When you have acne, oils are seen as the devil or at the very least Freddie Krueger if you are in a horror movie. Something that should be avoided at all costs. That was what I thought and I avoided them like the plague. A few years ago really started getting into organic and plant-based skincare since the purely medical approach was not working for me. I learnt about oil cleansing and the different oils ratios that were best for each skin type. This led me to learn even more about the specific properties and benefits of each oil to the skin and hair.
As I dove deeper, I realised that not all oils were not created equal and despite being healthier for the skin since they are natural they do not work equally well for all skin types. Some oils trigger acne due to their compositions while others do the exact opposite and work wonders on acne prone skin. So if you have oily and acne prone skin you need to avoid certain pore-clogging products which include some natural oils.
To understand how pore clogging occurs we need to understand the normal process. In normal skin, oil (sebum) flows out of the sebaceous glands (oil glands) to lubricate and moisturize the skin. However, in people with acne, these openings can become clogged with plugs made from dead skin cells and dirt creating what is known as a comedone. Comedones present differently depending on their location and depth hence the differences between blackhead or whitehead. Oils that are comedogenic i.e. comedone forming exacerbate the formation of comedones and acne hence the reputation that all oils cause acne.
Luckily science has found a way to measure the degree to which oils cause or contribute to the cause of acne and this is known as the comedogenic scale. The comedogenic Scale ranks oils and butters based on their tendency to clog skin pores. Since oils and plant butter are key ingredients in many cosmetic products, it is important to know what effect they are likely to have on your skin.
Hence my interest in the comedogenic scale and the comedogenic values of the commonly used oils
The comedogenic scale
Since the comedogenic scale ranks how likely a product in this case oils will clog pores. If you have oily, combination or sensitive skin knowing the comedogenic number of the products you use is important so you can avoid those high on the scale. For normal or dry skin, you are able to use almost any oil with little or no negative reaction.
The comedogenic scale uses a numbering system of 0 to 5, with 5 being the most likely to clog pores and 0 not clogging the pores.
Non-comedogenic are oils with a rating of less than 2 and are not going to clog your pores at all. Any oil with a rating of 5 will certainly clog the pores and cause acne in acne prone skin. However, for oils between 3 -4 on the scale other factors may determine if it causes acne or not . To err on the side of caution should be avoided if your skin is acne prone.
Some of the factors that affect if acne occurs when certain comedogenic oils are used include skin type, water consumption, the environment and fatty acid composition of the oils. 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!
What are the worst offenders?
Now we know how oils are ranked on the comedogenic scale, what are the top offenders to avoid if you have acne prone skin?
Gasp everybody’s favourite oil is highly comedogenic with a value of 4 on the comedogenic scale. Which means although it is not an absolute certainty it will bloke your pores it is highly likely. The cold-pressed coconut oil is more likely to clog your pores while fractionated coconut oil (heat processed) is less likely to do so. Because fractionated coconut oil has a lower comedogenic number.
Cocoa butter is a highly emollient oil, which is fantastic for the body but causes acne if used on your face. It is highly moisturizing, rich in antioxidants but extremely occlusive for oily skin acne prone skin. It has a comedogenic number of 4.
This is highly comedogenic with a value of 4 on the scale. Although flaxseed oil is known to be anti-inflammatory in a few members of the populations it appears to have an opposite effect on most of the population. Thus causing acne when used topically hence its presence on this list. There is also inconsistent evidence that suggests Flaxseed oil improves dry skin (atopic dermatitis ) when orally ingested orally. So reserve its topical use to your hair and body.
This is another plant which is seen as a magic bullet when it comes to health issues. Moringa oil, on the other hand, does not quite have the same effect when it comes to skincare. It has a comedogenic value of 4 making it and oil to be avoided if you have oily or acne prone skin
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat germ oil is one of the most effective cleansing oils. This is primarily due to its ability to remove sebum and seal in moisture. It also has a comedogenic value of 5 making it the most pore-clogging oils on this list. This high comedogenic factor means it should not be used on acne prone skin at all and be restricted to use for hair care.
What oils to use
Even though it may seem contradictory, oily acne prone skin needs a good moisturizer and or face oil . Otherwise, your skin may produce excess sebum if you do not have enough on your skin further exacerbating your acne. Some great oils to use for oily skin include grapeseed, rosehip, evening primrose, hemp, and pumpkin seed oil. All of which are low on the comedogenic scale.
What do you think of the comedogenic scale and how it relates to your skincare? Which oils do you find work for your skin type? Let me know in the comments below!