It wasn’t that long ago that oil-free products were the norm in skincare. But if you’ve been to your local beauty store lately—or done any beauty shopping online—you’ve probably noticed that oils are trending in a big way. Face oils have countless beauty benefits, from hydrating the skin to boosting radiance, and even reducing inflammation. Of course, you don’t want to use just any oil on your face: Some can clog pores and trigger breakouts, particularly if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
That’s where non-comedogenic oils come in. These skin-friendly plant lipids are characterized by their ability to help skin concerns without causing (or worsening) acne. Ahead, we’re doing a deep dive into non-comedogenic oils, how they work, and their many benefits for the skin. Keep reading to discover the primary beauty benefits of non-comedogenic face oils, as well as the best Kiehl’s formulas to incorporate into your daily skincare routine.
What Do "Comedogenic" and "Non-Comedogenic" Mean?
Before we discuss the benefits of non-comedogenic face oils, you must understand what comedogenic means. It’s an adjective that describes how likely something is to clog pores. In practice, it’s usually a bit broader, serving as a measure of how likely a given product or ingredient is to cause or worsen any type of acne (sometimes referred to as "acnegenic"). Non-comedogenic, of course, is the opposite—it’s used to describe something that won’t clog pores. You’ll see the phrase "non-comedogenic" often on skincare products, particularly those formulated for oily or acne-prone skin. You may also see it on makeup packaging, as many cosmetic ingredients, like synthetic dyes, can also clog pores.
How Do You Determine If An Ingredient Is Comedogenic?
The best way to determine if something is comedogenic is to put it on your skin and see how your skin reacts. Of course, there’s a pretty significant downside to this test: If the product is comedogenic, you’ll have clogged pores or breakouts to contend with. Instead, defer to the comedogenic scale.
The comedogenic scale is a scientific measurement of how likely specific ingredients are to clog your pores or trigger breakouts. To determine an ingredient’s comedogenicity, scientists test the ingredients on human volunteers or on rabbit ears to see how the skin reacts.I Countless studies have been conducted to test the comedogenicity of various ingredients. Sadly, no central database lists every skincare ingredient (probably because that would be close to impossible to compile). But there are some popular ingredients that scientists have found to be likely to clog pores, and others that research shows are safe even for those with blemish-prone skin.
Early studies showed that heavy, greasy ingredients, like lanolin, are typically among the most likely to clog your pores.I As such, people long assumed that all oily substances are acnegenic. But now we know that’s not the case: In fact, many botanical oils have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help treat skin concerns like acne and dermatitis.
These beneficial, non-comedogenic oils are what we use in our skincare formulations, like the best-selling Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil. This luxurious oil cleanser is formulated with a slew of lightweight plant oils, including olive-derived squalane. The non-comedogenic formula emulsifies with water to thoroughly melt away dirt, oil, and other impurities (even waterproof makeup) without over-drying the skin. The unique cleanser is suitable for all skin types and can be used nightly to promote softer, more supple skin.
3 Beauty Benefits Of Non-Comedogenic Oils
Now that you’re caught up on what non-comedogenic oils are, we can dive into the specifics of our favorite oils, what they do, and the Kiehl’s formulas that feature them. Read on to discover three beauty benefits you can enjoy with Kiehl’s best-selling non-comedogenic face oils.
1. Non-Comedogenic Oils Can Help Calm Problem Skin
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, oils may seem like the last thing you’d want to put on your face. But many non-comedogenic oils boast natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can actually help reduce the appearance of blemishes. One of the best oils for problem skin is Cannabis sativa seed oil (also known as hemp seed oil). This powerful substance is rich in essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated acids. Studies show that cannabidiol, or CBD—a primary component of cannabis—can help inhibit sebum production and reduce inflammation when applied topically.II This makes it particularly useful for managing acne and other inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.
To hydrate and soothe stressed or sensitive skin, try incorporating Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil into your daily skincare routine. This best-selling face oil is formulated with 100% naturally-derived ingredients, including Cannabis sativa seed oil and green oregano oil.* When used regularly, the calming formula helps visibly reduce skin redness and relieve discomfort caused by irritation. It also helps strengthen the skin barrier to facilitate stronger, more balanced-looking skin. The mild yet effective formula is non-comedogenic and suitable for all skin types, including blemish-prone skin.
2. Face Oils Are Effective Emollients
Oils have been used since antiquity to help soften and smooth the skin. Olive oil, for example, was widely used for body care throughout ancient Greece (philosophers called it "liquid gold"), while traditional Ayurvedic practices utilized numerous natural oils and butters as cosmetic ingredients. The majority of oils are emollients and possess notable skin-softening and smoothing properties. Research shows that emollients help improve skin barrier function, reduce dryness, and promote an overall more even skin texture.III
To reap these benefits, reach for richer face oils, like the top-rated Midnight Recovery Concentrate. This Kiehl’s best-seller contains a blend of emollient non-comedogenic oils, including olive-derived squalane, evening primrose oil, and fragrant lavender essential oil, which work together to hydrate and smooth the skin. The top-rated formula boosts radiance and helps refine skin texture within just one night, while continued use helps firm the skin and diminish the appearance of fine lines. We recommend incorporating this indulgent oil into your nighttime anti-aging skincare routine for softer, younger-looking skin.
3. Botanical Oils Are Rich In Antioxidants
Botanical oils — that is, non-volatile oils derived from plants, like avocado oil — tend to be high in vitamins, minerals, and other valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are reactive oxygen species that form after exposure to an irritant or stressor. Research shows that these molecules can damage cellular DNA and inhibit the production of necessary proteins, like collagen, resulting in wrinkles, skin discolorations, and other signs of premature aging.IV
When used topically, antioxidant-rich oils, like those in our best-selling Daily Reviving Concentrate, can help defend the skin from damaging aggressors to help keep it looking youthful and healthy. This non-comedogenic face oil contains sunflower oil, tamanu oil, and ginger root essential oil to revitalize and protect the skin. When used daily, it helps refresh skin to minimize the visible signs of fatigue for a radiant appearance. We recommend applying a few drops to your face every morning to promote fresher, healthier-looking skin.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.
I. Kligman, A. M. & Mills, O. H. Acne cosmetica. Arch Dermatol. 1972;106(6):843-850. doi:10.1001/archderm.1972.01620150029011
II. Scheau, Cristian et al. "Cannabinoids in the Pathophysiology of Skin Inflammation." Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 25,3 652. 4 Feb. 2020, doi:10.3390/molecules25030652
III. Sethi, Anisha et al. "Moisturizers: The Slippery Road." Indian journal of dermatology vol. 61,3 (2016): 279-87. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427
IV. Lin, Tzu-Kai et al. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils." International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,1 70. 27 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms19010070