Non-comedogenic Skin Cleanser Basics

Chemistry of Non-comedogenic Skin Cleansers

A scientific-sounding name associated with an everyday item doesn't help you much in selecting a product unless you understand the chemistry behind it.

There are many different non-comedogenic cleansers available, and they contain various ingredients, usually benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur. Some products include certain ingredients specifically to treat acne, and others are formulated so that they simply should not clog pores or aggravate pimples that are already there.


Many cleansers use benzoyl peroxide because it can kill acne-causing bacteria and does not produce additional oil in your skin. It can come in a liquid, bar, lotion, cream or gel and should be used once or twice daily [sources: MedlinePlus, WebMD].

For more information about skin cleansers, read Skin Cleansers: Fast Facts.

Unlike benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid doesn't kill bacteria, but it does help unclog pores without creating more oil. It dissolves excess oil in the hair follicle and cuts down on skin cells shedding and clogging pores [source: WebMD].

Sulfur, which is often paired with resorcinol, washes away excess oil and dead skin cells. It's even believed to break down whiteheads and blackheads [source: Mayo Clinic].

Some natural ingredients, such as mineral oil, are also considered to be non-comedogenic because they are gentle enough to be harmless to acne-prone skin [source: WebMD].

Non-comedogenic cleansers are not for everyone, though. Read on to find out whether they can help you.