The Ultimate Guide to the Comedogenic Scale
Updated: Apr 12
For years, beauty buyers have sought out skincare products with the words “non-comedogenic” on the bottle, not realizing that there is no regulatory industry standards that require this claim to be true. What does it mean for a product to be “non-comedogenic” in the first place? It simply means that the product and the ingredients within it do not clog pores.
So these products, marketed towards acne prone skin, are saying they don’t clog pores and actually do? Yes, this is commonly the case. No wonder so many consumers have tried product after product with minimal skincare results to show for it. No wonder beauty buyers have become untrusting and skeptical of the promising words written on skincare products.
So what truly would make a product “non-comedogenic?” All ingredients rating as a 0 on the comedogenic scale is the only thing that would guarantee a product to not clog pores.
What is the comedogenic scale? It is a scale from 0-5 created in the 1980s (by the Father of retinol) that rates an ingredient’s ability to sit within a pore and clog it. 0 on the lowest end of the scale means the ingredient is 100% non-pore clogging. 5 on the highest end of the scale means the ingredient does sit within the pore and is guaranteed to clog it. Even on skin that is not prone to acne, using ingredients rating on the comedogenic scale can lead to congestion, product-induced milia, enlarged pores, inability for the skin to “breathe”, and dull texture. When pores are blocked, the ingredients meant to penetrate deep within the skin cannot pass through. This renders the expensive products used by the buyer, ineffective.
So why hasn’t this scale been used by all skincare manufactures as the Skincare Bible? Why is nearly every skincare brand in existence pushing products flooded with ingredients rating on this scale?
In the 1980s the experiments that led to the comedogenic scale were conducted on the ears of rabbits. Cosmetic companies who had millions of dollars of pore clogging products on the market argued that rabbit skin was different than human skin, and to throw away this concept. The science was then demonstrated on human skin to repel this argument. The evidence of the scale’s truth was clear, but once again cosmetic companies fought back. Now the argument was that when ingredients rating on the scale were mixed in certain ways or limited quantities, the scale ratings would be altered. Since the cosmetic industry had no regulations on comedogenic claims, this science would not have to be enforced. Cosmetic companies did not have to spend millions altering their products and restricting the ingredients used within them, to ensure they abided by this scale.
Product manufacturing remained easy, profitable, and unlimited. The comedogenic scale concept was not written into the curriculums of beauty and dermatology trainings, and millions of consumers struggling with skin issues continued to purchase skincare products that were not truly non-comedogenic.
Now that you’re educated on the importance of going non-comedogenic with all products and ingredients touching your beautiful face, let’s talk about variating ingredient scores amongst sources, in relation to the comedogenic scale.
For example: Argan Oil is known to be a 0 on the comedogenic scale on the top 7 websites sourcing comedogenic ratings, including from the published peer reviewed studies from the American Dermatology Association, however, on some popular websites used to look up comedogenic ratings it is listed as a 3. This is because the listing of a 3 came from non-organic argania spinosa oil, that was extracted from industrialized methods utilizing solvents, instead of cold-pressed, natural extraction. Variety amongst comedogenic ratings of ingredients are generally due to different extraction methods, which can alter the integrity and natural properties of the ingredient.
So, are you still unsure if going non-comedogenic with your products are worth it for your skin? Will you take the risk, not knowing if it’s your products contributing to your lack of skincare success? The choice is yours.
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