Skincare ingredients to avoid if you have acne

By Pauline Muindi | Sun,Nov 28 2021 10:20:00 EAT

 It is important to treat acne-prone skin with care (Image: Shutterstock)

If you are prone to acne, you know how scary it can be to try a new skincare product. Even when a product might be marketed for acne-prone skin, there are no guarantees that your skin will love it.

A product might even feel good on your skin when you first apply it, only to leave your skin red, blotchy, and irritated the next morning.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to skincare. What works for your similarly acne-prone friend might not work for you.

Finding the right skincare products for your skin might be a matter of trial and error. The best way to find the best products for your skin is by phasing new products in and out.

That said, you can make the trial-and-error process a lot easier by keeping an eye out for ingredients that are known to be comedogenic (likely to clog your pores). Here are ingredients that you should avoid if you have acne-prone skin:

  • Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a huge fan favourite – known for moisturising the skin and bolstering its protective barrier layer. However, for those who are prone to acne, it is best to keep away from products that contain coconut oil.

When applied to acne-prone skin, coconut oil can block your pores. This traps dirt, makeup residues, and dead skin cells in your pores, leading to irritation and breakouts. Instead of coconut oil, go for avocado oil, whose anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe irritation, redness, itching, and swelling.

  • Lanolin

An oily extract from the lamb’s wool, lanolin is also another no-no skincare ingredient for acne-prone skin. Lanolin is extremely emollient – a 2017 study found that applying lanolin to your skin can reduce its moisture loss by 20 to 30 per cent.

While it is a great skincare ingredient for those with dry skin, lanolin is not so good for acne-prone skin. It has been shown to cause and exacerbate acne. Just like coconut oil, it clogs the pores, triggering acne formation.

  • Algae extract

A double-aged sword, algae extract is comedogenic but is also known to help regulate oil production. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, protects the sun against sun damage, reduces the appearance of fine lines, and diminishes the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

With so many types of algae extract on the market, it might be difficult to pinpoint which one works for you. Experts say that there are more than 73,000 species of algae – and not all species carry the same benefits. In the product ingredients label, algae extract may be listed as carrageenan, laminaria digitata, brown seaweed, or plankton extract.

Algae extract can penetrate the pore and accelerate the growth of micro-comedones – leading to whiteheads and blackheads. Algae extracts are also high in iodides. Iodides can irritate the pores and trigger inflammation and the formation of pustules.

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

A foaming agent, SLS is commonly used in many shampoos, toothpastes and cleansers. It is a surfactant that removes dirt and oil from the skin. However, sodium lauryl sulfate is known to irritate the skin; when you are prone to acne, using SLS can result in worse breakouts.

When you are buying facial washes and cleansers, read them carefully to ensure they do not contain SLS. Do not worry – there are plenty of SLS-free cleansers available that perform perfectly.

  • Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in many skincare products. They prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, and yeast, all of which can cause skin breakouts.

That said, parabens can also be troublesome for acne-prone skin. Research shows that while parabens might not directly aggravate the skin, they stimulate oestrogen, which in turn can cause acne breakouts.

  • Sodium chloride

Sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt. This ingredient is commonly used in cleansers because of its exfoliating properties. It also helps thicken exfoliating formulations to achieve the desired texture.

 While a thick, exfoliating cream is pleasant to use, it is best to avoid sodium chloride if you have acne-prone skin. It can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. Sodium chloride may also be used in foundations, shampoos, and shower gels. It may be listed as sea salt or maris sal.

  • Isopropyl myristate/Isopropyl palmitate

These two ingredients are emollients you are likely to find in anti-ageing creams. They are used in skincare products to help thicken the skin’s barrier and lock in moisture.

They can also help lock in the active ingredients of other products, making them more effective. That said, isopropyl myristate and isopropyl palmitate are not ideal for acne-prone skin. Their comedogenic properties can lead to breakouts.

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