sensitive and red skin
– Reduce UV-induced photo-damage and signs of aging
– Eliminate flaky, dehydrated skin
– Nourish and protect skin against environmental damage
– Retain moisture, regulate oil production and maintain elasticity

Linoleic acid and oleic acid are two important fatty acids naturally present in our skin. However the amount you have usually dictated your skin type. 

If you have dry skin, then chances are you have higher levels of linoleic acid and less oleic acid and vice versa with oily skin. There is the source that stated people with acne have a low linoleic acid content in their skin.

HIGH LINOLEIC ACID OILS

If you have frequent blemishes or oily skin, and because research has shown that acne sufferers have a lower concentration of linoleic acid on their skin’s surface, adding linoleic acid oils may be the best way to address this problem.

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid not produced by the body. It has anti-aging, barrier protective, soothing, and balancing properties, and is most suitable for oily and acne-prone skin. Linoleic acids have a shorter shelf life, but when combined with high antioxidant essential oils and vitamin E or other antioxidants e.g., such as rosemary or sage extract or with more stable oils, extend their stability thus can last longer. 

The most recognizable oils that are high in linoleic acids are:-

Grapeseed oil
Evening primrose oil
Safflower oil
Sunflower oil
– Sesame oil
– Pumpkin seed oil
Hemp seed oil

HIGH OLEIC ACID OILS

Oleic Acid is an omega-9 fatty acid, are best known for their hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties, more ideal for dry skin but can benefit sensitive or irritated skin. But, it is good to take note they can be pore-clogging for those with oily, acne-prone, or even combination skin. 

High oleic acid oils have a longer shelf life and are more stable. High oleic acid oils include:-

Avocado oil
Shea butter
Olive oil
Apricot kernel oil
Jojoba oil

Using The Comedogenic Scale for Your Skin Type

Generally, oils with a higher percentage of linoleic acid are lower on the comedogenic scale than those with higher oleic acid. To determine which ingredient on the comedogenic scale to use, you must first determine your skin type so that you can address your skin concerns adequately. There are five different types of skin; Normal, Dry, Oily, Combination, and Sensitive.

However, your skin type may change through your lifetime as other factors like diet, lifestyle, age, climate, etc. will affect your skin.

NORMAL SKIN

Normal skin types are well-balanced of moisture and sebum production in the skin. This type of skin will be less likely to break out and not prone to sensitivity. Skin has a smooth texture and free of blemishes. Pores are not too visible, and there are few wrinkles or lines. 

If you have normal skin, you should use lightweight products that do not strip your skin natural oils yet maintaining the skin’s balance. 

Key ingredients that work best: Niacinamide, Green Tea, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Vera, Squalane, and Floral extracts.

Top oils for normal skin An oil balanced in oleic and lineoic fatty acids is ideal. Oils include argan oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, cherry kernel oil, mango butter, pomegranate oil, safflower oil, sea buckthorn oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter.

DRY SKIN

Dry skin types are lack of moisture and natural oil in the skin. People with dry skin will feel tightness in their skin and skin are often scaly, flaky, and feel itchy. The skin complexion looks dull with pores that almost invisible. This type of skin is often prone to chapping and cracking. 

If you have dry skin, it’s essential to moisturize regularly in your skincare routine.

Key ingredients that work best: Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, and Ceramides.

Top oils for dry skin: Those with dry skin should use oils that are high in oleic acid, as it helps reduce inflammation. Oils include argan oil, marula oil, evening primrose oil, olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil, moringa oil, neem oil, and perilla oil. For extremely dry skin, consider shea butter, mango butter, and cocoa butter

OILY SKIN

This type of skin produces an excess of sebum. People with oily skin are prone to acne episodes that may include whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules. This can be triggered due to genetics, frequent hormonal changes, stress, or medication. Skin may appear shiny most of the time, look plump and thick, comes with less signs of aging like wrinkles. Pores are often large and visible. 

