Best Non-Comedogenic Moisturizers: Top 5, Vetted By A Professional
Quick disclaimer: the comedogenicity scale is not an exact science. It relies on data obtained from rabbit ear testing instead of human trials. As such, it is still very important to patch test.
I believe skin immunology plays a far more important role in determining whether something is “pore-clogging.” I recently wrote about this in my massive guide about how to treat incredibly stubborn acne and/or fungal skin sensitivities like malassezia folliculitis (fungal acne), seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, dandruff, and tinea versicolor.
Use this article as a rough guideline rather than fact. It is very possible to break out from a moisturizer that has no potential acne-flares, just as it is possible to not break out from something that’s very pore-clogging.
One such example being coconut oil. For every person that swears by the wonders of that coconuty stuff, there is another person that hates it cause it gave them an army of pimples.
With that said, here’s a list of the top non-comedogenic moisturizers as vetted by referencing COSDNA.
- Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
- Sebamed Clear Face Gel
- Oilatum Natural Repair Face Cream
- Dr. Lin Hydrating Gel
- EltaMD AM Therapy Moisturizer
Let’s examine each in detail and talk about what other benefits they have, so you can make the most informed decision possible for your unique skin needs.
Table of Contents
Water, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Trehalose, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Fruit Extract, Beta-Glucan, Castanea Sativa (Chestnut) Seed Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Hydroxypropyl Bispalmitamide MEA, Salicornia Herbacea Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycogen, Glutamic Acid, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Lysine HCl, Magnesium Sulfate, Mannitol, Manganese Sulfate, Serine, Sucrose, Stearyl Behenate, Citrulline, Alanine, Arginine, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Zinc Sulfate, Caprylyl Glycol, Threonine, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Polysorbate 20, Propanediol, PCA, Histidine HCl, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Blue 1.
Phew! A hefty ingredient list, isn’t it? On a firsthand glance you may be thinking, “WHAT THE HELL? How is this non-comedogenic? Look at all those crazy chemicals?!?”
Rest assured, this thing is SOLID and I’ve included it at the top position for a couple of reasons:
1. It only contains 2 potential pore clogging ingredients.
Butylene Glycol and Dimethicone, both of which score 1 out of 5 on the comedogenic scale anyway. However, if your skin is sensitive to silicones then steer clear of this moisturizer as it is packed with them.
Indeed, this is one of the most hydrating gel-like moisturizers I’ve ever used. It’s considered a sleeping pack, but many including myself use it twice daily as a sole moisturizer with no problem. It’s pretty lightweight but definitely packs a punch. Many people find their skin is immensely hydrated upon waking after a night of using it.
3. It’s a current holy grail of mine. :p
Okay, perhaps not the most unbiased or scientific reasoning here, but still…
I’ve been using this for the past few weeks and it rocks! I now understand the appeal and cult status this moisturizer has. It was actually recommended to me by a reader of this blog who also suffered from pityrosporum folliculitis (a.k.a. fungal acne).
As you may know, pityrosporum folliculitis is a skin condition that makes you very susceptible to clogged pores and breakouts from skincare products. Why? Because it is exacerbated by most fatty acids, which automatically rules out like 95% of moisturizers out there.
Fortunately for us, the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is completely compatible with “fungal acne,” in addition to “regular” acne, and a plethora of other skin concerns.
The only people I would advise avoid this product is those with eczema. This moisturizer does unfortunately contain fragrance, which can be problematic for some.
Aqua (Water), Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Sodium Carbomer, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol.
Guess how many pore-clogging ingredients this one has? NONE. That’s right. Nada, zip!
This is as safe as it gets when it comes to the comedogenicity scale. As you may have noticed, it has a very minimal ingredient list. What the company Sebamed has done here, is eliminate all potential irritants and acne triggers.
The Sebamed Clear Face Gel doesn’t contain any fatty alcohols, denatured alcohols, fragrances, extracts, colorants, emulsifiers or oils! In other words, literally anything that could cause problems. What it has instead is aloe vera, allantoin, and panthenol to sooth the skin, and 2 humectants — glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
Quick fun fact: humectants are a class of moisturizer that keep the skin hydrated by binding water to its surface.
