COTW – Silicone in beauty products

After last weeks chemical of the week post went down so well here’s today’s instalment.

Today is silicone.

The sciencey (I know not a real word) bit. Silicon is mixed with groups such as methyl, ethyl or phenyl (you will see these names appear later on and are used in the ingredient lists found on products.) What the silicon is mixed with effects the properties of it, and will give a different result in products such as shampoo, I will explain what the different silicones do later on in this post.

Silicone is used in a wide variety of products. In the beauty industry you can find it in products such as shampoo and conditioner and foundations and primers. Silicones can help to make some beauty products work better but for others their short term effects seem good but don’t last.

Silicones in foundations and primers

Most primers will contain silicone, as silicone helps create a smooth base and it helps to minimise the appearance of imperfections such as large pores by covering the skin in a thin layer of a silicone based products that fills out these holes. Similar to using a primer before you paint. (my dad always says I slap my make up on like I’ve been to B&Q and with the addition of primers I guess I kind of do, though he’s a man and doesn’t understand what it takes hehe!!)

There are many debates online that you can find to the pros and cons of silicone in products like these and claims it causes you to break out. Personally I think it’s more down to personal skin type and finding the correct product that suits your skin rather than blaming it on one chemical. 

Silicone due to it’s molecular structure has been shown to provide a barrier on the skin, to help seal in our imperfections as well as being breathable so it doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. It is made up of large molecules with large spaces between for the air to get through.

To help find a primer that is less likely to cause blocked pores it is best to look out for primers that contain volatile silicones. Most primers ingredients will state dimethicone (cyclomethicone is made up of dimethicone, fragrance and essential oils) . These types of primers have an initial thick texture but evaporate quickly into the skin so as not to sink into the pores.  Instead they leave behind a silky feeling preparing the skin for foundation.

Silicone is used in foundations as it provides lubrication and thickness to a foundation. It helps the foundation to glide smoothly onto the skin and give an even application.  Silicones also aid in the lightweight formulation of a foundation.

When wearing such products it is important to thoroughly cleanse skin to remove the product as they water resistant (which gives it it’s staying power) and this will help prevent breakouts.

Silicones in hair care products

Again there are many mixed reviews online for how good silicone is for your hair. If you have extensions or are soon to have them fitted (like me) silicones should be avoided at all costs. They coat the hair to make it smooth which if you have extension can cause slippage.

So for people without extensions should you be using silicone based shampoos and conditioners?  

What the silicone is mixed with affects what it does to the hair. Amodimethicones are great conditioners. They can help hair feel soft and smooth. Phenyltrimethicones are good for coloured hair as they increase shine and reflectiveness and have subtle colour correcting properties. When the two are mixed together though they act against each other dilute each other making it hard to achieve both shine and condition from silicone along.

Another thing to be aware of is with cheaper shampoos and some more expensive ones, silicone is mixed with cheaper fillers that can give the same feel after washing but do damage the hair. Silicones tend to be mixed with Drying alcohols (look out for SD alcohol, Alcohol Denat and benzyl alcohol) and Waxes (while these are natural and conditioning, they weigh the hair down and can make it get greasy quickly.

The main problems documented are from the build up from the silicone in the hair as it’s water resistant. It makes hair feel soft in the short run but can be drying in the long term as it coats the hair blocking moisture from penetrating the hair itself.It is important to regularly use a detox shampoo to remove the build up of chemicals from hair. 

Personally I will probably still use silicone shampoos and conditioners (when I don’t have extensions) as it’s hard to find them without silicones and if they are silicone free it’s usually switched for something else. I think the best thing to do is regularly switch between shampoos to prevent product build up.

Hope this has been helpful, sorry it’s if I’ve gone on a bit.

Love M 


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    February 13, 2013 / 8:32 pm

    why use toxic products when there are s many good organic ones out here , like Phyto shampoos and Inika foundation.

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