It’s not fair to label an entire skincare category as “evil,” but if you have acne-prone, oily skin, you might be guilty of doing just that when it comes to face oils. So, what if we told you that not only do non-comedogenic oils exist, but that you (yes, you) should be using one? “Plant-based oils contain essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, which nourish the skin while also strengthening its barrier, increasing elasticity, and fighting harm from environmental chemicals and UV,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, MD. See what I mean? Without a face oil, you’d be losing out on a slew of possible skin benefits. However, as Herrmann points out, plant oils and extracts come in a variety of chemical compositions, and various ratios of acids may be beneficial or detrimental to acne.
We asked cosmetic chemists Gloria Lu and Victoria Fu of Chemist Confessions to explain the difference between oils that clog your pores and oils that don’t (i.e., comedogenic vs. non-comedogenic oils) from a scientific standpoint.
“There isn’t any fixed distinguishing chemical structural distinction between comedogenic and non-comedogenic oils,” Lu says, adding that it’s unclear how these ingredients communicate with skin and trigger comedones. It’s an objective characteristic that’s been validated by research (which is debatable), but Lu claims that there are a lot of non-comedogenic oil choices in skincare based on that testing.
But first, some details about comedogenic oils. Coconut oil is the most popular pore-clogging oil, but comedogenic oils include palm, soybean, wheat germ, flaxseed, and even some ester oils like myristyl myristate. Other oils rich in oleic acid, such as cocoa and shea butter, can be less beneficial and promote breakouts in those who are vulnerable, according to Herrmann. You’ll want to avoid those aforementioned comedogenic oils if you’re using a blend of oils, but Fu points out that just because a product has comedogenic ingredients doesn’t mean it’s poor. “The whole recipe, as well as the concentration of the offending ingredient,” Fu says.
Let’s look at all of the non-comedogenic oils that even acne-prone people can use. Of course, no one-size-fits-all advice exists, so always test it on a tiny patch of skin first. If you have a lot of acne, Fu and Lu recommend looking for oils that are high in linoleic acid, like rosehip oil. This non-fragrant plant oil contains a large amount of linoleic acid (also known as omega-6 fatty acids), which has been shown in studies to help with acne. “It’s understandable that the idea of putting more oil on sounds frightening for acne-prone skin,” Fu says, “but oily skin may still benefit from healthy oils to help keep skin moisturised.”
Despite the fact that this oil blend from Fu and Lu’s Chemist Confessions skincare line contains a lot of oils, it feels light and airy on the skin. This formula includes sea buckthorn seed oil and squalane in addition to rosehip oil to nourish all skin types.
If you’re hesitant to use an oil, Lu recommends squalane, which is non-comedogenic and extremely safe for most skin types. Squalane is the lighter form of squalene (which is present naturally in the skin) that acts to moisturise by trapping moisture in the skin.
This face oil, which contains sunflower seed oil, tea tree oil, and, of course, squalane, is one of Herrmann’s top product choices for restoring natural linoleic acid while also helping to destroy acne bacteria.
Hemp seed oil is at the top of any expert’s list of the least comedogenic oils. “Interestingly, acne sufferers also have low levels of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid in their skin,” Herrmann says, “which can contribute to skin surface build-up and clogging.” Hemp seed oil, which is high in linoleic acid, may be able to help.
The star ingredient in this face oil is Cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil, but it’s not the only one worth mentioning. Sunflower seed oil and squalene nourish the skin as well. To help repair the skin barrier, minimise inflammation, and have antioxidant benefits, apply a few drops after washing in the morning or at night.
The next item on the list is grapeseed oil (also known as Vitis vinifera). This lightweight oil, which is high in linoleic acid and vitamin E, is another one that our experts recommend for moisturising and balancing the skin. As with other oils, be careful of where you store your grapeseed oil to get the most out of it. This fragrance-free cream, which includes grapeseed oil, also contains squalane, jojoba oil, and sunflower seed oil to repair and regenerate the skin.
Jojoba oil is another notable non-comedogenic oil that Lu recommends (Simmondsia chinensis). It’s not an oil, though; it’s a wax ester. This means it’s very close to the skin’s own sebum, and as a result, it aids in the regulation of oil production. Furthermore, since it’s a wax ester, it’s much more durable than oils, which tend to go rancid easily.
What you see is what you get with this facial oil, which is why it’s one of our favourites. It’s made with 100 percent extra-virgin, cold-pressed jojoba oil, so you know it’s the real deal. Using jojoba oil on your cuticles, as a hair mask, or in your moisturizer—the possibilities are endless.
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, according to Herrmann, which suggests it may help acne sufferers. Furthermore, unlike antibiotics, tea tree oil can help to destroy acne bacteria without fostering antibiotic resistance. Tea tree oil should be diluted first in a carrier oil before being added to the skin, since it is an essential oil.
Who says you can’t use facial oils on acne-prone skin? This face oil is one of Herrmann’s guidelines, and it’s made especially for acne-prone skin. Tea tree oil, black cumin, and salicylic acid are combined in the recipe to destroy bacteria while also gently exfoliating the skin to prevent breakouts.Looking for a decent carrier oil to use with your essential oils? Sunflower oil (also known as Helianthus annuus) is a non-fragrant plant oil high in linoleic acid and other essential fatty acids that Lu recommends. Remember that fragrant plant-based oils can cause skin irritation, sun sensitivity, and probably allergic reactions, so test your essential oils, as well as your carrier oil, for irritation.This blend contains many non-comedogenic oils, including sunflower oil, which is one of our favourite facial oils. Acneic skin may benefit from using this face oil to rebuild a compromised skin barrier, despite the fact that it does not directly target breakouts.