You’re doing everything by the book. You’re invested in your skincare, applying SPF daily, cleansing your face every morning and evening, yet somehow, you’re still breaking out.
So frustrating—and we get it. Now, it’s time to scrutinize those teeny tiny ingredients listed on the back of your beauty products. Getting a clearer idea of which ingredients may affect your skin type and rooting out what’s acne-safe or not is essential in caring for your skin.
Below we’ve listed some of the most overlooked, pore-clogging ingredients commonly found in beauty and skincare products.
Lanolin, naturally derived from sheep's wool, is used in lots of beauty products because of its moisturizing and softening effects. You can find lanolin in anything from lip balms to creams to lotions, and some hair care products.
While lanolin is largely considered comedogenic, its thick, skin-protective nature can trap dead skin cells and sebum in the pores, easily clogging them, which for people with sensitive, acne-prone skin is very bad news.
If your product’s ingredient list contains lanolin, "wool wax" or "wool fat", proceed with caution!
Found in facial cleansers, moisturizers, masks, and serums, lots of brands like to incorporate algae extract into their products for its hydrating properties, and for its ability to deliver vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to the skin.
You might find it listed under different names, such as seaweed extract or specific types of algae like kelp or spirulina. While these ingredients may sound natural and beneficial and hydrating to the skin, they still contain oils and fatty acids that can negatively impact oily skin—and cause even more sebum production, which may lead to breakouts.
Skin care or makeup containing fragrances, especially those made from essential oils or synthetics, definitely harness the power to clog pores.
Some of the hidden compounds that create a fragrance can be comedogenic or irritating to certain skin types, which in turn can trigger inflammation in the skin and cause it to over-produce oil.
This means: beware to people with sensitive or acne-prone skin! You may be more susceptible to the pore-clogging effects of fragrances than you think. Know your skin type and opt instead for products that are "fragrance-free" or "hypoallergenic.”
D&C Dyes (Red, Yellow, Blue)
You can find D&C dyes in blushes, eyeshadows, lipsticks, and other pigmented beauty products.
While D&C (Drug and Cosmetic) dyes aren’t generally known for directly clogging pores, some individuals can experience sensitivity and irritation.
If your skin is reacting with redness, inflammation, or breakouts after using colored makeup products, it might be a D&C dye sensitivity. Keep an eye out.
Lauroyl Lysine is a common ingredient in beauty and cosmetic products for a reason.
This substance is leveraged for its skin-conditioning and texturizing properties, which is why you can find it in products like pressed powders, foundations, blushes, and eyeshadows.
Even though Lauroyl Lysine is considered a low-risk pore-clogging ingredient, it has the potential to block pores from breathing, causing irritation to sensitive skin types.
Shea butter is one of those ingredients that are considered “natural”, which on the surface seems harmless, however, because of its richness in fatty acids, it can be too heavy on some skin types and lead to pore-clogging.
If your skin is already acne-prone, avoid creams, balms, body washes, and face moisturizers that contain shea butter.
Think toners and setting sprays. Denatured alcohol is used in these products to quickly and effectively dry and degrease surfaces.
As a result, alcohol-based products tend to dry out the skin, stripping away its natural oils that keep the skin hydrated. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and in turn cause the skin to overcompensate with excess oil-production.
Also, denatured alcohol has the potential to disrupt the skin’s barrier, leaving it vulnerable to environmental irritants.
Isopropyl palmitate is an emollient included in moisturizers, foundations, BB creams, and sunscreens.
Similar to other emollients and moisturizers found in this list, Isopropyl Palmitate isn’t directly associated with clogging pores, however, when too much is applied, its heavy, barrier-like nature can block pores from proper aeration.
Known for its versatility, stearic acid is found in many products, and can act as an emulsifier, thickener, and stabilizer all in one.
You can find Stearic Acid in cleansers, moisturizers, foundations, lipstick, eyeliner, and sunscreen. However, if your skin type leans toward sensitive, apply this ingredient with caution.
While Stearic Acid is a fatty acid found naturally in plant and animal sources, its nature is still fatty, which means that it carries the potential to block up pores.
Dimethicone, a silicone-based substance, is common in a variety of beauty and skincare products like primers, foundations, BB and CC creams, concealers, and anti-aging products.
Its smoothing, moisturizing properties make it perfect for the spreadability, blendability, and protection these products need to work, but silicone-based products are never a good idea.
These types of polymers can prevent the pores from breathing, which causes build-up, and therefore, breakouts.
Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, a stabilizing ingredient, is commonly included in formulas for liquid foundations, concealers, lipsticks and lip balms, sunscreen, and eye makeup.
An emulsifier like this one is used to improve the texture and stability of a product by blending oil and water-based ingredients. While this is a super important characteristic of any liquid-based product, it can trap oil in the pores and cause them to clog.