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What Makeup Labels Actually Mean?

Makeup Label Reading Ingredients

The beauty industry is a vibrant, ever-evolving world filled with the sparkle of new launches, the allure of glamorous packaging, and the promise of transformative results. For those of us with acne-prone skin, however, it can often feel like walking through a minefield rather than a wonderland. Will that trendy lipstick cause a breakout? Is the secret ingredient in this foundation a friend or a foe? As overwhelming as it may seem, a good understanding of product labels can be your guiding light, helping you identify the ingredients to embrace and the ones to avoid. Let's break it all down.

The Comedogenic Conundrum

First things first, what does 'comedogenic' mean? Derived from the word 'comedo,' the term refers to the scientific name for both blackheads and whiteheads. When an ingredient is labeled as comedogenic, it's known to clog pores, which can lead to these unwanted skin blemishes. So, the first step to smarter shopping for beauty products is to identify these potential comedogenic culprits hiding in your makeup.

The Worst Offenders: Comedogenic Ingredients to Avoid

Myristyl Myristate

This synthetic oil is often used in cosmetics for its skin-conditioning properties. However, its oiliness can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts, making it a risky choice for those with acne-prone skin.

Laureth-4 (H4)

Another common cosmetic ingredient, Laureth-4, is a surfactant that can cause skin irritation and clogged pores, leading to potential breakouts.

Isopropyl Iso-stearate & Isopropyl Myristate

Both these ingredients are used for their emollient properties in makeup products. Unfortunately, their oily nature can result in clogged pores and subsequent acne flare-ups.


This ingredient is a synthetic compound used as an emulsifier in cosmetics. It is comedogenic and can cause acne breakouts.

Less Comedogenic, But Still Risky

The following ingredients are less comedogenic than those listed above but can still trigger breakouts. It's advisable to avoid them, especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

  • Soybean oil
  • Stearic acid: TEA
  • Myristic acid
  • Glyceryl stearate SE
  • Lauric acid
  • Isopropyl palmitate
  • Cetearyl alcohol + Ceteareth-20
  • Cocoa butter

While these ingredients may not be as comedogenic as the first list, they still have the potential to clog pores and cause skin issues.

The Savior Ingredients: Your Skin's Best Friends

Now that we've covered the ingredients to avoid let's focus on the ones that can benefit your skin.

Non-Comedogenic Products

These products are designed not to clog pores, significantly reducing the chances of causing acne breakouts. Always opt for makeup labeled as 'non-comedogenic.'

Mineral-Based Products

Mineral-based products, such as those containing zinc or titanium oxide, tend to cause less irritation and fewer pore-clogging issues than traditional liquid-based makeups. Consider trying a mineral-based powder for a skin-friendly alternative.

Hypoallergenic Products

Hypoallergenic makeup is designed to cause fewer allergic reactions. They are tested on users and have been found to induce significantly fewer allergies, making them a safer bet for sensitive skin.


What does 'non-comedogenic' mean?

Non-comedogenic is a term used to describe products that do not block pores and, therefore, are less likely to cause acne or other types of skin breakouts.

Are all mineral-based makeup products non-comedogenic?

Not all mineral-based makeup products are non-comedogenic. While some minerals like zinc and titanium oxide are less likely to cause pore-clogging, others like bismuth oxychloride can still cause skin irritation and breakouts.

Can hypoallergenic products still cause breakouts?

Even hypoallergenic products can cause breakouts, especially if they contain comedogenic ingredients. Hypoallergenic means that the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, not that it won't cause breakouts.


Navigating the makeup world can be challenging, especially for those with acne-prone skin. But with some knowledge of ingredient labels, you can make informed decisions that will help keep your skin clear and healthy. Remember, it's not just about the brand or the trend, but what's inside that truly counts. And when in doubt, always choose non-comedogenic, mineral-based, and hypoallergenic products. Your skin will thank you for it!


Neutrogena Skin Clearing Oil-Free Acne and Blemish Fighting Liquid Foundation
Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup
Almay Clear Complexion Makeup, Matte Finish Liquid Foundation
Neutrogena SkinClearing Mineral Acne-Concealing Pressed Powder Compact
Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Acne Control Daily Moisturizer
MDacne's Oil-Free invisible sunscreen

More info:

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