Lately, silicone has gotten a pretty bad wrap.
This comes despite a proven track record of health benefits, including helping wounds heal faster thanks to their ability to form a breathable barrier that keeps microbes out while letting air and moisture in. These characteristics make it invaluable in preventing post-operative scarring, with products like Siligen 100% Pure Silicone Gel & Silicone Gel + SPF 30 relying on this chemically stable ingredient at the heart of their formulation.
They’re also the most common culprit behind the smooth, velvety, easy-to-manage texture of your favorite skincare products like moisturizers, liquid foundations, and lipstick.
Myth or Truth #1: Silicone is a filler ingredient.
Silicone serves many purposes in our favorite beauty products, the least of which is making it more pleasant to apply. More importantly, though, they’re one of the most crucial ingredients in cosmetics that temporarily turn back the clock, like primers, because of their ability to mask large pores, fine lines, and scarring.
They’re also one of the most effective ways to keep your skin hydrated without relying on heavy oils, which can sink into the pores, causing breakouts. Instead, they sit right on the surface, keeping existing hydration from escaping the moisture barrier.
Myth or Truth #2: No hair type benefits from silicone.
For those with dry, curly, or frizzy hair, silicone’s ability to seal the hair cuticle can do wonders for keeping flyaways under control.
When our hair dries out, the keratin “scales” that coat the shaft lift, causing the dreaded halo of wild wisps and split ends. Silicone puts a polymer coating down that keeps wayward breakage under control while keeping existing moisture trapped inside the hair.
However, that also means that they keep atmospheric moisture from getting in and, with enough buildup, can negate all the benefits of other products that need to penetrate your locks. Just be sure to use hydrating products and deep conditioning treatments before you apply silicone-based hair care products, like heat sealants.
Myth or Truth #3: Over time, cosmetics can cause silicone to build up in your skin, blocking the pores and causing significant breakouts.
Silicone molecules are far too large to enter through the pores in your skin or hair; even if they did, they are chemically inert. That means they don’t react with our body’s natural chemicals and cause more significant issues.
That also means that silicone allergies are rare (but not impossible), as they cannot enter the body and alert the immune system that there’s an invader in its midst. They’re very well-tolerated by those with sensitive skin.
You still have to cleanse your skin properly to ensure you’re not putting layer after layer of silicone on your pores. Over time, the barrier can grow too thick to offer its naturally beneficial permeability.
Silicone: The Misunderstood Hero of Our Beauty Routines
So, what’s with all the negative gossip around this FDA-approved additive?
Unfortunately, some forms of silicone can build up on the hair strands, making them look limp and greasy. This accumulation can be particularly detrimental to curly hair, weighing down the ringlets and making them temporarily lose their shape.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to toss out your favorite shampoo and conditioner, though! The key is being selective about the silicones you welcome into your beauty routine, avoiding non-soluble varieties that require deep cleansing to remove, as detox products often contain oil-stripping sulfates, a topic we’ll look into next week.
Silicone additives in skin and hair care products come in two varieties: water-soluble, which means they can be easily washed away, and non-water soluble. You can check the ingredient list on the back of the bottle for a better idea of what your favorite shampoo or conditioner includes, but you’ll have to be familiar with the scientific names.
Water-soluble silicones create a more porous coating that allows water to penetrate through the surface, making removal much more manageable than non-soluble types. Before you take the plunge on a new product, check for these beneficial silicone additives:
- Lauryl methicone copolyol
- Dimethicone Copolyol
- PEG-8 dimethicone
- PEG-12 dimethicone
- Stearoxy dimethicone
- Behenoxy dimethicone