With more natural oils and butters available than ever before, it can be difficult to know which ones will work with your skin. One way to navigate the spectrum of products and identify the ones ideal for your skin type is by learning about the components within the oils and how they differ.
Fortunately, there's a cheat sheet called the comedogenic scale, which ranks oils and butters based on their propensity to clog skin pores. Since carrier oils and plant butters are the key ingredients in many cosmetic products, its very helpful to know what effect they are likely to have.
The comedogenic scale is ranked by how likely it is that any specific ingredients, such as oils and butters used in cosmetic product formulation, will clog pores. Anyone who is susceptible to acne breakouts and blackheads should avoid highly comedogenic oils, as they are likely to cause recurring acne problems. However, people with drier skin might prefer a more emollient oil toward the middle of the scale.
The scale uses a numbering system of 0 to 5. Here’s how the numbers rank on the scale:
Non-comedogenic ingredients are substances that do not clog pores and have a comedogenic rating of 2 or less. And just about any substance with a rating of 5 pretty much guarantees that a person who is prone to acne breakouts will have one. The comedogenic scale below looks at oils and butter in a particular.
Many factors are involved in how a particular oil impacts your skin. So, there is no way to make an “absolute” prediction. Even dermatologists have trouble determining how people's skin will react to things. The fact is, everyone’s skin is different, so an oil will impact different people in different ways.
For example, avocado oil can be a nourishing oil for some people with oily skin while others who also have oily skin will use it and develop more acne breakouts!
Factors that can lead to this variety of results may include things like skin type, illness, water intake, environmental factors, and other things that can influence the way the oils act on your skin.
In addition to an ingredient's comedogenic ranking, the composition of fatty acids is also useful in determining which skin type will benefit from a particular oil. In this guide, we'll look at both types of information.
Identifying non-comedogenic skin care products usually involves doing some careful reading of ingredient labels. Single ingredient oils and butters are easy to place. Simply look up where that oil falls on the scale!
Items like lotions and serums are blends of many ingredients. They may often include items both on the low and high end of the scale.
Lotions and creams are blends of oils, alcohols and other ingredients. Emulsifying and emollient ingredients aren't always skin friendly. Some to avoid include Myristyl/Isopropyl Myristate, Isocetyl/Octyl/Isopropyl Stearate, Hexadecyl Alcohol and others Cocoa butter, coconut oil, wheat germ oil and lanolin offer benefits, but are all high on the comedogenic scale, making them less than ideal for facial skincare.
Water-based formulations are less likely to clog pores. But, watch out for certain algae-based ingredients like red algae and algae extract, sulfate cleansers, and laureth! These all place high on the scale.
Also, you might see claims like dermatologist-recommended, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. These claims don't inherently mean a product is not going to clog pores or will work for your skin type. It's important to know what works for your skin when choosing skincare and makeup products.
|Name||Comedogenic Rating||Skin Type(s)||Composition|
|Abyssinian Seed Oil||0||Most Skin Types||High in Erucic Acid and Moderate in Oleic Acid|
|Acai Berry Oil||2||Dry, Mature, Irritated||High in Oleic Acid and Moderate in Linoleic Acid|
|Almond Oil, Sweet||2||Dry, Sensitive, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid|
|Andiroba Seed Oil||2||Dry, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Linoleic Acid|
|Apricot Kernel Oil||2||Combination, Dry||High in Oleic Acid|
|Argan Oil||0||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid|
|Avocado Oil||3||Dry, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid|
|Babassu Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types||High in Lauric, Myristic and Oleic Acid|
|Baobob Seed Oil||2||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate Linoleic|
|Black Currant Seed Oil||0-1||Dry, Sensitive||High in Linoleic Acid + GLA and ALA|
|Blackberry Seed Oil||0-1||Oily||High in Linoleic, Moderate Linolenic Acid|
|Black Cumin Seed Oil||2||Combination||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate Oleic|
