Ingredients that Cause Acne

Acne is one of the most common and most frustrating skin conditions to deal with. Although some Baumann Skin Types are predisposed to breakouts, just about any skin type will deal with this issue at some point in their lives. While there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription treatments available that can help to get acne under control, you could be missing one vital piece of the puzzle: eliminating the products and ingredients that aggravate acne. Whether you’re having trouble keeping blemishes at bay, or you simply want to avoid new flare-ups, be sure to steer clear of these five ingredients in your skin care.

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a confusing ingredient because most forms of it cause acne.  However, coconut oil contains lauric acid, an ingredient known to kill acne causing bacteria called P. acnes. For this reason you will see some forms of coconut in products that are not comedogenic such as the form found in VMV Hypoallergenics.  MY advice to simplify it is to avoid coconut oil containing products in your face and hair products unless they are made by VMV Hypoallergenics.

2. SD or Denatured Alcohol

Unlike oil-based products, SD and denatured alcohol promote skin dryness, which can leave your skin feeling flaky or tight. Acne-prone skin types need to be careful of drying out their skin too much, because this alters the skin’s natural desquamation process. (Desquamation is the process by which skin cells flake off of the top layer of the skin). This causes dead skin cells to heap up on the skin’s surface and in the hair follicle leading to roughness and clogged pores.  Once the pores are clogged, the acne bacteria moves in and causes the papules and pustules associated with acne.

3. Emollients

Ingredients that are added to hair and skin care products to give a sheen or a smooth look can clog pores and lead to acne.  This is why you always should wash your face after washing out your hair conditioner.  When I have a patient with acne on their forehead along their hairline, I always check the ingredients of their leave-in hair grooming products.  I usually find that their hair or skin care products contain one of the following: Isopropyl Myristate, Isocetyl Stearate, Isodecyl Oleate, Isopropyl Isosterate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isostearyl Isostearate, or Isostearyl Neopentanoate. For my acne-prone patients, I recommend products from the hair care brand BrioGeo that do not contain these acne causing ingredients.

4. Facial Makeup with Red Dyes

Blushes and facial powers with the D&C Red Dyes (especially dye numbers 3,4,6,7,9,17,19,21,21,27,30,33,36,and 40), have been associated with a form of acne known as acne cosmetica.  Lipsticks and lip glosses can have these too and are associated with milia and comedones that occur along the lip line.  If you get acne, remember that your makeup can be the culprit.  Cream blushes and foundations are more likely to cause acne than powders.

5. Silicones including Dimethicone

Silicone forms a smooth film over the surface of the skin.  It is used to help prevent streaking of makeup in oily skin types and to increase the spreadability of products.  This coating may look good on the skin but it holds sweat and sebum on the skin’s surface which can lead to clogged pores.  The best bet is to wash your face with a foaming cleanser at night to completely remove the silicones from your skin before you go to bed.  Many sunscreens contain silicones.

6. Polyethylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol, also known as PEG, is put in facial products to stabilize them, add emolliency and to help other ingredients penetrate.  The PEG found is skincare products is a thick sticky substance that can clog pores. Ingredients composed of PEG to be avoided include PEG 100 Distearate, PEG 150 Distearate, PEG 100 Stearate, PEG 16 Lanolin, PEG 20 Stearate, PEG 20 Stearate, PEG 200 Dilaurate, and PEG 8 Stearate.

7. Vitamins

Yes Vitamins.  I know it is shocking! There are 2 vitamins that when taken by mouth or given IV tend to cause an acne flare.  I have not seen them cause acne when applied in a topical formulation.  These Vitamins are B6 and B12. It is actually a very common cause of acne. I had two patents last week taking a Herbalife supplement with Vitamin B12 that had a sudden outbreak of acne. These vitamins are often in “Detox” formulations so keep that in mind if you are taking those.

The Bottom Line

Acne is an 8 week cycle so what you do today will affect your skin’s health and appearance for weeks. If acne is a constant skin concern, be sure to talk to your dermatologist. They can recommend the most effective and safest products for your skin type to help keep your complexion clear and healthy.

If you’re unsure of which Baumann Skin Type you have, visit who can accurately diagnose yours and recommend the ideal skincare products that will put you on the path to healthy skin.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

January 10, 2017 Acne, Skincare