Comedogenic Scale Breakdown and Ratings

What is the Comedogenic Scale?

What is the Comedogenic Scale?

Oils and other additives have what is known as a comedogenic rating.  This rating refers to how likely the oil or compound is to clog your pores.  Our skin naturally produces a compound called sebum that helps to regulate and balance oils in our skin.  When clogged, sebum is unable to perform its function and leads to clogged pores.  Pores can be clogged with oil, dirt and bacteria leading to undesirable blemishes like acne.

When it comes to skincare, the term “comedogenic” often surfaces, especially in discussions about acne and clogged pores. The comedogenic scale is a tool that helps consumers understand how likely a skincare product or ingredient is to clog pores leading to outbreaks and acne.

What is the Comedogenic Scale?

The comedogenic scale ranges from 0 to 5 and measures the potential of an ingredient to clog pores:

  • 0: Non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores.
  • 1: Very low likelihood of clogging pores.
  • 2: Low likelihood.
  • 3: Moderate likelihood.
  • 4: Fairly high likelihood.
  • 5: High likelihood, very likely to clog pores.

Ingredients are tested on rabbit ears or human skin to determine their comedogenic rating. A higher number indicates a greater likelihood that the ingredient will cause breakouts, particularly for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Why Does the Comedogenic Scale Matter?

  1. Acne Management: For individuals with acne-prone skin, understanding the comedogenic scale is crucial. Using products with high comedogenic ratings can exacerbate acne, leading to more breakouts and inflammation. Selecting non-comedogenic products (rated 0-2) helps keep pores clear and reduces the risk of developing new acne.
  2. Personalized Skincare: Skin types vary widely, and what works for one person might not work for another. The comedogenic scale allows people to tailor their skincare routines to their specific skin needs. For example, someone with oily skin may need to avoid higher-rated comedogenic ingredients, while someone with dry skin may find them less problematic.
  3. Informed Ingredient Choices: Many skincare products contain a mix of ingredients. Being knowledgeable about the comedogenic ratings of common ingredients like coconut oil (rated 4) or shea butter (rated 0-2 depending on processing) helps consumers make informed choices. This is particularly important for individuals who are keen on reading labels and understanding what goes into their skincare products.
  4. Preventing Clogged Pores: Even if one does not suffer from acne, clogged pores can still be an issue, leading to dull skin and blackheads. Utilizing the comedogenic scale can aid in preventing these common skin problems, contributing to overall skin health and appearance.

Limitations and Considerations

While the comedogenic scale is a valuable tool, it’s not without its limitations:

  • Individual Differences: Skin reactions can be highly individual. An ingredient that clogs one person’s pores might be perfectly fine for another. Thus, personal experience and patch testing are crucial.
  • Concentration Matters: The concentration of an ingredient in a product can affect its comedogenicity. An ingredient with a high comedogenic rating might be present in a product in such a small amount that it doesn’t cause any issues.
  • Formulation Complexity: The overall formulation of a product, including the combination of ingredients and their interactions, plays a significant role in its comedogenicity. A high-rated ingredient might be balanced by other ingredients in the formulation, reducing its pore-clogging potential.

Comedogenic Rating of Oils

  • Almond Oil – 2
  • Apricot Kernel Oil – 2
  • Argan Oil – 0
  • Avocado Oil – 2
  • Cameillia Oil – 1
  • Camellia Oil (High oleic acid) – 2-3
  • Camphor – 2
  • Castor Oil – 1
  • Cocoa Butter – 4
  • Coconut Butter – 4
  • Coconut Oil (Includes Fractionated Coconut Oil) – 4
  • Corn Oil – 3
  • Cotton Seed Oil – 3
  • Evening Primrose Oil – 2
  • Grape Seed Oil – 2
  • Hazelnut Oil – 2
  • Hemp Seed Oil – 0
  • Mineral Oil – 0
  • Mink Oil – 3
  • Moringa Oil – 4
  • Olive Oil – 2
  • Peanut Oil – 2
  • Petrolatum – 0
  • Pomegranate Oil – 1
  • Rice Bran Oil – 2
  • Rosehip Oil – 1
  • Safflower Oil (Carthamus tinctorius) – 0
  • Sandalwood Seed Oil – 2
  • Sesame Oil – 2
  • Shea Butter – 0
  • Soybean Oil – 3
  • Sunflower Oil – 0
  • Wheat Germ Oil – 5
  • Shark Liver Oil – 3

Alcohol, Esters, Ethers, & Sugars

  • Polysorbate 20 – 0
  • Polysorbate 80 – 0
  • Sterol Esters – 0
  • Behenyl Triglyceride – 0
  • Butylene Glycol – 1
  • Cetearyl Alcohol – 2
  • Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether-0
  • Glycerin – 0
  • Glyceryl Stearate NSE – 1
  • Glyceryl Stearate SE – 3
  • Glyceryl Tricapylo/Caprate – 1
  • Glyceryl-3-Diisostearate – 4
  • Hexadecyl Alcohol – 5
  • Isocetyl Stearate – 5
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – 0
  • Laureth 23 – 3
  • Laureth 4 – 5
  • Octyl Stearate – 5
  • Oleth-10 – 2
  • Oleth-3 – 5
  • Oleyl Alcohol – 4
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG 400) – 1
  • Polyethylene Glycol 300 – 1
  • Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate – 4
  • Propylene Glycol – 0
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate – 4
  • SD Alcohol 40 – 0
  • Sorbitan Laurate – 1
  • Sorbitol – 0
  • Steareth 10 – 4
  • Steareth 100 – 0
  • Steareth 2 – 2
  • Steareth 20 – 2
  • Wheat Germ Glyceride – 3

Waxes

  • Beeswax – 2
  • Candelilla Wax – 1
  • Carnuba Wax – 1
  • Ceresin Wax – 0
  • Emulsifying Wax NF – 2
  • Jojoba Oil – 2
  • Lanolin Wax – 1
  • Sulfated Jojoba Oil – 3

Botanicals

  • Algae Extract – 5
  • Aloe Vera Gel – 0
  • Calendula – 1
  • Carrageenans – 5
  • Chamomile – 2
  • Chamomile Extract – 0
  • Cold Pressed Aloe – 0
  • Red Algae – 5

Vitamins & Herbs

  • Ascorbic Acid – 0
  • Black Walnut Extract – 0
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) – 2
  • Vitamin A Palmitate – 2
  • Panthenol – 0

Antioxidants

  • Beta Carotene – 1
  • BHA – 2

Thickeners, Emulsifiers, Detergents

  • Carbomer 940 – 1
  • Hydroxypropyl Cellulose – 1
  • Kaolin – 0
  • Magnesium Aluminum Silicate – 0
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate – 3
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – 5
  • Sorbitan Oleate – 3

Minerals

  • Algin – 4
  • Colloidal Sulfur – 3
  • Flowers of Sulfur – 0
  • Potassium Chloride – 5
  • Precipitated Sulfur – 0
  • Sodium Chloride (Salt) – 5
  • Talc – 1
  • Zinc Stearate – 0

Conclusion

The comedogenic scale is an essential guide for anyone looking to maintain clear, healthy skin. By understanding and utilizing this scale, individuals can make better-informed decisions about their skincare products, potentially preventing acne and keeping their skin in optimal condition. While it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it provides a useful starting point for anyone navigating the complex world of skincare ingredients.

When using carrier oils, it is highly recommended to know the comedogenic rating, so you get the results you are looking for.  Below, we have listed all oils, waxes, thickeners, alcohols, sugars and esters as well as additive like vitamins, minerals and botanicals.