Non-comedogenic Skin Cleanser Basics

Pros and Cons of Non-comedogenic Cleansers

With a term like "non-comedogenic cleanser," you might imagine something genetically engineered to be the perfect product for everyone. Unfortunately, though, that's not the case. As do other skin care products, non-comedogenic cleansers have their benefits and disadvantages.

Benzoyl peroxide, one of the most commonly used ingredients, can do wonders for mild acne if used properly. As a bacteria-destroyer, it can be effective. However, you'll have to use it for a few weeks before you can see results, and, if you don't use it continuously, the acne will come back. One negative side effect is that it will dry skin out, so be sure to use a moisturizer with it [source: WebMD]. Other than dryness, some more serious side effects include burning, itching, rash or swelling. Some people can even develop blisters [source: MedlinePlus]. If you experience any of these results, you should stop using the product and call your doctor.


Similarly, salicylic acid must also be used continuously for it to work, otherwise your pores will clog up again, and the acne breakouts will return [source: WebMD]. This acid ingredient can cause minor stinging and irritation, but if it is used in an over-the-counter product, the strength should be low enough to work without major side effects [source: Mayo Clinic].

Sulfur has few to no side effects. Some may consider the smell of sulfur a major negative, but when included in cleansers, it is usually combined with other ingredients to mask its unpleasant odor [source: WebMD]. Because it's often used with other products, it might cause some peeling.

Everybody's skin reacts differently to chemicals, acids and medications. If a cleanser -- even one considered to be safe -- is causing you breakouts, stop using it.

Whether you're planning for a big day or just managing your skin's health, non-comedogenic cleansers may help keep your skin free of acne. To read even more about these cleansers, visit the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "What is Acne?" Acne Net. (Accessed 8/22/09)
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. "Acne in Teens: Ways To Control It." August 2007. (Accessed 8/22/09)
  • Face & Skin Clinics. "Non-Comedogenic Cosmetics." (Accessed 9/1/09)
  • Kern, Daniel W. "How to Wash Your Face." (Accessed 9/1/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Acne." (Accessed 8/22/09) April 30, 2008.
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dandruff." Nov. 22, 2008. (Accessed 9/16/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Over-the-Counter Acne Products: What Works and Why." April 18, 2008. (Accessed 8/23/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Stress: Win control over your life." Sept. 12, 2008. (Accessed 9/16/09)
  • MedlinePlus. "Benzoyl Peroxide." Sept. 1, 2008. (Accessed 8/22/099)
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "Acne." January 2006. (Accessed 8/22/09)
  • Nordqvist, Christian. "What is Dandruff? What Causes Dandruff?" Medical News Today. June 6, 2009. (Accessed 8/23/09)
  • WebMD. "Mineral Oil Cleared of Pimple Rap." WebMD Health News. May 27, 2005. (Accessed 9/16/09)
  • WebMD. "Understanding Acne -- Treatment." Nov. 10, 2008. (Accessed 8/22/09)