Silicones in hair products are one of the main topics in hair care discussions. While some claim such products are harmful, others believe they’re the worst thing you can apply on your hair, and so on. Given the proportions of these claims and discussions, many companies have decided to start avoiding them as much as possible in their products. Instead, they’re trying hard to create natural hair products made of organic ingredients which most critics see as a step in the right direction.
To go back to the beginning, it is important to understand the actual truth about silicones and explain their real purpose in hair care. It’s the only way to understand whether or not they’re bad for your hair. Without further ado, let’s start!
Is silicone bad for your hair?
Is silicone bad for your hair, that’s the question. However, to answer it properly, we first have to see what silicone really is. Here’s a crash course in silicones.
What are silicones?
Silicones are synthesized in factories, and they’re made by combining silicon (an element found in sand) with oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and sometimes other materials. They are created for a variety of industries, including household, mechanical, and personal care.
You can find silicones in various cosmetic products – from body and face care products to all kinds of hair products. In hair products, there are several types of silicones:
- non-soluble silicones
- slightly soluble silicones
- water-soluble silicones
Their name says it all. They can’t be dissolved in water and only sulfate shampoos can wash them away. Non-soluble silicones are Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Dimethicone, Cetearyl Methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone.
Slightly soluble silicones
Slightly soluble silicones easily evaporate from hair with the rest of the shampoo. This means they don’t build up on the scalp and hair. Gentle sulfate-free shampoos are enough to wash them away. However, you shouldn’t use them if you’re on a co-wash regime. Slightly soluble silicone is any silicone with PEG, Dimethicone Copolyol, Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane.
Water-soluble silicones are the easiest to memorize. As their name indicates, they can be dissolved in water. Also, they’re great to use even when you’re on a co-wash method.
Is amodimethicone water soluble?
Is amodimethicone water-soluble or not is an ongoing debate you can read on blogs or forums. The truth is, in essence, amodimethicone is a water-soluble silicone only when combined with trideceth-12 and cetrimonium chloride in a bottle. On its own, it is non-soluble silicone.
The myth about silicones
In the world of cosmetics, especially natural cosmetics, there’s a legend about silicones. According to this legend, silicones create a layer on the hair that can’t be washed away. Since you can’t get rid of that layer, hair begins to rot on the inside, while it remains seemingly beautiful on the outside.
Although the leged is popular, we should get some things straight. If silicone is non-soluble, it doesn’t mean it remains on the hair forever. All it takes for you to remove it completely is — guess what — your regular shampoo!
All the fuss about silicones in the hair cosmetics world isn’t just about the silicones themselves. In fact, it’s about the agents used to wash off the silicones. They are washed off with sulfates. Sulfates are detergents found at the very beginning of the shampoo ingredients list such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Ammonia Laureth Sulphate (ALS), etc.
What you should know about sulfates
The main thing you should know about sulfates in shampoo is that those very same ingredients can be found in any type of household cleaning product. Dishwasher soaps, bath cleaners, and floor cleaning solutions all contain sulfates. Studies show sulfates cause hair dryness, damage, and also scalp problems like dandruff, excessive sebum, etc. They deprive the hair and scalp of natural oils, making them more susceptible to damage. Also, they damage the cuticle and harm its natural structure.
Since sulfate shampoos cause damage to both hair and scalp, sulfate-free shampoos and soaps are a huge trend in the whole world. They are suitable for every hair type, especially for curly, naturally dry hair, and hair that has been treated (bleached, dried, and straightened).
The only problem that occurs with silicones is that the hair can be washed solely using sulfate-free shampoos or using the co-wash method (washing the hair using conditioner). Nonetheless, if you use a shampoo with sulfates from time to time (monthly), you won’t have any problems caused by silicones. It is always better to choose less aggressive sulfates over really harsh ones.
How can I wash off silicones and avoid product build-up?
We’ve mentioned different kinds of silicones above. Now it’s time to see how we can rinse out the non-soluble silicones and avoid product build-up everybody’s talking about.
- Dimethicone and Dimethiconol, Phenyl Trimethicone, Amodimethicone – can be rinsed out with SLS, SLES, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
- Cyclomethicone, PEG-modified dimethicone, Dimethicone copolyol don’t require aggressive cleaners and you can rinse them out with cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing.
Dimethicone vs. Dimethiconol
Dimethicone and dimethiconol are two different silicones but very similar. That is why most people confuse them for one another. However, there is a difference. For example, dimethiconol spreads easily all over the hair and doesn’t make it greasy. It adds a protective layer and shine to your hair and skin. However, as a non-soluble silicone, it exposes you to product build-up if not removed regularly with sulfate shampoos.