The only con of this moisturizer is that it is very light-weight. People that have oily skin will love it, but drier skin types will find that this isn’t moisturizing enough. Which brings me to my next option….
Aqua, Olea Europeae, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Palm Glycerides, Olus, Oleic Triglycerides, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Squalane, Betaine, Palmitamide MEA, Acetamide MEA, Sarcosine, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Carbomer, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum
- Squalane (1 out 5)
This is a great option if you want something heavier than the 2 options above. It’s a commonly used moisturizer in the Europe, and works great for very finicky skin.
It’s good for all skin types, and does a good job of moisturizing the skin because its inclusion of emollients (e.g. oleic triglycerides) which prevent the “tight feeling” of dry skin. Besides that, Oilatum Natural Repair Face Cream contains betaine (a soothing ingredient), and 2 different humectants: glycerin and squalane.
All in all, a very neutral and non-irritating cream that shouldn’t give most people problems.
Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi (Bear Berry) Leaf Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Anthemis (Chamomile) Nobilis Flower Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Allantoin, Arbutin, Panthenol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide, Carbomer, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer.
- Hexylene Glycol (2 out of 5)
This gel moisturizer is very characteristically similar to the Sebamed Clear Face Gel in terms of feel and consistency.
It’s a holy grail and commonly recommended moisturizer for oily acne-prone individuals over at r/skincareaddiction. What separates this from the Sebamed Clear Face Gel is its use of extracts and arbutin.
It’s hard to say exactly how beneficial extracts are because the research on them as a whole is very scarce. But here are a few in this formula that show promise:
- Bearberry extract = has antioxidant properties and may help brighten skin.
- Cucumber extract = has antioxidant properties, is very soothing on the skin, and includes trace amounts of minerals and vitamins (e.g. silica and ascorbic acid) which could help brighten skin.
- Chamomile = has antioxidant effects, and studies on mice have shown it has strong soothing properties.
Like Sebamed, this one is best for oily not dry skin.
And last but certainly not least….
Purified Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Niacinamide, Lauryl PEG-9 Polymethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Sodium Chloride, Piptadenia Colubrina Peel Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycerin, Allantoin, Caffeine, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol,
Phenoxyethanol, Capryloyl Glycine, Undecylenoyl Glycine, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide.
- Dimethicone (1 out of 5)
- Ascorbyl Palmitate (2 out of 5)
- Butylene Glycol (1 out of 5)
I must emphasize again, just because this is #5 on this list doesn’t mean it’s the worst. In fact, I think this is one of the best picks!
If it weren’t for the ascorbyl palmitate, this moisturizer would blow all the others out of the water! The reasoning: it has niacinamide, salix alba (willow) bark extract, piptadenia colubrina peel extract, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, allantoin and caffeine. Let’s quickly break down what each of these does.
- Niacinamide = a.k.a. vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid. This is one of my all time favorite ingredients! It does a little bit of everything: fights hyperpigmentation (PIH), brightens skin tone, treats acne better than antibiotics, reduces wrinkles, and stimulates collagen synthesis.
- Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract = a natural form of salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant that helps prevent clogged pores and breakouts. Given its pH of 6, the willow bark in this formula would be equivalent to about 1% salicylic acid.
- Piptadenia Colubrina Peel Extract = stimulates aquaporin activity. In other words, it hydrates the skin while preventing moisture loss. A double whammy combo!
- Sodium Hyaluronate = a powerhouse humectant that slows the rate at which water evaporates from the skin’s surface, keeping it nice and hydrated. 🙂
- Glycerin = another sexy humectant.
- Allantoin = a soothing ingredient.
- Caffeine = no not coffee! In skincare caffeine is an antioxidant, has soothing properties, and might help redness.
If you can neglect the fact that the EltaMD AM Moisturizer has ascorbyl palmitate (which rates 2 out of 5 on the comedogenic scale), I would say it’s the best option of the bunch. But just in case you’re being extra cautious, I gave you “safer” alternatives. :p
And that does it for this blog post ladies and gents! I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you feel like I missed any non-comedogenic moisturizers, feel free to drop your recs down in the comment section below.
—your fellow acne-prone warrior, f.c.
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