The pore-clogging potential of skin care products has become a big concern for many people recently, thanks in large part to strategic Big Beauty marketing, as well as InterWeb Hot Lists of ingredients to avoid in skin care and makeup. I totally understand this concern when it comes to things like foundation creams or make-up. There could be a whole lot of pore-clogging going on with these simply because of how they are meant to be used. If you cover your face (and so all your pores) with a blanket of powders, emulsified or not, and let it sit there all day, chances are high that you're going to have a clogged pore or two you'll have to clean out.
Before we go on, some background. Comedogenic ingredients are usually fatty emollients (but not all fats are comedogenic). Evaluating the comedogenicity of a product is complex because it's not just about the properties of one ingredient alone. It has more to do with how an ingredient is extracted and processed, how much of it is in a product, how it reacts with other ingredients in the product, how long it sits on the skin, where on the skin its is applied and individual body chemistry. Also, many comedogenic ingredients take a long time to build up in a pore before maximum clogging occurs.
So what's a consciously aware consumer to do? Looking at an ingredient Hot List and staying away from specific ingredients is not a complete answer.
When it comes to natural and non-toxic ingredients being mentioned on these lists, I confess, I am perplexed. How did these fabulous oils get on a comedogenic Hot List anyway? Wheat Germ Oil (assuming its non-GMO) takes a huge hit at a number 5 rank. Wheat Germ Oil. Seriously? What about it's nourishing properties for dry, irritated skin, its sun protective properties, and the fact that people have been using it on their faces for centuries? Cocoa Butter, an ingredient that my skin cannot comfortably live without, comes in at 4? Somewhere deep in the forest, a Wise Woman is weeping.
You might read that beeswax is comedogenic; but in a body butter, for example, it’s a small percentage of of the entire recipe (10-15%). Does beeswax’s comedogenic potential negate the amazing job it does of protecting skin and holding in its moisture content? Can you benefit from beeswax while mitigating possible pore clogging by using a good skin care routine? In this current world of product plethora, we have to make these kinds of calculated decisions for ourselves all the time.
I’m going to say that for me, the choice to go natural and non-toxic was a no-brainer. I’ve been struggling with skin issues all my life, from the first bout of eczema on my tender, diapered bum to my now menopausally-challenged dry face. I’ve tried it all, from steroid creams, to various Big Beauty lab-derived skin care systems (expensive and not), to old school concoctions derived from natural ingredients. The hands down winner in my 54 year battle, scoring high marks for both for effectiveness and price, has been Natural ingredients. No contest.
Think logically about it for a second (putting my Mr. Spock hat on). If I’m going to put something on my body, I want to make sure that it is as natural and non-toxic as possible, because my skin reacts instantly to ingredients it doesn't like.. If my pores are going to clog from these natural and non-toxic ingredients, I know I can clean them out with a good dose of hot water/steam followed by a thorough cleansing routine. I CAN treat the devil I know.
The same is true of what i put IN my body. Over-processed, oily and sugary foods, for example, can affect the critical balance of gut bacteria which helps my body break down foods into required nutrients. These kinds of foods can also affect the gut lining, messing with my body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients, resulting in chemical imbalances in cells, including those of my skin. Then there’s aging and hormonal changes. So, I’ve had to pay more attention to the foods I eat, and to be mindful about drinking enough water. There are certain foods and food combinations that will exacerbate my skin condition--like yeast, some beans and some carbs (especially wheat-based ones). Bread is NOT my friend. Mostly, my diet looks paleo -- a mix of animal and vegetable proteins, with the occasional carb. Result? Happier gut, happier skin. Happier me.
So is comedogenicity in skin a real issue? Yeah. Possibly a concern...if you never bathed or scrubbed or washed; if you never had a woman-mentor who taught you how to take care of your skin; or if you’ve been living under a rock. And how many of us is that, exactly? Healthy, clear skin has been a human preoccupation for thousands of years. Women have been experimenting and passing their knowledge on to each other for just as long. And in recent times, we’ve all been schooled enough in the art of facial care, by a bazillion fashion magazines, ads and electronic media, to know the value of a gentle clean and scrub. Below is a quickie primer in cleaning out clogged pores, in case you need it.
The real issue, it seems to me, is how well we trust tried and true women’s wisdom, how well we trust the healing power of Nature (or as close to nature as possible), how well we trust ourselves and the choices we make. Honestly, you are the best expert on your skin. If you are paying attention, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t, regardless of how well it has been marketed to you. It is trial an error until you find what works for you. It’s okay to just say NO and keep looking for what feels right.
Another Bossy opinion from
Sherazad Jamal, The Free Lion Team.