Dimethicone adds extra shine to your hair and makes it frizz-free. Thanks to its protective strength, it’s mainly used in heat protectants, so you can style your hair all you want. On the downside, as a silicone, it can cause build-up if’ it’s on the shampoo, clog follicles and prevent hair growth. If you have thin hair, it will weigh the hair down and ultimately cause a lifeless and greasy looking hair.
What do silicones actually do to your hair?
Silicones create a layer around your hair – a layer that can be washed away, as we’ve learned so far. This layer actually has several very beneficial purposes.
It protects your hair from all external influences. When we say all we mean -ALL! it protects the hair from temperatures as high as 230 degrees C. Not only does it protect your hair from styling tools but also from the sun, wind, friction with clothes, pillowcase, towel, and elastic bands, and bobby pins. All these can be damaging to your hair.
What about product build-up?
The silicone layer everyone likes to call product build-up as it’s something unwanted and harmful. The layer retains moisture inside the hair and prevents it from drying out. It also reflects light and makes your hair extra shiny and smooth.
Therefore, hair care products should definitely contain silicones because of all the protective benefits for the hair. Never avoid silicones if you want to use a curling iron, flat iron, or regular blow dryer. Silicone molecules are too large to penetrate the hair. They remain on the surface of the hair forming a highly resistant film and you can rinse them out with proper products.
Silicones in shampoos
As previously said, hair care products should definitely contain silicones. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t find them on your shampoo’s ingredients list. Silicones tend to clog pores on the scalp, as they do on your face, for example. They will build up layer by layer on your hair, and it will become very difficult to clean your scalp. In the end, you might struggle with build-up on the scalp like many others.
Shampoos with silicones might cause excessively greasy hair, hair loss, dry and itchy scalp, irritation, slow growth especially, dandruff, and even more severe scalp problems. Believe us, at this point, build-up on the scalp will be the least of your problems.
If you haven’t already replaced your shampoo with a silicone-free one, you should now. Here’s an extra piece of advice for you: Many drugstore shampoos contain silicones in order to give your hair a shiny and silky look. Even if you see a “silicon-free” label on your shampoo – make sure to check the ingredients list, just to be sure. As mentioned, you will recognize silicones by ending in –cone, -xane.
Best silicone-free shampoos
Just because you dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you can’t use a silicone-free shampoo. The cosmetic industry has got you covered even in this situation. Moroccanoil Hydrating Smapoo is the perfect silicone-free shampoo for colored hair. Not only does this shampoo protect your hair color but it also works efficiently on preserving and improving it.
Women with fine hair don’t have it easy when it comes to choosing the perfect shampoo. If they choose the wrong one, their hair will look even flatter. That is why they should definitely put their trust in Living Proof Full Shampoo. This silicone-free shampoo efficiently removes any build-up on the scalp leaving your hair perfectly clean and thick for longer.
Best silicone-free conditioners
Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Conditioner is the budget-friendly option for all of those ladies looking to have smooth and silky hair without spending too much money. The formula of this silicone-free conditioner is 92% biodegradable. It doesn’t weigh your hair down like regular conditioners, so you should give it a try.
DevaCurl One Conditioner is a great option for all curly hair types. The silicone-free conditioner moisturizes your hair and scalp while also giving them all the hydration they need.
Do you have frizzy or dry hair? If the answer is yes, then Mop Top Daily Conditioner is the right silicone-free conditioner for you. The conditioner with its powerful formula manages to restore, hydrate, and nourish your hair back to health. Also, it protects hair strands and ends from any damage in the future. Briogeo Don’t Despair Repair Super Moisture Conditioner is another option for this hair type. After using this conditioner, your hair will be fully hydrated without any product build-up whatsoever.
Klorane Volume Conditioner With Flax Fiber perfectly suits fine hair type owing to its lightweight and silicone-free formula. With this silicone-free conditioner, you can gently detangle your hair and get rid of knots. Also, you can add volume to your hair.
Some people resort to old and moisturizers to get the same benefits silicones normally provide. It’s very hard to replace that smooth and silky feel they give to your hair. While oils give a slippery feel every woman wants, they don’t offer any heat protection. Therefore, you shouldn’t avoid silicones in your hair routine. Only remember to use a stronger shampoo from time to time to get rid of product build-up and have clean and shiny-looking hair.