Skincare Ingredients to Avoid for Acne-Prone Skin

You might have seen highly comedogenic ingredients (a score for how likely it is that an ingredient will clog pores and cause acne) on ingredient lists for skincare or makeup items. Although these kinds of ratings are not always indicative of reality, it’s best to avoid products that have earned high ratings.

These ingredients include:

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is the strongest drugstore acne-fighting ingredient available, and kills bacteria by oxidising oil and exfoliating dead skin cells to unplug the pores and flush excess surface oil to clear blackheads and whiteheads (comedones). Benzal peroxide can be found in liquid washes, cleanser pads, gels, lotions and creams. Benzoyl peroxide should be applied twice a day – once in the morning and once at night – and manufacturers’ directions for use should be followed closely. To avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots left after acne has cleared), drying ingredients, such as salicylic acid, should be avoided while using benzoyl peroxide. Use it on wet skin and spread lather for 10-20 seconds before applying if you’re using benzoyl peroxide wash or face masks. Gels and washes should be used in a thin layer once or twice daily onto affected areas, never touching eyes or mouths.

D & C Red

This natural ingredient is a must for acne-prone skin. Those with blackheads, whiteheads and papules will appreciate it as it helps reduce the appearance of blemishes. Also, its antibacterial qualities against the bacteria that causes pimples makes it an important part of their skincare regime. It can be found in cleansers, masks, lotions and gels. Retinol also mixes well with benzoyl peroxide to help reduce inflammation while also speeding up cell turnover and exfoliating away teenage blemishes, as well as sun spots or freckles. Clay is one of the best balancing ingredients for skincare products, sucking up excess oil and gunk from your pores without overdrying your face. This treatment works well for the oily-skinned crowd with clogged pores, but other botanicals could amplify the tonic to address other skincare issues like dryness (with the addition of hyaluronic acid) or sensitivity (glycolic acid).

Cocoa Butter

Yes, it’s naturally comedogenic (pore‐clogging) for those who have acne-prone skin, but those anti-ageing benefits and hydrating factors make it a superior hydrator and anti-wrinkle agent. But cocoa butter is also anti-inflammatory and perfect for treating dry skin problems. If your problem is acne, stay away from cocoa butter and use products specifically formulated for your skin type – such as cleansers or peels. Cocoa butter, however, is an excellent component of a general skincare routine for dry skin conditions. It can be paired with other ingredients to create a custom treatment programme. A thin layer of raw cocoa butter mixed with shea butter, and a dash of jojoba oil, honey and a splash of tea tree essential oils makes for an intensive anti-acne treatment for the face. Melt cocoa butter in a bowl over hot water, then stir in other ingredients to make an acne-friendly, oil-balancing but deeply moisturising face mask.


Lanolin was originally created as a protective coating for sheep wool (think sunscreen and wind gear, all in one) and today remains a great hydrating moisturiser that can literally mend chapped flesh. It can be easily added to ointments and cosmetic creams and lotions due to its ability to moisturising and maintaining the hydration of skin by not separating from other ingredients and keeping water on it in a natural way, which is the main property of lanolin as a beneficial moisturiser. Lanolin does not allow water to be lost from the skin after putting it on and continuously keeps the water on it for a longer time. Lanolin, after all, is essentially petroleum. It is bad for oily or acne-prone skin; natural alternatives, such as kaolin clay or bentonite clay, as well as organic olive oil, have similarly fatty molecules that will lock in moisture more effectively. Yet if you want to use products with lanolin, make sure it’s from a humane source and that the lanolin has been produced without endangering the life of the animal, or try a jojoba oil or coconut oil (non-comedogenic) that will also do the job without clogging your pores.

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