Photo credit: Bennie Lukas Bester
Silicone has become enormously popular in recent years and are constantly marketed in cosmetics, skincare and various personal care products for enhanced product performance and results.
In skincare it can be formulated in different ways to enhance the feel of a product. They can be used to provide a matte, non-sticky, non-oily finish in products such as sunscreens and also make these products sweat-proof and water-proof (since they don’t allow moisture to enter the skin). They help fill in lines and imperfections in the skin, making them excellent for using in primers and liquid foundations. They are a boon for leave-on skincare products.
Silicone used in hair care products are great for giving hair a slippery, smooth and shiny effect. They prevent moisture loss and also seal in the benefits that the hair gets from conditioners. Silicone also prevent hair from becoming oily, since they repel moisture. They fill in the pores in the hair shaft, which means they can make dry, damaged hair look much healthier. They also create shine, combat frizz and detangle, which means combing, brushing and styling are more manageable for most people.
Reasons to avoid silicone
Silicone has not been known to irritate skin, since their concentrations in skincare products are fairly low. They are generally inert and non-reactive. However, silicone buildup is a major issue that can occur when silicone are used for hair care. They have been said to accumulate in hair and do not get washed off easily. This leads to buildup, making the hair heavy and leading to breakage over the long term. There too are secondary issues which from prolonged use of silicone-based will lead to skin (scalp) and hair issues.
- Silicone trap debris in your pores
Silicone-based moisturizers form a film on your skin’s surface. Like plastic wrap, silicone form a barrier on tip of your skin. That barrier can lock in moisture, yes, but it can also trap dirt, sweat, bacteria, sebum, dead skin cells and other debris along with it.
- Silicone can cause acne and congestion
Makeup primers with silicone are a culprit behind congested skin. Prolonged exposure to oil, dead skin and bacteria underneath the semi-occlusive seal of
silicone can lead to increased breakouts. If you are acne-prone, silicone is among the most important ingredients to avoid. Silicone can also be a culprit in under-the-skin clogs (aka congestion). Even if you don’t develop full-blown acne.
- Silicone can make your skin dull and dehydrated
Silicone could also be clogging your pores, but manifesting as dryness and dullness instead of acne. Not only do silicone prevent additional moisture from getting in, but the impacted materials can dehydrate your pores and throw your skin’s natural regulatory processes off-balance. The result? Your skin becomes less able to shed dead layers and hydrate itself.
- Silicone interfere with cell renewal
Most moisturizers are primarily comprised of water, glycerin… and silicone. Our skin renews itself every 28 days, whereby old cells are sloughed off and new cells make their way up to the surface. Silicone inhibit this process by slowing down the production of new cells and keeping dead cells stuck longer. Impaired cell renewal could decelerate the improvement of conditions such as pigmentation, redness, fine lines and scarring!
- Silicone block other ingredients from absorbing
This micellar water is oil-, fragrance-, alcohol- and soap-free, but it’s also high in silicone. If you are layering products (which most of us do!), silicone can prevent them from doing their jobs properly. Let’s say you use a silicone-based micellar water or serum. Any moisturizers or treatments you put on next would have a diminished ability to penetrate, rendering them less effective. Silicone probably impede the absorption of beneficial ingredients within the same formula!
- Silicone are difficult to remove
The most common silicone, dimethicone, is extremely heavy and leaves a coating on the skin unless it is carefully removed. This is often why people see such a difference from nightly double cleansing, because it’s properly removing the silicone from your skin—a single pass with a regular face wash simply isn’t enough! The same goes for silicone hair conditioners. Even if you’ve rinsed with water, they can leave behind residue that triggers back and hairline acne.
- Silicone deliver nothing beneficial to your skin
When you use skincare products heavy in silicone, you’re not actually hydrating or nourishing your skin, no matter what the label may claim—it’s simply a short-term smoothing.
How to spot silicone in beauty products
The vast majority of foundations on the market are high in silicone. The easiest way to identify silicone on product labels is to look for words that end in one of these:
Cones: For example, amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, methicone, trimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone.
Conols: For example, dimethiconol.
Silanes: For example, bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, triethoxycaprylylsilane, triethoxycaprylylsilane crosspolymer.
Siloxanes: For example, cyclopentasiloxane, polydimethylsiloxane, siloxane, Trisiloxane.
There is an increasing trend toward using silicone “substitutes” – alternative film-forming ingredients that you might not immediately recognize. You may wish to look for these names as well: Acrylamides, polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), and (Hydrogenated polyisobutene is a silicone oil)
Where are silicone found
Skincare Moisturizers Serums Face oils Sunscreens Facemasks Face mists Acne treatments Anti-aging treatments
Make-up Foundations BB and CC creams Tinted moisturizers Primers Concealers Powders Blushes Setting sprays
Haircare Hydrating shampoos Conditioners Leave-in conditioners Hair masks Styling creams Hair oils
Why you should go for silicone free shampoo and conditioner ?
If you can’t wash your hair products out easily in the shower and they seem to accumulate, leaving your locks feeling heavy and dull, that may mean the silicone aren’t water-soluble and should be avoided unless you plan to use a clarifying shampoo every few washes. Since non-water-soluble silicone tend to build up, which makes hair look dirty, you may end up washing it more often than necessary. This vicious cycle will damage your strands, creating brittle, dry hair with split ends, flyaways and frizz.
Other people that should try silicone-free hair products are those with fine or curly hair. When it comes to fine hair, silicone can weigh down the strands, causing locks that already lack volume to become flat or limp. Curly hair, on the other hand, tends to be on the dry side and the shape of the strands prevents the ingredient from sliding off, so buildup and damage are more likely.
If you colour treat your hair that waterproof film can reduce the colour uptake along with any conditioning products you apply. Also, heat treating or blow-drying can bake the silicone into the hair-shaft, making it particularly hard to remove.
Usually sulfate based shampoos strip oils from the scalp leaving it prone to itching and flaking and your hair rough, dry and out of control. Reach for your silicone-based conditioners and serums and you know you’ll be starting the whole process over again.
Silicone don’t actively improve the underlying condition of your hair – quite the opposite in fact. This waterproof film prevents genuine conditioning ingredients, moisture and even the hair’s own natural oils from penetrating or lubricating the hair shaft, so in reality the hidden dryness and damage gets worse.
According to Health Canada, some types of silicone (siloxanes) may be harmful to the environment and its biological diversity.
Silicone are cheap and this is the main reason they are everywhere! Beauty and hair care companies care more about the bottom line than actually helping the skin. They rather use cheap, man-made plastics as fillers than formulate with more premium raw materials. Worse, they too are to be found in some of the priciest brands in the market!