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The Comedogenic Scale Is Fake News

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

The comedogenic scale is a system used to rate the likelihood of a substance to cause acne or other skin issues. It is commonly used in the skincare industry to assess the safety of cosmetic and skincare products. The scale ranges from 0 to 5, with 0 being non-comedogenic and 5 being highly comedogenic.

Here's a breakdown of the scale:

  • 0: Non-comedogenic - It means that the substance is not likely to cause any acne or other skin issues.

  • 1: Slightly Comedogenic - The substance has a low chance of causing acne or other skin issues, but it's still possible.

  • 2: Moderately Comedogenic - The substance has a higher chance of causing acne or other skin issues.

  • 3: Comedogenic - The substance is likely to cause acne or other skin issues in some individuals.

  • 4: Highly Comedogenic - The substance has a very high chance of causing acne or other skin issues in most people.

  • 5: Super Comedogenic - The substance is highly likely to cause acne or other skin issues in almost everyone.

Why is it not reliable or accurate?

One of the main issues is that it is based on animal studies and not on human studies. The skin of animals is different from that of humans, so the results of these studies may not accurately reflect how a substance will affect human skin. For instance, rabbit ears (one of the animals they tested on) are way more sensitive than human skin resulting in a lot of false positives. They also did not dilute these substances before application and most people are using diluted versions of these substances on their skin. Dilution alone can change the rating drastically. There is plenty of new research and case studies of the same ingredients but results are very different. The original studies were conducted in the 1980's but researches did similar testing in the early 2000's proving the comedogenic scale is inaccurate. The link between the comedogenic/breakout-inducing potential of single ingredients vs. finished products was never actually established. In order to properly assess, we would need humans (not animals) with a variety of skin types, diets and lifestyles which is likely never going to be conducted due to the high costs. Ultimately, delivery method and dilution are important but bio-individuality is most important. The comedogenic scale does not take into account individual differences in skin types and sensitivities nor did they evaluate other factors that could be causing skin issues. For example, is it a reaction from the product or is it purging from toxins? Is it stress-induced? Is your period coming up and its the surge in hormones? Your skin is a direct reflection of what is going on inside. Yes topicals can make your skin better or aggravate it more but the cause of your acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea etc. is always internal. Just remember what may be comedogenic for one person may not be for another. Therefore, relying solely on the comedogenic scale to determine the safety of a skincare product will not provide a complete picture of how the product will affect your skin.

How Do I Know What Products Are Best For My Skin?

First, I recommend sourcing products that are ALL NATURAL. No fragrance. No parabens. No phthalates. No formaldehyde. No aluminum. No BHT. No crap. About 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin! If you want to learn more about toxic ingredients and what to avoid along with natural healthy alternatives, join The Acne Solution where I dive deep into this along with all the other factors you need to take into consideration for clear skin. I also list some amazing non toxic skincare brands (with discount codes) that I use and recommend to my clients. Fatskn, Saturee, Fancy Farm and Holistic by Ulyana being a few of them. You can find these companies and their products in our SHOP, please sign up if you're new or simply login again.

Second, you want to use oils on your skin that match your sebum. Our skin naturally produces sebum, which is an oil that helps to moisturize and protect the skin. When we use oils on our skin that match our natural sebum production, it can help to balance our skin's natural oils and improve overall skin health. Using oils that match our sebum production can help to regulate the amount of oil on our skin, which can be especially helpful for those with oily or acne-prone skin. For instance, your body will recognize when there is adequate amount of sebum present and will reduce its production resulting in less acne. When we use harsh or drying skincare products, our skin can overproduce oil in an attempt to compensate for the lack of moisture, leading to an increase in acne and other skin issues. The oils that match our sebum are mainly composed of stable saturated fats rather than unsaturated fats.

Saturated Fat Examples To Apply Topically:

  • beef tallow

  • jojoba oil

  • coconut oil

  • argan oil

  • rosehip fruit oil (not rosehip seed oil)

Unsaturated Fat Examples To Avoid:

  • sunflower seed oil

  • grapeseed oil

  • rosehip seed oil

  • seabuckthorn seed oil

  • hemp seed oil

  • almond oil

  • passionfruit oil

  • chia seed oil

  • flax seed oil

Basically any oil/fat from a nut, seed or vegetable is inflammatory when consumed or put on your skin! You want your oils/fats coming from animals or fruit! Let's unpack this (beyond sebum)...

Seed and vegetable oils (referred to as seed oils) are mainly composed of polyunsaturated fats meaning they contain multiple double bonds. This tells us that they are weaker and more reactive than saturated fats/oils (single bonds). When we apply seed oils to our skin or consume them, lipid peroxidation occurs which means free radicals are being produced to destroy the weak double bonds in seed oils. Now peroxidation of unsaturated fatty acids is happening inside your cells. Lipid peroxidation causes inflammation and a lot of cellular dysfunction (even cell death). Acne and all skin conditions are a result of inflammation. This is due to their molecular structure so it does not matter if your seed oils are 'cold-pressed' or 'organic' they will still oxidize at a fast rate when applied to your skin or ingested leading to inflammation and aging.

Seed oils are a relatively new phenomenon, they have not been around forever like animal fats have! In the 1940's companies started mass producing seed oils as they were much cheaper to produce. The American Heart Association then began promoting these as 'heart healthy' oils/fats so people would begin consuming them. Then, the beauty industry got on board and now most skincare is filled with seed oils to save money.The structure of these seed oils was completely brand new and the damage they can do was not properly investigated before entering the market. Traditional fats (shown as saturated fats above) have properly balanced fatty acid profiles with less than 10% being polyunsaturated fats. Seed oils contain less than 10% saturated fats and usually about 70% polyunsaturated fats. As you can see, stable saturated fats are still composed of a bit of polyunsaturated fats, this is necessary in small amounts. In larger amounts (ie. seed oils) is when it becomes dangerous to our health and skin.

I always tell my clients when it comes to skincare LESS IS MORE. Keeping your routine as simple as possible ensures minimal damage to your skin barrier and skin microbiome. For example, over-cleansing the skin can strip away its natural oils, which can lead to dryness, sensitivity, and a disrupted skin microbiome. You do not need to be cleansing your skin more than once a day (a few times per week is usually good). Acne is not a result of your skin being infected or dirty. You also don't need all the extra serums and toners that the beauty industry loves to promote. Skincare is a billion dollar industry, please remember that. Save your wallets/time and get back to the basics!


Katie xx

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