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messynessie

an article you might find interesting...

"Oil-Free is a Bad Joke"

But the joke is on us, because while "oil-free" is a meaningless claim it may mislead consumers into buying products that can actually clog pores. There are plenty of ingredients that don't sound like oils but that can absolutely aggravate breakouts. On the other hand, not all oils clog pores. Yet, many cosmetics (anything that isn't in a liquid form) contain waxlike thickening agents that may clog pores. Simple, standard moisturizing ingredients that are great for dry skin can cause problems for someone with oily skin or breakouts. When any product looks like a cream or a lotion (as opposed to a fluid), the ingredients that give it that consistency may clog pores. Despite the problems these ingredients can cause, they show up in lots and lots of so-called "oil-free" products.

Above and beyond the products that claim to be oil-free, label after label promises that the product is "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic." Most of us have bought products with this assurance, only to find that they did cause breakouts. I wish I could say otherwise, but the truth is you can't trust any product that makes the claim that it's not comedogenic because there is no approved or regulated standard for that assertion. Aside from the regulatory aspect of this bogus claim, I’m certain all of us have used products that promised not to cause breakouts and yet we still broke out. What many women already know from experience is that trying to guess how their skin will react based on a product's promises, especially when it comes to blemishes, is truly a lost causeâ€â€or at the very least a difficult problem with no easy, slam-dunk answers.

Will It Make Me Break Out?

I have received a lot of questions asking if a specific product will cause breakouts. It seems that many consumers are curious about which comedogenic ingredients (meaning ingredients known to clog pores) to avoid.

First of all, you can't trust any product that claims it's not comedogenic, because there is no approved or regulated standard for that assertion. Aside from the regulatory aspect of this bogus claim, I'm certain all of us have used products that promised not to cause breakouts and yet we still broke out. What many women already know is that trying to guess how their skin will react based on a product's promises, especially when it comes to blemishes, is truly a lost cause. Why is it so impossible to find products that won't cause breakouts? It's because almost all of the ingredients used in cosmetics (except for water) can cause breakouts, depending on your skin type.

While there is evidence that some specific ingredients can trigger breakouts, there are no absolutes. I wish there were but there aren't. There are some web sites that showcase lists of comedogenic ingredients, with the major source of information most likely being Dr. Fulton's Step by Step Guide to Acne, published in 1983 by Harper & Row. At the time (and 1983 was a long time ago), Fulton's research regarding the causes of breakouts was unprecedented. Fulton applied cosmetic ingredients to rabbits' ears and waited to see what happened. As promising as this research was, it has never been repeated, and is rarely cited in later research (except when it suits a company's marketing agenda). There are many reasons why lists of this kind are unreliable:

First, the methodology looked at pure concentrations of the ingredient, not how the ingredient is used in actual cosmetic formulations (usually a fractional amount). It also didn't address the issue of usage and application. Ingredients in a cleanser, left on the skin for a few seconds, versus a lotion or liquid left on the skin for hours, have very different exposure risks. The research didn't look at the host of plant extracts or sunscreens in cosmetics that were introduced later than the early '80s. To call this list out-of-date and inconclusive would be an understatement.

I have to admit that I'm also to blame for some of the confusion. In my books I have included a list of ingredients that may cause breakouts. I based this on the emollient or wax-like characteristics of the ingredients, and on findings from more contemporary research. I have warned against products that contain ingredients such as triglycerides, myristates, and palmitates, but I'm now wondering if it was a wise list to include, because in some ways it is also misleading information. For example, isopropyl palmitate is a waxy thickening agent that is used to bind other ingredients together, has an emollient feel on skin, and is used most frequently in moisturizers for dry skin.

On the other hand, ascorbyl palmitate is a stable form of vitamin C and is used in small amounts in skin-care products, and is rarely a problem for skin. So much for following the rule about palmitates! Further, just because some ingredients are present in a formulation may not mean much. If it is toward the end of the ingredient list it probably won't do a lot of harm, while if it's the second, third, or fourth ingredient, it may be problematic. Also, keep in mind that even the most notorious ingredients (such as isopropyl myristate) won't cause problems for everyone. Just because an ingredient may cause breakouts doesn't mean that it will.

Another factor these kinds of lists can't account for is the fact that there are thousands and thousands of cosmetic ingredients used in skin-care and makeup products today! A lot of them are emollients, waxy thickening agents, or irritants that can cause skin problems. A comprehensive list would not only be impossible, it would be nothing more than guesswork.

So, what's a person to do when trying to fend off blemishes and still use skin-care and makeup products? While I still think some ingredients are more problematic than others, I think the easiest and most reliable practice for a consumer to consider is consistency. The thicker the product (meaning a high, creamy viscosity), the more likely it is to cause breakouts. That means you can feel safer with a gel or serum (meaning these have a low or watery viscosity).

It is also safe to assume that although a product with plant or mineral oils of any at or near the top of the ingredient list might make the skin feel greasy, greasiness doesn't necessarily trigger breakouts. And finally, do watch out for irritating ingredients. It doesn't take much alcohol, menthol, peppermint, balm mint, eucalyptus, camphor, lemon, grapefruit, or lime to cause a negative skin reaction that can hurt the skin's healing processâ€â€and that won't help heal blemishes.

Paula Begoun

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