Do you swear by oils in your skin care routine? Maybe you swore them off after waking up with a face full of angry pimples? If you have serums and moisturizers at the ready, you might not even be considering facial oils, especially if you struggle with excess oil or acne.
As it turns out, oils can be especially beneficial for your skin; not only do they aid in hydration, they help repair the skin and seal in moisture.
The true issue isn’t with oils itself; the issue lies in finding the right oils for your skin type. If you’ve had bad experiences with oils in the past, chances are you were using a comedogenic oil. While not all oils in this category will harm your skin, they’re common culprits for breakout-prone individuals.
Read on to find out what non-comedogenic oils are, and why you should consider swapping more of them into your routine.
Non-Comedogenic Oils vs. Comedogenic Oils
The comedogenic scale is a rating system meant to measure how pore-clogging an ingredient is – rooted in the word comedone (aka whiteheads and blackheads). The scale generally ranges from 1 to 5 – a 5 means an ingredient is very likely to clog your pores. If you’re acne-prone, high ratings usually means comedones will form, which are pimples caused by blocked pores. On this comedogenic scale, one of the ingredients we measure are oils.
Non-comedogenic oils are oils less (or not at all) likely to clog pores, and rank 2 or less on the scale. Comedogenic oils are the opposite: they’re more likely to clog pores, ranking 3 or higher. While pore-clogging oils may not be much of an issue for dry or normal skin types, they can be hard for those with sensitive, oily, and acne-prone skin to navigate.
Figuring out which oils block your pores isn’t always an intuitive process. Since everyone’s skin is different, you might find that an oil doesn’t give you any trouble even if it’s technically comedogenic.
Why are Some Oils Comedogenic, and Not Others?
The difference between non-comedogenic and comedogenic oils lies in how much linoleic and oleic fatty acids they contain. Comedogenic oils tend to have higher levels of oleic acids. Non-comedogenic oils tend to have higher levels of linoleic acids, or a greater balance between both kinds.
Linoleic acids are also known as omega-6; on their own, they help prevent water loss in your skin barrier and increase skin moisture. Oils with high levels of linoleic acid tend to have a drier texture, which is better for oily skin.
Oleic fatty acids are also known as omega-9. They can increase skin permeability, which is useful for certain drugs and active ingredients, but using them can eventually cause dermatitis with continued use. Keep in mind that this effect comes from the fatty acid alone – in an oil, oleic acids don’t necessarily harm the skin.
Olive oil, for example, is both a good source of oleic acid and a non-comedogenic oil. Another great choice for acne-prone skin is seaberry oil, which has linoleic and oleic acids. But generally, oils with high levels of oleic acid are richer, which is great for dry skin.
Using Oils on Your Skin
If you have oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin, comedogenic oils may feel like the villains in your skin care tale. Simply patch test these oils before using them on the rest of your face, to see how your skin will react. Your test can last anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on how long it takes for your skin to break out or react. If you notice redness, swelling, itching, or breakouts, then you should stop using that oil on your face or take different steps to make it less irritating.
Instead of using a comedogenic oil directly on your skin, you might choose to dilute it by combining it with another base oil. Another option is using the oil as an ingredient in a product – just make sure the product doesn’t feature the oil in large quantities.
Instead of using a comedogenic oil as a moisturizer, you can use it to remove your makeup and double cleanse. Some oils with high comedogenicity include coconut oil, avocado oil, carrot seed oil, flaxseed oil, marula oil, soybean oil, and wheatgerm oil.
PRO TIP: If you find that a certain oil clogs your pores, you can use it on your body instead. These oils are particularly great for very dry, aging, or flaky skin. Wheatgerm oil and carrot seed oil for example are wonderful for reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars!
You might choose to skip using comedogenic oils altogether, and instead stick to oils with a lower chance of clogging your pores. Non-comedogenic oils include argan oil, black currant oil, rosehip seed oil, camellia seed (green tea) oil, and grapeseed oil. For a triple impact, use our Puristry Restorative Facial Oil – it contains rosehip, black currant, and green tea oils!
If you have a compromised skin barrier or a fatty acid deficiency, oils with high levels of linoleic acid are great options for you. Since oleic acid can increase skin permeability, oleic-rich oils aren’t the best to use if your skin is already fragile or irritated. On the other hand, linoleic acids help prevent skin barrier conditions and replenish ceramide content.
If you have normal to dry skin that’s not acne-prone, you might find that you’re able to use oils that are higher on the comedogenic scale. Still, you may want to do a patch test beforehand – even normal skin can become sensitized!
To incorporate facial oils into your routine, layer your skin products from thinnest to thickest. You can apply your oil after your toner and serum, before your moisturizer. Another option is to add a few drops of oil to your moisturizer. As mentioned, another great way to use comedogenic oils is to incorporate them into the double cleansing process.
Remember to keep track of how long you’ve had your oils and how they look and smell – linoleic acids are sensitive to oxygen. This means your non-comedogenic oils might go rancid more quickly.
The key to using non-comedogenic oils and reaping their skin benefits is choosing them wisely. Knowing your skin issues and concerns is the first step. Choosing an oil with the best fatty acid content for you is the next. For more advice on how to use non-comedogenic oils, check out The Correct Way to Use a Facial Oil.