Does Lotion Cause Acne? 4 Acne-Causing Ingredients In Your Lotion You Need To Know

4 Acne-Causing Ingredients In Your Lotion You Need To Know

Dry skin is never fun. And if you have missed applying your lotion, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There’s flaking, cracked skin and even bleeding.

And if your skin is acne-prone, these things are only half of the real battle. Using the wrong lotion or ingredient can make your skin break out with large painful zits.

How does lotion cause acne? What’s in your lotion that can make your skin breakout?

Let’s find out.

How Does Lotion Cause Acne?

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Lotion, just like moisturizers, is important in any skincare routine. It helps keep your skin soft, smooth and hydrated.

Unfortunately, however, not every lotion is great. Some of them contain ingredients that are notorious for causing acne.

1. Lanolin

Lanolin is a fatty substance fondly referred to as wool grease. It’s generally secreted by the sebaceous glands of animals that have wools.

Although it comes from non-human sources, lanolin is chemically similar to our own sebum. It can hold up to 400 times its weight in water.

Despite its moisturizing and hydrating properties, you should still be careful about using lotions with lanolin. Its synthetic version, specifically acetylated lanolin, is highly comedogenic and can cause acne, blackheads and whiteheads.

2. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is probably one of the most common ingredients you can find in lotions. It’s a type of oil that’s made from petroleum.

It helps retain moisture in your skin by reducing water loss.

Although helpful in certain skin issues, similar to synthetic lanolin, mineral oil is believed to be comedogenic, too. It can also contain toxins and carcinogenic substances, unless the lotion you’re using has cosmetic grade mineral oil.

3. Parabens

Parabens refer to the preservatives used to control the growth of bacteria in your lotion.

Although you apply parabens topically on your skin through your lotion, studies have shown that they can be absorbed into your body. Once inside, these preservatives can alter your hormone levels, particularly estrogen.

When your estrogen levels fluctuate, it leads to an increased oil production. Too much oil or sebum can eventually clog your pores and cause acne.

4. Fragrance

Fragrance can trigger breakouts if you have sensitive skin. It’s included in most lotions so it’s really important that you check labels.

Some lotions can mask fragrances by using “parfum” and “scent” in the ingredient list. Other manufacturers can even market their products as “fragrance-free” because they don’t have any discernible scent.

The truth, however, is that although you can’t smell any strong perfume in these lotions, the fragrances used were just subtle enough to conceal the scent of chemicals and synthetic ingredients.

So, How Do You Choose The Right Lotion?

Lotion isn’t that bad for your skin. In fact, with the right formulation, ingredients and consistency, it can help you achieve healthier skin.

Go Oil-Free

One of the most common reasons for acne is excessive oil. And if you already have oily skin, you should be looking out for lotions that are oil-free.

These lotions are typically lightweight and non-greasy which can help your skin breathe better. As for formulation, choose gel-based lotions.

Look for Non-comedogenic Lotions

Non-comedogenic lotions simply mean that they won’t clog your pores. Most of the time, lotions that have this property have the word “Non-comedogenic” on their labels.

Although it’s a good hint on which product you should pick, I suggest you don’t believe in claims right away. There are manufacturers that can intentionally deceive people into buying their products.

To stay on the safe side, I strongly recommend that you read every little detail in any skincare product you buy. It can also help if you start familiarizing yourself with the ingredients that can cause clogged pores.

Some of the comedogenic products you should avoid include:

  • Acetylated Lanolin
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Colloidal Sulfur
  • Ethylhexyl Palmitate
  • Hexadecyl Alcohol
  • Isostearyl Alcohol

Choose Acne Fighting Ingredients Carefully

The best way to make sure your lotion doesn’t cause acne is to use one with acne-fighting benefits. Look for lotions with ingredients such as willow bark and salicylic acid.

When using these lotions, you should avoid applying excessively. Although they can help you tame down your breakouts, you need to keep in mind that they still have strong ingredients.

And too much of these ingredients could lead to drying and irritation.

Aside from considering the amount you put on your skin, you should also do a sensitivity test first, particularly if it’s your first time using this type of product. When testing, make sure to do it on an area that’s not highly visible, such as the sides of your neck and your inner arm.


There are many factors that can cause acne and two of them are dry skin and oily skin.

A good lotion can help address these issues but with the wrong ingredients, your lotion can also be the main reason why your skin breaks out. To stay on the safe side, make it a habit to read labels and be more familiar with the products you apply to your skin.

Does lotion cause acne

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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