If you’re keen on reading up on every ingredient in your skin and hair care products, you’re several steps ahead of most consumers. And that’s a great place to be considering so many skin and hair care products pack harmful and unnecessary ingredients into their products, and pack it up in a pretty bottle to trick consumers into buying their products. So being well-versed in ingredients is the right step to take. Unfortunately, the internet is full of lots of conflicting information on what’s good for you and what’s not, which is confusing to say the least.
One ingredient that’s often contested is silicone. Do a quick internet search for “is silicone bad for your skin” and you’ll be met with loads of differing information — a lot of it demonizing silicone as a detriment to your skin and hair. But if you dig deep, there’s not much reason to believe that silicone is as harmful as it is made out to be.
What are silicones?
Silicones are polymers, materials made of long repeated chains of molecules; think plastics, resins, and other synthetic materials. Silicone is found naturally in sand and quartz, but is often built upon by chemists to create a more synthetic ingredient. Its structure is flexible, water resistant, heat resistant, and UV resistant making it a diverse material that’s used in many different fields like automobiles, medicine and dentistry, technology, cookware amongst many others.
Even if you’re more likely to buy the newest beauty product on the market than the newest iPhone, then you probably still come into contact with silicone, so let’s take a look at what exactly silicone is doing in your moisturizers and serums.
Silicone in skin care
Silicone is found in many skin care products -- commonly in the form of Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Amodimethicone, or any other ingredient ending in “cone,” and it can serve multiple purposes.
Silicones are commonly used as occlusive ingredients, which means they produce a barrier layer between your skin and the air according to Harvard Medical School. Simply put, this barrier works to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out by shielding the skin from outside stressors like pollution, and helping to prevent loss of moisture.
They also provide the slippery texture that helps products glide on easily for that pleasant, silky feeling and they temporarily mask the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making the skin appear smoother and plumper.
Medically, silicone is used to reduce scarring and heal and protect wounds, so silicones can also be found in products intended to lighten the appearance of scars.
Silicone in hair care
Like in skin care, silicone forms a barrier around the hair follicle. In the case of hair, this barrier keeps hair's inner hydration in, but keeps humidity and moisture from the air out which results in limited frizz, and an overall smooth, slick appearance. This extra layer is also effective for providing heat protection from styling tools.
Are silicones good or bad for your hair and skin?
So if silicones provide all of these benefits for your skin and hair’s health and appearance, why are some people afraid to add products containing silicone ingredients to their shelves?
There’s a few reasons people shy away from silicones, but you can work your way around many of them. Some say that because silicones repel water, they won’t rinse off and will stay on the skin, clog pores, and trap in dirt and toxins. This accusation is not something unique to silicones, as it is a concern for many other emollient ingredients in skin care, though none of them seem to have as much of a stigma as silicon.
According to several studies and dermatologists, the molecular structure of silicone lets your skin breath because they are permeable by air and water. So even though it sits atop your skin’s surface, your pores can still breathe. That being said, some silicone ingredients like siloxane, which has a smaller molecular structure, can build up and clog pores if not thoroughly cleansed from the skin, but as aforementioned, this is not unique to silicones, and the simple solution is using an oil-based cleanser to rid any remnants of silicone, and clean out dirt and oil.
Another argument is that silicone is just a filler ingredient to temporarily give a smoother finish, but it doesn’t actually benefit your skin. However, the barrier created by silicone is optimal for holding in moisture and hydrated skin is healthy skin so any step (even temporary ones) to lock in moisture can help. Especially if it’s side by side with other hydrating ingredients like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
Cleure’s Oil Free Facial Lotion is formulated with cyclomethicone, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, and vitamin E, making it a winning combination for plump, hydrated skin.
With hair care the most common complaint is that they can weigh down thin, fine hair. So, yes, it is optimal for thick, curly hair, but if used sparingly and not too often (try only washing and conditioning your hair 2-3 times a week if using a conditioner that contains a silicone and use the the teeniest amount of silicone based serums), thin hair can still reap the silky smooth silicone benefits.
If you're worried about silicone building up in your hair, use a clarifying shampoo every few washes to bring your hair back to its original state.
If you boil it down to safety and effectiveness, silicone is rated generally safe by both EWG and SkinSafe, and does not cause any damage to the hair or skin. So unless you have a silicone allergy there’s no need to villainize silicone and not allow yourself the smoothing, barrier-building benefits.
The silicone verdict
Does silicone clog pores? Is silicone toxic? Is silicone just a filler ingredient? Does silicone damage hair? All these silicone myths have probably crept into your thoughts if you value your beauty routine. Hopefully this helped clear up some of your queries, and showed that while there are some valid concerns surrounding the buildup of silicone, the benefits outweigh that slight con which is avoidable with proper care.
If you want to know even more about silicones, check out some of the information below for more information on silicones benefits: