siliconeHave you noticed that more and more products on the market contain an interesting ingredient called dimethicone (aka silicone). Shampoos and conditioners are loaded with it. Our facial creams and eye creams list it as one of the first ingredients. But what is so special about this important ingredient?

What is Silicone?

According to Wikipedia, Silicones are inert, synthetic compounds with a variety of forms and uses. Typically heat-resistant and rubber-like, they are used in sealants, adhesives, lubricants, medical applications (e.g., breast implants), cookware, and insulation. They normally end in -cone, -conol or -xane, and are abundantly found in hair shampoos, hair conditioners, and even in sunscreens.

Silicone Properties

Typically not soluble in water, there are a few silicones that are soluble in water if any silicone in the ingredient list has PPG or PEG in front of it, then it is soluble in water. The rest of them, on the other hand, are insoluble in water. With regular usage, they build up on the hair and scalp, leading to dull, lifeless and tired hair. They create a layer on your hair that does not allow any other product you use on it to actually work. Some common silicones of this kind are: dimethicone, dimethiconol, cetyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, and stearyl dimethicone.

Then there are those silicones that do not lead to much build-up, but are still not water soluble:amodimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone, cyclomethicone and cyclopentasiloxane, stearoxy dimethicone, etc. The only silicones I am comfortable with, anything with PPG or PEG in front of it and lauryl methicone copolyol, dimethicone copolyol.

Silicone and Hair

Silicones by themselves do not harm hair. In fact, they make hair easier to comb, making it shinier and smoother all the while. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, it is not. Over time, silicones build up on the hair shaft and seal out moisture, leading to hair that is non-receptive to any products you may use later.

One very interesting thing is that silicone takes different time to build up on different people’s hair. For some people, they have to use a silicone hair product for a few months before they can see the effects of any build-up. For others, just 2-3 washes leads to hair being suffocated with the silicone.

In order to remove silicone from the hair (to prevent any build-up from forming), we need to use cleansers that are detergents containing harsh sulphates like Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate, Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate. Sulphates, in turn, are harsh on hair and very drying this leads us to use more silicones, which need more sulphates, and so on. As you can see, it is a very vicious cycle. Thus, most shampoos and conditioners are interdependent! Try to stay away from products containing silicones or if you are already addicted use water soluble ones so the hair damage in minimal.