As someone with sensitive, acne-prone skin, it’s always been hard to find skincare or makeup products that don’t break out my skin. I never understood why my breakouts kept getting worse, despite my use of products that I thought were safe for my skin—and then I began paying attention to the ingredient lists. Turns out, my liquid foundation, primer, and setting powder were filled with acne-causing chemicals, and my face lotion was topped to the brim with skin irritants. Here are some of the irritating and acne pore clogging ingredients I found that could cause major breakouts:
Fragrance is a popular ingredient in a lot of cosmetic and skincare products. Its purpose is to make the product smell “clean” and more appealing. However, perfumes are famous for irritating sensitive skin. This is because an individual fragrance can contain hundreds of chemical ingredients. Some names to watch out for on ingredient lists include fragrance, perfume, or parfum.
Even more common than fragrances, silicones are found in the majority of face products. Their purpose is to create a smoothing effect across the skin by filling in pores and fine lines. While silicones may accomplish this on acne-prone skin, they achieve this effect by smothering the skin and preventing it from breathing throughout the day. This can cause breakouts as well as skin irritation (such as redness and darkening of acne scars). Ingredients that are forms of silicone include dimethicone, methicone, trimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and cyclotetrasiloxane. These are definitely acne pore clogging ingredients that you want to avoid.
Petrochemicals are chemically based substances that are derived from petroleum. They are meant to lock moisture into the skin so a product will be hydrating. However, these chemicals are known to contain a carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, which could have detrimental effects. Petrochemicals are also able to penetrate deep into the skin, taking dirt and other substances down with it. This causes skin inflammation. Some petrochemicals include benzene, PEG, butyl, methyl, paraffin wax, butylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, and mineral oil.
While certain natural ingredients can help heal skin, some of them are too potent for those with sensitive skin, and some are highly comedogenic. For example, lemon juice is extremely acidic and can irritate skin easily by causing burns, as it has a pH of two. On the other side of the pH scale, there is baking soda, which can cause unseen damage to the skin by excessively drying it out. Coconut oil, although known for its healing properties, clogs pores easily and can cause severe breakouts. Lastly, sugar should not be used on the face (except on the lips), as it is too abrasive and will only serve to rub your skin raw.
At a certain point, it seems as if there is nothing that someone with sensitive, acne-prone skin can put on his or her face. I’ve discovered that using face products is a balancing act. It’s about how many harmful substances you are using on your skin in comparison to how many helpful ingredients you are using; if you want clear skin, it’s all about finding a balance.