This *Super* Key Step Can Make or Break Your Acne Routine


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When it comes to finding the right hydration for acne-prone skin, I can confidently say I've become an expert in the field. Through serious trial and error, I discovered that some moisturizers are just not it for skin prone to breakouts. One of the largest culprits? Oils. I know that might be somewhat depressing to hear, especially if you love to slather on a good facial oil as I do, but it could be contributing to your breakouts and making them worse, especially if your moisturizer or oil blend contains more than five different kinds of oils.

While exfoliating regularly can help, switching to a moisturizer that's noncomedogenic and oil-free is what made the biggest difference for me. If you don't quite know what the term "noncomedogenic" even means, fear not. I'm breaking this term down below with a few board-certified dermatologists so you'll know what to look for in your moisturizer moving forward. These derms also shared their best advice on what ingredients to look out for and shared our very best noncomedogenic moisturizer recommendations that are editor-tested and approved. Keep scrolling—good stuff ahead.

What does noncomedogenic mean?


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You've probably heard the term before and thought it sounded good for the most part but didn't know much about it. "Noncomedogenic is a term used to describe products that are formulated in a way that is less likely to clog pores and cause acne," says board-certified dermatologist Lauren Penzi, MD. "These products usually lack potentially occlusive [ingredients] that can clog pores and cause 'comedones' which is a type of acne (think blackheads and whiteheads). Products labeled as noncomedogenic typically undergo testing or a formulation process to ensure that they do not contain ingredients known to clog pores or promote acne. They are recommended for individuals with oily or acne-prone skin."

While noncomedogenic products are helpful for just about anyone, those with oily, sensitive, or acne-prone skin will benefit the most from them, as these skin types can easily become clogged, which can lead to breakouts. Unfortunately, The list of pore-blocking ingredients is long and includes various oils, alcohols, acids, butters, propylene glycol, and lanolins. Noncomedogenic products often also contain actives like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur but can also contain other lights oils like grapeseed.

Ingredients to Look for + Ingredients to Avoid for Acne-Prone Skin


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Penzi recommends looking for hydrating ingredients that help to retain moisture and reinforce the skin barrier without clogging pores. "Look for hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides, as well as niacinamide," she says. "Be sure to avoid comedogenic oils like coconut oil. Also avoid heavy occlusive ingredients like petrolatum."

To be honest, there are also a lot of other ingredients you should probably steer clear of if you have acne-prone skin, but these are the main culprits derms and facialists consistently say to avoid. Azadeh Shirazi, MD says, "It's best to avoid ingredients that form a film on your skin's surface, like silicone derivatives (dimethicone and cyclomethicone). Also, avoid fragrances, mineral oil, lanolin, shea butter, or comedogenic oils like coconut oil," she says.

This is a good place to start, but it's also key to remember that everyone's skin is different. While shea butter is considered a heavier ingredient by some, I've never had an issue with it clogging my pores and it may work for others with acne-prone skin, too. The same goes for silicones. Silicones have sparked much debate over the years with some saying they can create a film over the skin that can further trap bacteria, but again, everyone is different. If you're highly sensitive it might be best to avoid silicones, but I also haven't had an issue with those clogging my pores or causing new breakouts. If you're super sensitive and want to err on the side of caution, choose a moisturizer without these ingredients to start, then maybe later down the line you can try adding one with the above ingredients to see if they're a trigger for you. Take a look at some of our best noncomedogenic moisturizer recs below.

The Best Noncomedogenic Moisturizers

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.