Skincare tips & advice
“Non-Comedogenic,” “Fragrance-Free,” and “Allergy-Tested” Explained by the Experts
Choosing the right types of products for your daily skincare routine is key to maintaining healthy-looking skin at every stage of life. However, reading product labels can often become a pretty confusing ordeal—especially when it comes to skincare terms like “fragrance-free,” “non-comedogenic,” and “allergy-tested.” Keep reading to discover what these terms mean on our product labels, explained by CeraVe’s team of experts and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah.
Making informed decisions about your skincare products is the first and most important step to better understanding and caring for your skin. However, with so many types of products to choose from, it can be difficult to know what to look for on the label and what to avoid. Three terms you may notice showing up on your product labels include “non-comedogenic,” “fragrance-free,” and “allergy-tested.” Ahead, we’re breaking down these three terms—with the help of Dr. Sejal Shah—to help you feel more confident when selecting products to support vibrant, healthy-looking skin.
What To Look For in Skincare Products
- Products labeled as “non-comedogenic” are specially formulated to not clog pores. This makes them especially suitable for oily and acne-prone skin types.
- Since fragrance may cause allergic reactions in some people, CeraVe recommends using products that are labeled “fragrance-free.”
- “Allergy-tested” skincare products are formulated without common skin allergens, making them potentially a good fit for sensitive skin or allergy-prone skin types.
- No matter which CeraVe products you choose, all formulas have been developed with dermatologists to be fragrance-free and feature three essential ceramides to help restore your skin’s protective barrier.
“Non-comedogenic indicates that the product is tested to ensure it doesn’t contain ingredients that are likely to clog pores, potentially leading to acne,” according to Dr. Shah. To fully understand why this is, it’s important to first cover some basics on how your pores function. A pore that has become clogged with materials such as oil, dirt, and dead skin cells is known as a comedone. Comedones manifest as either blackheads (“open comedones”) or whiteheads (“closed comedones”) and can eventually result in other types of acne blemishes.
Certain skincare products containing “comedogenic” (or potentially “pore-clogging”) ingredients can contribute to a number of skin concerns. According to research, the most comedogenic cosmetic ingredients that are likely to clog pores include linseed oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, and lanolin.1 For this reason, we recommend opting for non-comedogenic products as a way to help keep your skin looking clear, balanced, and healthy. This is especially true for those prone to breakouts, according to Dr. Shah, who says that, “individuals who are acne-prone should use ‘non-comedogenic’ skincare products and cosmetics.”
Non-comedogenic products tend to be lightweight in texture, oil-free, and formulated without the most common pore-clogging ingredients. All CeraVe acne products—including our Acne Control Gel and Acne Control Cleanser—are non-comedogenic. To discover an entire skincare routine using our non-comedogenic products formulated to help clear acne and prevent new blemishes from forming, check out this easy 3-step acne routine.
According to the FDA—which lists fragrance as a common allergen in cosmetic products—the addition of fragrance may have the potential to cause skin sensitivities or allergic reactions in some people.2 Dr. Shah recommends “fragrance-free” skincare products, explaining that, “this means that the product does not contain any fragrance chemicals or masking scents.” All CeraVe products are formulated to be fragrance-free, from our facial moisturizers to our creams, ointments, body cleansers, and more. “Individuals who have more sensitive skin or are prone to these types of reactions should avoid products with fragrance chemicals,” says Dr. Shah.
When looking for fragrance-free products, it’s also essential to note that “unscented” and “fragrance-free” have two different meanings in skincare.
Whereas fragrance-free formulas do not include any fragrance at all, Dr. Shah explains that, “unscented means that the product no obvious scent; however, it may contain fragrance chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of other ingredients.”
According to Dr. Shah, “products labeled with the terms ‘allergy tested,’ ‘hypoallergenic,’ or ‘safe for sensitive skin’ imply that these products are less likely to cause allergic reactions than products without these labels.” This can makes them desirable among sensitive skin types or anyone who is prone to allergies, because of the fact that they are formulated without common skin allergens.
Allergic reactions to skincare products and other types of cosmetics can cause symptoms including red, itchy skin, contact dermatitis, and irritation. It’s important to note that each individual’s allergy symptoms and triggers are unique, and therefore, no skincare products can rightfully be considered “allergy-proof” or completely “hypoallergenic.”
“As the FDA requires ingredients to be listed on the product label, it is recommended for consumers to use a product’s ingredient list and labeling to compare products and avoid ingredients that have caused issues for them in the past,” says Dr. Shah. If you are sensitive to a particular ingredient, or have any other allergy-related concerns, it’s best to consult with your dermatologist for personalized guidance. They may be able to help locate common allergy triggers or guide you in a preliminary patch test to gauge your skin’s reaction to certain ingredients or products.
Simply put, the product label should always reveal this information to you clearly and accurately. When choosing skincare products for your daily regimen, always read the product label carefully to decide whether or not each product is the right choice for your skin type and needs.
The product label will also tell you which ingredients are included, whether or not the product contains fragrance, and whether it is allergy-tested or non-comedogenic. It’s crucial to always do your research beforehand in order to properly read your skincare labels and accurately follow their instructions when applying.
CeraVe’s skincare products support comfortable-feeling, healthy-looking skin and focus on formulas that are fragrance-free and suitable for a wide range of skin types. With over 70 therapeutic skincare options for all, CeraVe makes it simple for you to choose gentle, non-irritating products that have three essential ceramides to help lock in moisture and restore your skin’s protective barrier.
The ideal skincare routine focuses on the right balance of simple, yet effective ingredients, in addition to factors like non-comedogenic, allergy-tested, and fragrance-free. Look for beneficial ingredients that help restore your skin’s protective barrier, such as ceramides.
Important in any skincare regimen, ceramides play an essential role in the state of your skin’s natural barrier, which helps to keep moisture in and harmful elements out. All CeraVe products contain a unique blend of carefully selected ceramides that are identical to those found naturally in your skin. To learn more about CeraVe ceramides, visit The Ceramides Difference.
Now that you have a better understanding of the basics surrounding the terms “non-comedogenic,” “fragrance-free,” and “allergy-tested,” learn about the key differences between CeraVe lotions, creams, and ointments. If you’re still feeling unsure, talk with your dermatologist to learn which CeraVe products are best for your skincare needs.
- Fulton, James E. “Comedogenicity and Irritancy of Commonly Used Ingredients in Skin Care Products.” Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 40 (November/December 1989): 321-333.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Allergens in Cosmetics.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 12 Nov. 2020.
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