When Rosie Huntington-Whiteley shares the secrets to her flawless complexion, we listen with credit cards in hand. So you can imagine our bank balance when she revealed how she overcame hormonal acne with non-comedogenic skincare on Instagram Live.
As reassuring as it was to hear that even world-renowned supermodels struggle with the same skin woes as the rest of us, it wasn’t all that surprising given that adult acne has seen a 200 per cent rise over the last two years. Although diet, lifestyle and hormones are all factors to consider, one of the most common culprits for congested, bumpy complexions is using comedogenic products.
“I consistently see new customers with congested and acne-prone skin,” says facialist Renee Lapino. “I would say at least 50 per cent of people who come to see me have breakout issues with about 25 per cent of them being full-blown adult acne.” From small pimples to papules, often found on the cheeks and jawline, skin congestion can affect women long after the troublesome teenage years. “Blocked pores, in medical terms is called comedogenesis and it’s the first step in developing blemishes,” Dr Sam Bunting, a cosmetic dermatologist explains. “So, when a formulation has been carefully considered to avoid these pesky pore-blockers, you’ll often see the label stating it’s non-comedogenic.”
What is non-comedogenic skincare?
“Simply put, it refers to products that don’t contain ingredients that are likely to clog pores, potentially leading to the formation of unwanted breakouts, whiteheads and spots,” says Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8.
Although the term ‘non-comedogenic’ is considered a marketing phrase similar to ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ beauty, it is the best guideline we have to determine pore-blocking ingredients. Since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no official legal definition, European Union Products are tested as comedegenic on human backs which is very different to the skin on our face, therefore even when a product says its non-comedogenic, it may still cause breakouts for some people. And when it’s not on the label, it’s likely a certain product will cause breakouts.
While it’s not clear-cut, there are lots of ways to tell if your skincare regime is causing your imperfect complexion.
Why do I need it?
If you suffer from acne, congestion and/or blemishes, it’s definitely worth considering. “Typically, blemish-prone skin types are more affected because the sebaceous glands are already producing more sebum than other skin types,” Isaacs says. “Add comedogenic make-up, creams and lotions that further overload the skin, blocking pores and you’ve got full-blown breakouts on your hands.”
With an overwhelming choice of chemical exfoliants on offer promising to deliver a clear base, it’s no wonder we’ve become heavy-handed with the skincare acids in our quest for ‘glass skin’ perfection. “Most frequently my patients who have overused chemical exfoliants and acids tend to be the ones most prone to blackheads. If your barrier function is impaired your skin cannot￼ properly distribute oils, so when you use ingredients that are heavier and denser, rather than the skin absorbing them, the product simply sits on top of the surface cells and creates clogged pores. Once or twice a week is plenty depending on your skin type.” Lapino explains.
And it’s not just skincare that we need to consider, as Dr Bunting believes that the viscous circle of covering up our skin flaws is further contributing to the problem. “The biggest offender is the combination of wearing long-wear foundation and then needing to double-cleanse in order to remove it. I see this so often in the context of dull, bumpy and clogged skin within my practice,” she says.
What simple changes can I make now?
Thankfully, for the impatient among us, a few small changes can garner speedy results. As Huntington-Whiteley detailed an improvement almost overnight, it’s a promising step towards smoother skin. “Start by reverting to the basics,” Lapino begins. “Although oils are often thought of as pore-clogging, they’re actually very hydrating without building up a layer of product. So, using one as a cleanser will deep cleanse the pores in a healthy, non-aggressive way. Follow with a water-based or gel moisturiser to keep things light and a spray or mineral-based SPF.”
With a clearer complexion in your grasp, facialist and skincare expert, Abigail James suggests binning pore-clogging bases for natural alternatives. After all, you won’t need full-coverage with a blemish-free canvas. “Look for oil-free and mineral make-up and avoid skincare with synthetic fragrance, pertolium oil (mineral oils), SLS and dimethicone (silicone).” Not sure where to start? Brands such as Vichy, Ilia and RMS are leading the way in non-comedogenic make-up, making is easier than ever to find reliable cosmetics that are kinder to problematic skin.
What skincare ingredients should I avoid?
It may be a bit of a minefield determining what’s non-comedogenic, officially, but Dr Bunting recommends adopting a trial-and-error approach to finding what works for you. Skincare brands such as Skinceuticals, Medik8, iS Clinical and Zo Health are expert-approved and generally a good place to start, as are gentle French pharmacy brands like Avene and La Roche Posay.
“When it comes to comedogenicity, the ingredient red flags I see include coconut oil, denatured alcohol and emollients such as Isopropyl Myristate, Isocetyl Stearate and Isopropyl Palmitate, which are found in our haircare and can cause bumps along the hairline and shoulders,” Dr Bunting says, before urging us to cleanse after shampooing and conditioning to avoid breakouts.
“A good rule to remember is that if you would eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your face, as￼ edible ingredients tend to clog pores,” Lapino advises. “Beeswax, cocoa butter, glycerin, almond oil or avocado oil are all big no-nos for skin prone to blackheads and thick congested texture.”
To save yourself the gruelling task of checking your ingredients, you can cross-check them here to see if your favourite products are a potential pore-clogging formula.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK