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The best non-comedogenic makeup: are your products clogging your pores?

August 17th 2017 / Katie Robertson Google+ Katie Robertson / 4 comments


Non-comedogenic makeup is key for clearer skin. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting reveals what might be sabotaging your skin, and what you can do to restore your radiance

Do your pores become more noticable no matter how much powder you use? Spots seem to get angrier when you’re trying to conceal them? It’s a cruel irony that the very products you’re using to ‘solve’ or correct your imperfections could be making them worse by clogging the pores. We asked world-class dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting for the skincare and makeup products and habits to avoid, and those non-comedogenic (i.e. non pore-blocking) heroes to embrace. Good skin days ahoy.

Is it a myth that makeup clogs your pores?

No – it’s most definitely not a myth. I think that poor makeup choices often compound the problem of acne-prone skin. Imagine the cycle – girl breaks out, girl panics, girl applies heavy-duty makeup to conceal blemishes and seeks out longwear products as they give more coverage/security. Scrubs face to remove heavy makeup, acne worsens so she applies more makeup…..I see this pattern of panicked skincare behaviour all the time.

So which form of makeup is the worst for clogging your pores?

I think that it’s the occlusive heavy-coverage longwear foundations and compacts that cause the most trouble. These create the illusion of even-toned skin at a distance, but up close, you see a veritable sea of bumps along the jawline, cheeks, temples and forehead. Basically, it’s comedone city.

Also, powder can be problematic. In general I recommend skipping it, especially at the start of someone's acne journey. I think the particulate nature of powder is inherently occlusive.

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Are there any particular products or ingredients that we should be wary of?

I don’t think that you can address the issue of makeup alone here; the whole regime needs to be examined. Bad choices should be eliminated, a proper treatment plan put in place and then a shift in behaviour in terms of makeup application needs to occur. A lot of women who are time-poor look for coverage in their foundation because they are skipping concealer. Bear in mind that even during a bad breakout, at least 80% of the skin's surface area will be clear - this means that the good bits end up coated in a much heavier cosmetic than is necessary. I highly recommend using a light coverage product to make the most of the good bits and using high coverage products just where it’s needed. This takes a bit more time, but it looks SO much better. And in the long-run, its much better for the skin as its less occlusive and easier to remove; thereby avoiding that downward spiral.

Good products to try are Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser, £29.50, as it’s light, non-comedegenic and available in a wide range of shades, and I also love Vichy Dermablend Foundation Stick, £15. Even if the stick isn’t a perfect match (it's not got the biggest range of shades unfortunately), it adds oomph when mixed with other products to boost coverage and you can then custom blend a shade to suit your skin tone.

Are there any particular makeup brands that are kind to the skin?

My favourites are Lancôme, Armani, Nars, Vichy Dermablend and for a specific product range, I like La Roche-Posay Toleriane Teint.

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Are there any particular cleansing techniques that help to unclog skin if you wear heavy makeup?

Not really – unclogging skin takes time and is not best addressed by cleansing. Just ensure that you get a thorough cleanse to remove makeup and excess oil – these should be your cleansing goals. I tend to not recommend using cleansing aids, like brushes, during the acute phase of a breakout. Using a gentle non-foaming wash with a damp muslin cloth (no scrubbing) is fine.

Do you have any favourite non-comedogenic products that you could recommend?

For non-comedogenic cleansers:

Avene Gentle Gel Cleanser, £11.50.

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water (for travel and the gym), £10.50.

For non-comedogenic moisturisers:


La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche, £15, or Effaclar H, £9.50.

Heliocare 360º Fluid Cream SPF50, £31.

Non-comedogenic SPF:


Sam's favourite brand is Elta:

"I generally prefer that primer is skipped as it makes it more likely that people will skip SPF in order to 'make space' for the primer step! A good SPF can prime- my patients love Elta MD sunscreens for that reason. We keep selling out, they're that good."

Non-comedogenic foundations:


Nars base (Sheer Glow Foundation, £31, or Tinted Moisturiser, £29.50)

Vichy Dermablend Foundation Stick, £15.

Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, £40

Lâncome Teint Miracle Foundation, £31.50

Non-comedogenic concealer:


Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, £22.50

Nars Soft Matte Concealer, £23

Non-comedogenic powder:


Vichy Dermablend Covermatte Compact Powder Foundation SPF 25, £20 (if you must use powder, this is one of the only powders that Dr Sam would use herself)

What are your top 3 tips for keeping skin clean and clear?

Avoid skincare or makeup trends that don’t suit blemish-prone skin. This means bypassing aggressive forms of physical exfoliation, many (if not all) facial oils and longwear makeup.

It’s important to treat the underlying blemish problem – don’t just pile makeup on top of skin to hide it. This short-term coping strategy tends to catch up on you eventually and makes things worse. Plus, you then develop the unhealthy habit of being utterly dependent on makeup.

Once you’ve treated the problem, keep following your treatment plan. A simple preventative schedule will usually incorporate retinoids – these derivatives of vitamin A do so many other great things for your skin, it’s crazy to discontinue them just because breakouts and clogged pores have cleared up.

For more tips and tricks from Dr Sam Bunting, watch our video on anti-acne makeup here

Check out Dr Sam's Youtube channel

MORE GLOSS: Read our reviews of the best anti-blemish primers

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Join the conversation

  • Cheryl
  • November 1st 2017

Fab advice! Here's a quick way to check if makeup is comedogenic -> It's not full proof, but it does give you a heads up.

  • Nicole
  • March 15th 2017

As someone with hormonal acne I' m really struggling to find products that conceal without irritating. As I'm running out of my current products and ready to try something new, I read this article with interest. Just a couple of questions:
1) The link to the Vichy Dermablend Foundation stick does not work. I think this because it's been discontinued and replaced with a different formula (which I've read from reviews that it's not as good as the original)... Can Dr Sam comment on the new formula or recommend an alternative?
2) Armani Luminous Silk Powder is recommended here, but the above link Dr Sam says to avoid fine milled powder - can you please clarify as this product description states it's fine particles...?

  • Judy
  • November 24th 2015

Hi Jenga

Apologies for the confusion with the discontinued product - we've removed this now and updated to include Dr Bunting's very own recommendation for an alternative which is Avene's Gentle Gel Cleanser. Hope that helps!

Judy at GTG x

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