Simply put, Silicones are synthetic materials (polymers) or slip agents which are resistant to chemical attack and insensitive to temperature changes and are typically used to make rubber, plastic, polishes and lubricants. They can be identified in the ingredient list easily as they contain the term “cone” in their names.
Silicones in Cosmetics
Silicones are slick, slippery and slimy and for this very quality they are used in creams, lotions, etc. They alter the look and feel of the creams and lotions. A cream or lotion that contains silicones will be easier to spread onto the skin, and leave you with a smooth, slippery finish and feel lavish whereas a cream or lotion with no silicones will feel hard to spread and will not have the same smooth finish.
Silicones in Hair Care Products
Silicones work by coating the hair with a thin hydrophobic (water repelling) layer and this coating reduces the porosity of hair and lubricates hair, thereby making the hair feel soft, smooth and slippery and making it easier to comb through and untangle.
Silicones give the appearance of healthy hair and make them manageable, this effect is only temporary and lasts until hair is washed.
Silicones used are of two types –namely, Water soluble and Non-Water soluble. Meaning, the water soluble silicones can be removed by just washing well with plain water. The non-water soluble ones need some kind of detergent to be washed away.
Water Soluble Silicones
- Any silicone with PEG as a prefix (eg. PEG-7 Amodimethicone)
- Dimethicone Copolyol
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)
- Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
They are not water soluble, but they’re a special cause they evaporate after they have done the job that they are supposed to do, i.e. help spread the product. If any residue is left at all it can be removed with a SLES free shampoo or even co-washing and won’t leave a heavy build up on your hair.
Non-water soluble: Well there is a long list and you can probably not memorise them all so in short Any silicone other than ones mentioned above are all silicones that require detergent i.e. sulphates to be washed away and may build in heavy build up if you use a SLES free shampoo or co-wash your hair
My experience going silicone free:
I have curly hair which are prone to frizz and get tangled too easily and untangling them is quite a task. I tried to go silicone free in all my products and that did not work for me because of a few reasons: Not too many alternatives on the market, these alternatives can cost you a fortune when you calculate the total you spend in an year and it’s just not that cost effective and the biggest reason, “I did not get the same results, when I say that I mean that my hair did not look or feel smooth, they got really tangled up and like I said earlier that combing them was quite a task and then I would get depressed looking at how many broke off during combing.”
So I soon started grabbing my hair serums and leave-in conditioners that had silicones but I was still using silicone free conditioner and SLES free shampoo and so I would notice a lot of build-up in my hair that left my hair feeling greasy too often. That’s when I started researching the internet and really wanted to know the facts about silicone and that’s what got me started on this article, which is when I realised that not all silicones are bad.
Silicones are effective for managing thick, frizzy, unruly hair like mine and they certainly keep them looking sane. So I decided to use hair serums, leave-in conditioner that do have silicones but either the ones that evaporate or the ones that are water soluble as I use SLES free shampoo. I must say I feel like I am getting the best of two worlds, In case I end up using my heat protectant or any hi-gloss and shine serums for a special occasion that do have non-water soluble silicones I shampoo them out with a shampoo that has SLES and then go back to my routine. This works really well for me and my hair feel and look softer.
But I do not rely on silicones to nourish my hair and make them healthy in the long term. For that I eat a proper diet, I cheat too of course but occasionally, I take multivitamins that my doctor prescribed to me and use Home Made Herbal Hair Masks, There are lots of recipes online but I use this one: Hair Mask For Long And Strong Hair. I also Oil my hair and scalp twice a week or 1 hr. – 30 minutes before shampoo when I know I am going to use a shampoo which has SLES.
Pros of Products with Silicones:
- Smooth finish
- Appearance of Healthy hair and skin
- Make the hair very manageable
- Easier to apply
- Do not cost a fortune
- Temporary results
- Do not help the quality of hair in the long term, it won’t nourish your hair or make it healthy ~Only a proper balanced diet and hair masks will do that.
- The non-water soluble silicones require a strong shampoo with SLES to get rid of build-up that makes the scalp greasy and the hair look limp and lifeless.
I hope you liked the article that I created and found it useful, the technical information mentioned in my article was researched on the internet for hours and hours of reading posts and Wikipedia and my own chemistry textbooks. I edited it a lot and tried to make it as simple as I could.