"Oil Free" Skincare Products

advertising of oil free skincare products confuses me.  what does it mean?

Doctor Answers 3

There are many terms used in marketing skin care...

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There are many terms used in marketing skin care products. The most commonly used are “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic.” In fact, these terms are not regulatory and no federally regulated test dictates their use.

These terms date back to a time when comedogenicity (clogging of pores) was determined by the response to applying product to the ears of rabbits. There was a grading system based on the clogging response to the product. Fortunately, this type of testing is no longer done.

“Oil-free” dates back to a time when mineral oil was industrial grade and extremely thick, impure and clogging. This has resulted in the demonization of mineral oil; you hear this repeated again and again even by dermatologists. Today, if mineral oil is used in cosmetic formulations, it is of a fine cosmetic grade that is completely different than the mineral oil originally responsible for the term.

Skin care marketing: The word "oil-free" explained

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Oil free skin care means that the products do not contain any oil based ingredients, therefore they will not clog your pores and lead to breakouts. Oil free usually refers to water based products. They are hydrating rather than moisturizing. You will still receive the benefits of hydration but without any greasy feeling to your skin (considering if your skin is oily/acne prone). It's important for acne/oily skin types to use oil free skin care to avoid breaking out and clogging of pores.

Oil-free skin care products mean products that have been scientifically shown to not cause acne

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If you skin is prone to acne-blackheads, red bumps, clogged pores, I recommend products labelled oil-free. Another term to look for is non-comedogenic. Cosmetic companies who use this labelling must submit tests on their products. One of the most common tests is the rabbit ear, which can get blackheads like humans due the the presence of similar glands. Products are tested on the rabbit ear with multiple daily or twice daily applications. If the rabbit ear doesn't form blackheads, human skin would not be predicted to get acne from the product.

Susan Goodlerner, MD
Torrance Dermatologist

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These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.