|Black Raspberry Seed Oil||1-2||Dry, Combination, Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate Linolenic|
|Blueberry Seed Oil||0-1||Most Skin Types, especially Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate Linolenic & Oleic|
|Borage Oil||2||Combination, Oily, Sensitive||High in Linoleic Acid and GLA|
|Brazil Nut Oil||2||Dry, Mature||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate Linoleic|
|Broccoli Seed Oil||1||Dry, Best for Night/Hair||High in Erucic Acid and Oleic Acid|
|Buriti Oil||2||Dry, Mature||High in Oleic Acid|
|Camellia Seed Oil||1||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic Acid|
|Carrot Seed Oil||3-4||Dry, Mature||High in Oleic Acid|
|Castor Oil||1||Most Skin Types, including Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Ricinoleic Acid|
|Cherry Kernel Oil||2||Most Skin Types, especially Dry/Irritated||High in Oleic and Linoleic Acid|
|Chia Seed Oil||3||Best for Body Use||High in Linolenic|
|Cloudberry Seed Oil||1||Oily, Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic and Linolenic Acid|
|Cocoa Butter||4||Ideal for Body/Eye Area, not for Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Oleic and Stearic Acid|
|Coconut Butter||4||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Oleic, Stearic and Palmitic Acid|
|Coconut Oil||4||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Lauric Acid|
|Coconut Oil, Fractionated||2-3||Most Skin Types||High in Caprylic and Capric Acid|
|Cottonseed Oil||3||Best for Hair or Body||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Cranberry Seed Oil||2||Dry, Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Oleic and Linolenic Acid|
|Cucumber Seed Oil||1||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Date Seed Oil||3||Dry||High in Oleic Acid|
|Elderberry Seed Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoelic and Linolenic Acid|
|Emu Oil||1||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Palmitic Acid|
|Evening Primrose Oil||2-3||Oily, Acne-Prone, Combination||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in GLA|
|Flax Seed Oil (Linseed)||4||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Alpha Linolenic Acid|
|Guava Seed Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Goji Berry Seed Oil||0-1||Oily||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Grapeseed Oil||1||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Hazelnut Oil||1||Most Skin Types, especially Sensitive, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid|
|Hemp Seed Oil||0||Most Skin Types, including Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Linolenic Acid|
|Jojoba Oil||2||Most Skin Types, including Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Eicosenoic Acid|
|Karanja Oil||2||Dry, Hair Use||High in Oleic Acid|
|Kiwi Seed Oil||1||Dry, Flaky, Hair Use||High in Linolenic Acid|
|Kukui Nut Oil||2||Dry, Flaky, Hair Use||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Oleic and Linolenic Acid|
|Lanolin Oil||2||Very Dry||NA|
|Macadamia Nut Oil||2-3||Dry||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Palmitoleic Acid|
|Mango Butter||2||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Stearic Acid|
|Mango Seed Oil||2||Most Skin Types, particularly Dry||High in Oleic and Stearic Acid|
|Marula Oil||3-4||Very Dry, Sensitive||High in Oleic Acid|
|Meadowfoam Seed Oil||1||Oily, Acne-Prone, Sensitive||High in Eicosenoic Acid|
|Milk Thistle Seed Oil||1||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Mineral Oil||0||Most Skin Types||NA|
|Mink Oil||3||Dry||High in Oleic Acid|
|Moringa Oil||3-4||Dry, Combination||High in Oleic Acid|
|Mowrah Butter||na||Most Skin Types, especially Dry/Damaged||High in Oleic and Palmitic Acid|
|Neem Oil||1-2||Dry, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid|
|Olive Oil||2||Dry, Acne-Prone||High in Oleic Acid|
|Papaya Seed Oil||2-3||Dry, Acne-Prone, Sensitive||High in Oleic Acid|
|Palm Oil||4||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Lauric Acid|
|Palm Oil, Red||4||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Palmitic Acid|
|Passionfruit (Maracuja) Seed Oil||1-2||Oily, Irritated, Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Peach Kernel Oil||2||Dry, Sensitive||High in Oleic Acid|
|Peanut Oil||2||Most Skin Types||High in Oleic and Palmitic Acid|
|Pecan Oil||2||Dry, Combination||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Linoleic Acid|
|Perilla Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types, especially Dry||High in ALA|
|Pistachio Oil||na||Most Skin Types, especially Dry/Damaged||High in Oleic and Palmitic Acid|
|Plum Kernel Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types, especially Mature||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Linoleic Acid|
