These skincare ingredients might be making your skin break out

We take a look at the most common break-out causing skincare and make-up ingredients

These skincare ingredients might be making you break out!
© Getty Images
These skincare ingredients might be making you break out!

Knowing exactly what goes into your skincare and makeup products can feel like an impossible task (unless you're a chemist). However, keeping track of the ingredients (the good and the bad) is important, especially if you have problematic or acne-prone skin, as knowing what your skin likes and dislikes will help you achieve the calm and clear complexion of your dreams.

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Unfortunately, the skincare and beauty industry is rife with what are called comedogenic ingredients, which have the potential to clog your pores, leading to breakouts. This is because these ingredients have many benefits for drier skin types, but wreak havoc on sensitive and oily types.

So what ingredients might be breaking you out?


Lanolin is a product derived from the sebum produced by sheep in order to condition and protect their woolly coats. Although lanolin has been used for centuries due to its low irritation score and highly moisturising properties, it should be avoided by vegans (as it is an animal product), acne-prone skin types, and those who over-produce oil.

Emollients and occlusives

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Like lanolin, emollients and occlusives are typically too thick and heavy for most oily or acne-prone skin to handle. Used primarily for moisturising dry skin and aiding in water retention, ingredients like shea butter, coconut butter, beeswax, and petrolatum should be used sparingly for acne and oily-prone skin.

However, remember that these skin types do benefit from moisture and oils too when applied in thin layers!

Alcohols and Esters

Let's start by saying that not all alcohols and esters in skincare and make-up are bad! Some are in fact very necessary and act to help stabilise products. However, alcohol can be very drying and may damage the skin moisture barrierif over used, which can lead to inflammation and breakouts.

So, here are some comedogenic ones that you might want to avoid (and if unavoidable, make sure they are low on the ingredients list!):

  • Hexadecyl Alcohol
  • Oleyl Alcohol
  • Socetyl alcohol
  • Isocetyl Stearate
  • Propylene glycol monostearate
  • Glyceryl-3-Diisostearate
  • Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate
  • Octyl stearate

Sources used:

The good face project: 'How to Avoid Pore-Clogging Comedogenic Ingredients'

Neo Skin Centre: 'Pore Clogging Ingredients'

Sensitive skin? Try out these skincare ingredients Sensitive skin? Try out these skincare ingredients