iAm: Louisa Koh

SHILLS Aqua Skin Moisturizing Spray

A 30-something from sunny Singapore who's tried her hand at lots of things, such as selling skin care & make-up, working in a (boring) corporate setting, trying to carve a singing career, giving private tuition, being a fitness instructor, writing/editing etc...

Besides exasperating her parents to no end, she loves experimenting with new make-up looks, uncovering the best make-up & skin care products, modelling for herself before the camera, singing at the top of her lungs (with preferably no one to hear it), and writing whatever, whenever (as you can already tell).


louisa [at] louisakoh [dot] com

Comedogenic Skin Care

I’ve long wanted to post this for the benefit of anyone who wants to know what common skin care ingredients are highly comedogenic.

Ever since my first major breakout from an i nuovi foundation back in my Uni days, where I’d had to spend money to see a skin doctor to clear the mess, I’ve had rather comedo-prone skin.

What are comedones?
“Comedones” is the technical term for “blackheads” and “whiteheads”. It is the primary sign of acne, consisting of a dilated (widened) hair follicle filled with keratin squamae (skin debris), bacteria, and sebum (oil). A comedo may be closed or open.

A closed comedo has an obstructed opening to the skin and may rupture to cause a low-grade skin inflammatory reaction in the area. The common name for a closed comedo is a whitehead.

An open comedo has a wide opening to the skin and is capped with a blackened mass of skin debris. It is commonly known as a blackhead.

How does this relate to you and me?
I’ve always wondered how some women can have smooth flawless skin, without any tiny raised bumps. Even if our skin were generally ok-ish, under the sunlight, the tiny bumps were always evident and I wondered if the only way to ever get rid of them were facials.

Facials are treacherous in themselves, because according to my dermatologist, some beauticians do not use the correct technique of extraction, causing pores to dilate permanently & creating an undesirable craggy skin texture.

I thought only the genetically gifted never had to contend with these comedones and raised bumps (which are really clogged pores). But I was wrong. In addition to the miracle of tretinoin (the best skin care invention or discovery ever in my opinion), it’s good to be vigilant of what’s in your skin care products, as there are many highly comedogenic ingredients used.

What in the world does “comedogenic” mean?
The dictionary defines “comedogenic” as “tending to cause blackheads by blocking the pores of the skin.” Period. I’ve kept a couple of lists of ranked comedogenic ingredients but as the years went by, I let down my guard until more recently when I’ve seen the miraculous difference of tretinoin on my skin.

In fact, it was a skin care product containing squalene that I tried recently that sent me scrambling for what was clogging my pores. I then stumbled on the difference in comedogenicity of “squalEne” vs. “squalAne”. And I didn’t even know squalane was a real ingredient that existed (I’ve always thought it was a typo of “squalene”)!

Anyhow, I stumbled upon this helpful resource & wanted to share (do click on ‘Full screen’ & the ‘zoom’ icon to view) this with you:


Apparently, how low down a comedogenic ingredient in the list of ingredients makes a difference. All ingredients on skin care products are always listed first from the ingredient making up the biggest part of the product to the least. So for example, if I saw “isopropyl myristate” much lower down in an ingredient list rather than being one of the first few, I would be less worried that it’d clog my pores.

Any comments or insights on this issue, please do share!

6 comments to Comedogenic Skin Care

  • this is a great post, thank you! wow so many ingredients are moderately and mildly comedogenic. :O My face cream has a few!! hmm.. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  • Hey Denise,

    Thank you for dropping by! Yes, there are many ingredients with the propensity to clog pores but do bear in mind, some skin types are more prone to acne than others. So while a product may break someone out, it may be completely fine for another person. Also, that said, if the quantity of the moderately/mildly comedogenic ingredient used in your face cream is really quite negligible, then it might not break you out at all.

    The best way I find is to use any product you suspect may be breaking you out cautiously, and scrutinise for any increase in tiny bumps on your face. Then eliminate whatever new product you’ve added to your skin care or make-up till you find the culprit (that’s why it’s always good to not try too many new products at once for your face, especially if they go on directly on your skin like skin care or foundation), then examine the ingredient list again, and make your conclusions whether to continue. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  • Michelle

    Hey babe,

    Thanks so much for this post! I’ve just stumbled upon your blog while searching for the Dr Young Pore Eraser Balm review. Have you tried using products that contain tretinoin to reduce the small bumps on your face? I suffer from that problem as well and went for facial once and it worked but I’m trying to rely on good products to clear my face as well. Can’t seem to rid the bumps unless I go for facial πŸ™ Do recommend if you have any that you have tried and is good!

  • Louisa Koh

    Hi Michelle,

    You’re welcome, I hope it helped! Yes, in fact I went to see a dermatologist who recommended a tretinoin cream in various concentrations to deal with the more problematic areas like my cheeks which always get these small whitehead bumps. I went for facial once in a while but I don’t like it cos I feel that facials will enlarge my pores permanently if extraction not done correctly.

    Tretinoin really works! I was skeptical that any cream could get rid of those whiteheads and don’t ask me how they do it but it does work! U just have to be faithful in applying it every night and not get lazy, which is my tendency LOL. U might have to see a derm to get a prescription for that though 😐

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve been reading up on Retin-A since I read your post and am rather convinced that it actually works! I gave up using it years ago when my skin became flaky. Maybe it’s a go! πŸ˜€ Thanks for this post. Going to see a derm to get a prescription!

  • Louisa Koh

    Hey Michelle,

    Ohhhh I didn’t have a flaking problem with tretinoin at all. I suppose the derm can recommend a suitable serum or moisturizer to combat that if that’s something u r prone to. I’ve had no such problems! πŸ™‚

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