Are Online Pore-Clogging Ingredient Checkers Legit?

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Many of us are guilty of zooming in on our pores or trying to mask them with makeup to execute a smoother canvas. Unassumingly, “how to get rid of pores naturally” has over 144 million views on TikTok. But the truth is, you can’t get rid of pores. Pores, which are micro openings in the skin, play a vital function in helping our skin release sebum, the body’s natural oil, to leave it adequately moisturized. According to dermatologist Karan Lal, the average adult has around 20,000 pores on their face, and unfortunately, their sizes are genetically determined.

Although necessary for the skin, if pores get clogged, it can quickly lead to acne. Therefore, understanding what ingredients are in your skin-care products could be the difference between clear skin and clogged pores that lead to blemishes, breakouts, and whiteheads. Getting clear on what ingredients you should avoid is good practice. Sure, you can see a dermatologist to get their professional expertise, but if you don’t have access to a board-certified expert, you might find yourself checking pore-clogging ingredient tools online.

A pore-clogging ingredients checker is an online database established to assess a product’s acne-causing attributes to help you decipher what you should and shouldn’t be using. But how do you know if they are legit? Which are the best ones to use? Should you be checking each product? To find out, we sat down with three dermatologists to hear the pros and cons of these pore-clogging checker websites.

Experts Featured in This Article

Karan Lal, DO, MS, FAAD, is a double-board certified adult and pediatric dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist.

Naana Boakye Large, MD, MPH, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Bergen Dermatology.

Harold Lancer, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Lancer Skincare.

How Do Online Pore-Clogging Ingredient Checkers Work?

Certain ingredients can sneak into your pores and mix with your natural oil – leading to congestion and zits. Online pore-clogging ingredient checkers are there to cross-reference the ingredients in your products with a comprehensive list of known pore-clogging, also known as comedogenic, ingredients. Typically, you will enter in all the ingredients of the product and the database will show which ones are safe and which to avoid.

“When looking for a reliable pore-clogging ingredient checker, you’ll want to look for tools that are transparent about where they’re sourcing the data from, such as scientific studies, expert analysis, and other databases,” dermatologist Naana Boakye Large tells PS. “Ingredient tools can help identify potential allergens, irritants, or other harmful ingredients. It also can help you be more educated about ingredients and formulations.”

Popular among skin-care obsessives, the Pavitt Checker determines ingredients based on a scale of zero to five – zero being completely non-comedogenic (non-clogging) and five being severely comedogenic. The checker acknowledges it isn’t a master list of pore-clogging ingredients, but that it’s a starting rate that can prove helpful.

Which Pore-Clogging Ingredient Checkers Do Experts Recommend?

All the experts we spoke to recommend working with a dermatologist over any online tool, but they agree the checkers can be used as a good baseline to start. “Dermatologists should be used to help clarify what ingredients are considered comedogenic or not,” says dermatologist and brand founder Harold Lancer, who recommends INCIDecoder. According to the expert, INCIDecoder provides a large database where you can input the name of an ingredient and receive information on what it does, other names that it may be known by, its irritancy potential, and a comedogenic score. Also included is a detailed explanation of the benefits of the ingredient, what products that ingredient is found in so the consumer can either purchase it or stay away from it, and identify if their current product may contain it. “Overall it is a great consumer-facing resource and it’s connected to trustworthy published articles and information,” Dr. Lancer says.

Although Dr. Lal believes playing cosmetic chemist at home can often lead to irritation and breakouts, he recommends INCIbeauty tracker as it is independent of brand funding and provides in-depth analysis of each ingredient you input. And when in doubt, consult with a board-certified dermatologist or aesthetican if you’re concerned about the ingredients in your products.

Natasha Marsh is a freelance writer who writes about fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Prior to freelancing, she held styling staff positions at The Wall Street Journal, Burberry, Cosmopolitan Magazine, British GQ, and Harpers Bazaar.

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