If you have oily skin, your goal is to balance your skin, keep oil at bay, and dry it out. 

Key ingredients that work best: Witch Hazel Extract, Tea Tree Oil, Ginseng, Salicylic Acid, and Glycolic Acid.

Top oils for oily skinOils with high levels of linoleic acid are most appropriate for oily skin. Oils include hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, and rosehip oil.

COMBINATION SKIN

Combination skin type means having oily skin in one part of your skin i.e., T-Zone area and dry skin on another part i.e., cheeks. This skin type has two different types of needs and is probably the most common skin type. 

If you have a combination skin type, you probably will need two types of moisturizers, one for your oily areas and one for the dry, flaky areas of your skin. For those with combination skin types, it is best to exfoliate once a week to keep your pores unclogged.

Key ingredients that work best: Lactic Acid, Green Tea, Aloe Vera, Honey, Calendula, and Hyaluronic Acid.

Top oils for combination skinOils include apricot kernel oil, black cumin seed oil, borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, moringa oil, rice bran oil, and argan oil.

SENSITIVE SKIN

Sensitive skin types are prone to inflammation, irritation, redness, itchiness, burning, stinging, and overly dry skin. This type of skin will have a harsh reaction to certain ingredients. 

Sensitive skin needs special care. Avoid common irritants and harsh chemicals, parabens, dyes, and sulfates. 

Key ingredients that work best: Oatmeal, Aloe Vera, Cucumber, Chamomile, and Rice Extract.

Top oils for sensitive skinPure oils will be great simple moisturizers since there are no additives or fragrances.

For dry, sensitive skin: almond oil, black currant seed oil, marula oil, peach kernel oil, and tamanu oil.

For oily, sensitive skin: borage oil, grapeseed oil, hazelnut oil, meadowfoam seed oil, or watermelon seed oil.

ACNE-PRONE

This type of skin is more susceptible to getting breakouts and blemishes due to large pores or overactive oil glands. Acne or Acne Vulgaris is a non-contagious skin condition caused by the inflammation and infection of the sebaceous glands in the skin. Several factors such as hormonal fluctuations during puberty and pregnancy, climatic location (hot and humid climates), and even the use of particular medication and cosmetics can trigger the breakout of acne.

Beware of over-cleansing as cleansing too often can irritate your skin. Washing more frequently is not going to clear breakouts but often produces more sebum.

Key ingredients that work best: Salicylic Acid, Vitamin A & C, Exfoliating Granules, Hyaluronic Acid, Kaolin Clay, and Benzoyl Peroxide

Top oils for acne-prone skin: Those with acne-prone skin should use oils that are high in linoleic acid include argan oil, hemp seed oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, sea buckthorn oil, sunflower oil, and rosehip oil.

Jojoba oil is a very popular choice for all skin types, as it reduces inflammation, helps to break up clogged pores, and works to reduce sebum production.

More Skincare Guides

You might find these Skincare Essential Oil Guides Useful

This 1-page printable table lists essential oils that can be helpful for specific skin types. You can use the recommendation to help you choose which oils you want to try in customizing your skin-care products.

This 1-page printable table lists the common carrier oils that can be helpful for specific skin types. You can use the recommendations to help you choose which carrier oils you want to try in your customized skin-care products.

This 1-page printable chart is perfect for essential oil users as it covers the basic applications with recommendations to help you choose which oils you want to try in customizing your skin-care products.

CONCLUSION

Oils can be an excellent addition to your skincare as oils are a natural way to deliver fatty acids and nutrients to your skin.

Oils are gentle, and natural will not irritate your skin. Using oils even on oily skin can help to regulate sebum production, you just have to ensure using oil that will not clog your pores.

Using a comedogenic scale for plant oils and butters is the best way to help you choose skincare products for your particular skin type. It is not just useful to find the right products but also to help you decide on the right ingredients if you are making your own skincare.

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