7 Pore-Clogging Ingredients to Avoid if Your Skin Is Acne-Prone

Pores: We all have these tiny openings in our skin for releasing sweat and oil, but for some individuals, they can be more troublesome than for others. In other words, clogged pores occur more frequently in some of us than in others. Clogged pores result when oil fails to flow through them properly, explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav. "Usually, this happens due to an excess of oil that gets trapped by dead cells that haven't shed properly from the lining of the pore. Additionally, makeup, dirt, and/or comedogenic ingredients can block the pore, hindering the flow of oil," she says.

Comedogenic is essentially a term for pore-clogging ingredients, and while these substances aren't the only cause of acne and breakouts—there are several contributing factors—they certainly don't improve the situation. "Pore-clogging ingredients significantly increase the likelihood of developing pimples," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian. "For individuals with naturally oily skin or those who carry acne-causing bacteria, using these ingredients is akin to fueling a fire. It's a risky combination that can worsen acne and lead to persistent breakouts."

So, what exactly causes an ingredient to be likely to clog your pores? In short, we don't have a definitive answer. "The comedogenicity of ingredients isn't fully understood," explains Dr. Yadav. "In some instances, ingredients may interact poorly with your sebum, causing it to become thicker, while other ingredients may be too dense for sebum to pass through." Dr. Melanie Palm, a board-certified dermatologist, adds that pore-clogging ingredients are typically occlusive. They form a barrier on the skin's surface, sealing in oil, especially in individuals with oily skin. Dr. Palm also notes that some pore-clogging ingredients introduce additional oils to the skin, causing cells to adhere more tightly together, rather than sloughing off as they should from the pore lining.

Now that you understand why comedogenic ingredients can increase your breakouts, it's time to learn which ones specifically to consider avoiding. Ahead, read all about seven pore-clogging ingredients dermatologists say are worth steering clear of if you're prone to acne.

Coconut Oil

All three dermatologists we spoke with called out coconut oil as a common offender. "While it has a variety of health benefits, it's highly comedogenic, especially when applied on the the face," Palm explains. "Because it isn't easily absorbed [into] the skin, it can trap bacteria and dead skin cells, making it detrimental for those who are acne-prone."

Petroleum Jelly

Commonly known as Vaseline and used in the viral TikTok slugging trend, petroleum jelly is one ingredient you'll definitely want to skip if you're always battling breakouts. It's very thick, sitting on the surface of the skin and can cause a "traffic jam" in the pore, leading to oil and dead cell buildup that can ultimately turn into a pimple, Yadav cautions.

Cocoa Butter

As a general rule of thumb, ingredients with high concentrations of oleic acid, a fatty acid, tend to be more comedogenic, Yadav tells us. This is why cocoa butter can cause issues, as it's very high in oleic acid, she explains. Top tip: If you're looking for an alternative that's just as moisturizing but won't clog pores, Palm recommends shea butter, which is non-comedogenic.


More often found in makeup than skincare—specifically in primers—as well as haircare like conditioners and masks, silicone is highly comedogenic, according to Palm. In checking for it on the ingredient label, make sure you're also looking for and steering clear of its derivatives, including cyclomethicone and dimethicone.


"This is yet another occlusive ingredient that creates a film over the dermal layer, trapping dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil within the pores, which can worsen acne and breakouts," Palm explains. Nazarian also cites it as one of the more common pore-clogging ingredients out there.

Flaxseed Oil

A high concentration of oleic acid is also to blame for this oil's comedogenicity. Yadav says grapeseed oil is a good alternative, equally nourishing for the skin but without the potential pore-clogging pitfall.

Marula Oil

"This ranks about a three or four on the comedogenicity scale, meaning it's not suitable for those with acne-prone skin," Palm explains. Swap it for squalane instead. "Typically derived from olives, it's intensely nourishing to the skin and is biomimetic, meaning it behaves similarly to your skin's natural oils and won't congest the pore," Yadav says, adding that it's also a good substitute for coconut oil.

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