|Pomegranate Seed Oil||1||Most Skin Types, especially Mature||High in Punicic Acid|
|Prickly Pear Seed Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types, especially Oily/Combination||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Pumpkin Seed Oil||2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Oleic Acid|
|Red Raspberry Seed Oil||0-1||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Linolenic Acid|
|Rice Bran Oil||2||Most Skin Types, especially Mature/Combination||High in Oleic and Linoleic Acid|
|Rosehip Seed Oil||1||Oily, Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Linolenic Acid|
|Safflower Oil (High Linoliec)||0||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Sal Seed Butter||Dry||High in Stearic and Oleic Acid|
|Sea Buckthorn Oil||1||Most Skin Types, especially Mature/Dry||High in Palmitic, Palmitoleic and Oleic Acid|
|Sesame Seed Oil||3||Dry, Irritated||High in Linoleic and Oleic Acid|
|Shea Butter||0-2||Normal, Dry||High in Oleic and Stearic Acid|
|Shea Oil||0-2||Very Dry||High in Oleic Acid, Moderate in Stearic Acid|
|Soybean Oil||4-5||Very Dry, Best for Body Use||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Squalane Oil||0-1||Most Skin Types||High in Omega-2|
|Strawberry Seed Oil||1||Most Skin Types, especially Oily/Acne-Prone||High in Linoleic and Linolenic Acid|
|Sunflower Seed Oil||0-2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Tallow||2||Dry||High in Oleic Acid|
|Tamanu Oil||2||Most Skin Types, especially Scarred/Sensitive||High in Oleic and Linoleic Acid|
|Tomato Seed Oil||0-2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Oleic Acid|
|Walnut Seed Oil||1-2||Most Skin Types||High in Linoleic Acid, Moderate in Oleic Acid|
|Watermelon Seed OIl||0-1||Most Skin Types, especially Oily/Acne-Prone/Sensitive||High in Linoleic Acid|
|Wheat Germ Oil||5||Very Dry/Damaged, Spot Treatment||High in Linolenic Acid|
Fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are key to healthy skin. This is not only true for foods rich ion these fatty acids, but in topical applications of products containing them as well. In fact, studies have shown that symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency can be reversed using products that are rich in linoleic acid.
Topical application may in fact be better than ingesting fatty acids when it comes to skin health. Many fatty acids that are ingested tend to be oxidized in the liver before ever reaching the skin. That makes topical application a more efficient delivery system for this critical acid.
Regardless of your skin type, essential fatty acids are important for skin health even if you don’t have any type of deficiency. For those with healthy skin, topical application of products with fatty acids helps to provide protection from UV radiation and sunburn - a critical step to prevent premature skin aging and wrinkles.
It’s well known that excessive UV radiation exposure can cause cellular damage in the skin, including inflammation as well as immune system suppression in the skin itself. Premature aging is a result of the destruction of collagen in the skin’s cells, and causes a loss of elasticity, which leads to fine lines and wrinkles. Fatty acids in products that are applied to the skin help protect and even can help reverse that damage.
Vegetable and seed oils have two types of many types of fatty acids, but two are the primary focus for skincare - linoleic acid and oleic acid.
Alpha linoleic acid (an omega-3) and linoleic acid (an omega-6) are both considered "essential fatty acids" because the body cannot produce them on it's own. Oleic acid is produced by the body, so isn't considered "essential".
Knowing the difference between fatty acids and how they interact with skin can help you choose the right product depending on your skin type.
If you have frequent blemishes or oily skin, you might think you need to use only oil-free products. Not so fast! Research shows that people with acne have low levels of linoleic acid in their skin’s surface lipids. Adding these particular fatty acid-rich oils topically may be the best way to address this problem.
Linoleic acid (C18:2) is an omega-6 essential fatty acid not produced by body. It has anti-aging, barrier protective, soothing, and balancing properties, and is most suitable for oily and acne-prone skin.
Oleic Acid (C18:1) is an omega-9 fatty acid, very hydrating and ideal for drier skin. Oils higher in oleic acid can help with dry and sensitive skin, reducing skin sensitivity. They work effectively to reverse the inflammatory response in various layers of the skin.
