Why do some oil-free lotions seem to make my acne worse?

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For one thing, "oil-free" doesn't necessarily mean free of oil. Many products (including powders) need some oil to achieve the right consistency. Companies distinguish "consumer oils" (such sunflower, or corn oil) from lighter "industry oils" or "lipids" (such as glyceryl stearate and stearic acid). "Oil-free" products don't contain consumer oils, which is why they feel less greasy, but they may have lipids, says Ringer Maas, a chemist at Biersdorf, maker of Nivea.

Products may also use slick substitutes, such as silicone and waxes, that can still plug pores. If your complexion is oily or acne-prone, look for noncomedogenic lotions and gels (translation: nonclogging). These may have oils, lipids, or silicone, but in a formula less likely to bother problem skin.

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Healthy Looks by Karmen Butterer and Connie Chronis

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