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What Ingredients You Shouldn’t Use for Acne Skin Types

ingredients to avoid for acne prone skin

If the mere thought of scanning a skin care label's ingredient list makes you nauseated with a side of head spins, you're not alone. And sometimes, just like our favorite boxed mac and cheese, even if we know there are likely sketchy ingredients lurking within, we do our best to feign ignorance. Because A) the thought of giving up Kraft is overwhelming and B) the idea of finding a new skincare regimen feels like the ask of a lifetime.

Especially for the acne-prone skin type. 

Over the years, we've picked up bits of wisdom here and there. The usual suspects we know to avoid: No alcohols, comedogenic oils, or harsh ingredients. But when the time comes to decipher an ingredient list as long as the product packaging itself, all previous standards are quickly chucked out the window and we usually end up with something our friend likes, something that smells good, or something that simply looks like it will work (or has a buzzy brand name behind it).

However, sorry to burst your bubble but those are a few of the absolute worst things you can do when choosing products to beat your breakouts.

Below, we're laying out the answer to the #1 burning question you’re here for:

What are the skin care ingredients that cause acne?

(Of course, these are guidelines—not hard and fast rules—and those with serious skin conditions should consult a dermatologist.) Read on to learn the ingredients you’ll want to avoid if you have acne-prone skin and what ingredients get the green light!

1. Synthetic Perfumes

The truth about skin care products is that the words "fragrance," "perfume," or "parfum," on an ingredient list can often mean a mix of dozens of chemicals, any of which can be irritating to acne-prone skin. Synthetic fragrances are a major source of skin allergies. This can cause inflammation and irritation, which makes treating acne even more difficult than it already is. If you're acne-prone, be wary of things like essential oils (more on that in #2) and natural fragrance in addition to synthetic perfumes.

2. Essential Oils

Many of the 'natural' skin care lines will load up products with massive amounts of essential oils, and many of these can be irritating to already inflamed skin. But what about applying essential oils to the skin while they're in their natural form? What you should know is essential oils are extremely concentrated compounds that can be irritating if applied directly to the skin (which is why it's recommended to dilute them in a carrier oil before application). You need to pick your carrier oil carefully as some can block the pores, therefore, those with acne-prone skin should avoid heavier oils that contain high levels of saturated fats. Unsaturated fats like omega 3 and 6's are less likely to cause breakouts.

Jojoba oil, hazelnut oil, hemp oil, or even your unscented body lotion work as effective carrier oils.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

SLS, while being effective at creating that commercial-worthy lather from your cleanser, can be cause for irritation in those with sensitive skin. SLS is a surfactant (the chemical responsible for removing dirt and oil from the skin), and it's known to cause significant irritation and inflammation. Take note that this can cause skin barrier disruption and make active breakouts worse. Thankfully, there are plenty of sulfate-free cleansers available that perform just as well than sulfate-ridden ones.

4. Isopropyl Myristate and Isopropyl Palmitate

Yeah, try saying those words five times fast. Don’t worry, let’s define these in easier terms:

Isopropyl myristate is a penetration enhancer that allows for increased absorption of active ingredients into the skin. Isoprpopyl palmitate is a highly comedogenic emollient ingredient used in some moisturizers. While these ingredients won't affect already inflamed acne, they can lead to clogged pores and non-inflamed closed comedones, otherwise known as "clogged bumps."

5. SD Alcohol 40, Denatured Alcohol, Ethanol, and Isopropyl Alcohol 

When used in toners and exfoliating products—which are used over the entire face—these specific forms of alcohol become drying and irritating to the overall health of the skin. These are drying alcohols that remove excess oil from the skin. They are potentially irritating, especially if you have skin that is on the dryer side.

Exception: When used in an acne spot treatment on an infected blemish, the drying benefits they give can aid in the healing of a blemish to help it go away faster—assuming it’s used at the appropriate time.

6. Sodium Chloride

Otherwise known as sea salt or salt maris, sodium chloride is the technical term for salt. It’s commonly used in cleansers for its exfoliating benefits and its ability to thicken formulations to achieve a desired texture. And while we can appreciate the decadence of a rich cream, we're not willing to use it at the expense of getting breakouts.

Be wary of foundations containing sodium chloride, as they can cause breakouts along the chin and mouth area.

7. Cocoa Butter

Though it's a rich emollient ingredient that offers great hydration, cocoa butter—like coconut oil—is an extremely comedogenic ingredient that can clog pores and contribute to breakouts. Instead, it's better suited for those with dry skin.

8. Algae Extract

Algae extract is a double-edged sword. While it's classified as an anti-inflammatory and can regulate oil production, it's also comedogenic. Algae extracts are especially sneaky because there are so many different species of them. For example, they could be listed as Carrageenan, laminaria digitata, brown seaweed, or plankton extract.

What to Use on Acne Prone Skin

Now that you know the ingredients to avoid for acne skin, let’s dive into what you should use to get that clear complexion you’re dying for. While most natural skin care lines are full of essential oils, Wild Naturals was already one step ahead on that. Our skin care lines are formulated for every skin type, but with particular attention on helping those with sensitive or problematic skin, like acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.

For those reasons, we avoided essential oils and jam-packed our face wash, face cream, and body lotion with natural ingredients like manuka honey, aloe vera, cehami flower extract and carrot seed oil. No pore clogging issues here!

Check out our online store to learn more about every ingredient (and the ones we knew to avoid) in our natural skin care products today!