Now that we’ve discussed how comedogenic oils clog pores, let’s take a look at how that impacts your skin. The main result of clogged pores is acne. But instead of trying to treat the acne when it happens, let’s look at ways to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
A clogged pore or comedo (plural is comedones) results in a whitehead or blackhead developing, which is a result of inflammation of the skin. The clogged pores cause the development of acne, which happens when the skin’s sebaceous glands start to secrete oil.
This usually happens around puberty and is often triggered by hormones. Dead skin cells, which the body expels normally, can also causes pores to clog.
It’s interesting to note that clogged pores can negatively impact the skin even after the pimple is gone and the acne is resolved. When acne continually returns, pores can be dilated, causing other pores to clog, resulting in more blockage and acne.
Oily skin is a breeding ground of bacteria, which is found on all skin types. Adding comedogenic oils exacerbates the acne, and slows the process of clearing. Treating clogged pores and acne is critical, because untreated severe acne can cause scarring.
Products containing oils along with other non comedogenic ingredients are good for people who have oily skin. If you have oily skin, avoid oils that tend to clog pores on your face, like coconut oil, wheat germ oil, and others that are high in oleic fatty acids.
Oils that are good to use if you have oily skin include grape seed oil, rosehip, evening primrose, jojoba, and others that are high in linoleic fatty acids.
One of the keys to determining which ingredients on the comedogenic scale to use without doubt is to know your skin type. There are five main skin types, which include normal, dry, oily, sensitive, and combination skin.
A lot of this rating is subjective, because there is no scientific classification of skin types. It’s based on observation and subjective evaluation. Since there are so many different types and needs, it's important to try different things out and find what your skin prefers. Use products for at least a month to evaluate how your skin reacts.
Normal skin isn’t particularly dry or oily. The pores are usually small; the skin isn’t shiny or flaky and tends not to crack. Usually, there are few wrinkles or lines.
If you have normal skin, you should use products that don’t strip natural oils from your skin. Instead, they should hydrate, thereby helping to reduce lines and wrinkles. Cleansers should clean effectively without harsh chemicals.
Dry skin causes people to feel tightness in their skin, and the skin is often scaly or has patches that are flaky. People with dry skin usually have pores that are almost invisible. There are many factors that cause dry skin, from heredity and genetics to the amount of sebum produced in the skin.
If you have dry skin, it’s essential to moisturize regularly in your skin care routine. You’ll also need to avoid harsh cleansers, limit your time and frequency in a hot shower, use a good humidifier in your home, and consider using products containing humectants like hyaluronic acid, as that is a moisture magnet for the skin.
Oily skin is often marked by a a shine on the face, sometimes paired with severe cases of acne breakouts. If you have oily skin, it may be due to genetics or you may have frequent hormonal changes. You also produce an excessive amount of sebum, which is usually triggered by hormones.
Unfortunately, those with oily skin are prone to acne episodes that may include whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules. Skin may appear shiny most of the time. On the positive side, if you have oily skin you get a boost when it comes to signs of aging. You’ll have less wrinkles and your skin will seem to age more slowly!
Even though it may seem contradictory, if you have oily skin you’ll still need to use a moisturizer. Otherwise, you skin may start producing extra sebum, which could make acne worse.
Redness, itching, burning, and overly dry skin are hallmarks of sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin may experience bouts of rosacea, contact dermatitis, and other skin ailments. Avoid common irritants like the too-harsh sulfates found in most shampoos and soaps, products with noticeable fragrances and harsh acids.
Combination skin may show up as dry and flaky on one part of your skin - and oily on another. This skin type has two different types of needs, and is probably the most common skin type.
If you have a combination skin type, it’s going to be hard to find a single moisturizer that meets your needs. You’ll probably need to use two types, one for your oily areas and one for the dry, flaky areas of your skin. And for those with combination skin types, be sure to exfoliate once a week in order to keep your pores unclogged.
Hopefully this overview on the comedogenic scale and how it applies to your particular skin type will help you choose skincare products that are appropriate to use. Using the comedogenic scale for oils and butters is your best way to find the right products that will help prevent clogged pores and the resulting problems like acne.