Silicones are group of chemical compounds that can be found in cosmetic products. However, just as for parabens, you can more often find information about the absence of silicones in the product then about their presence. If you want to find out why you should and why not avoid these ingredients in personal care product, continue reading.
Silicones are substances derived from silica. Sounds simple, but there is actually a long chemical procedure involved in the process of turning silica into silicones. They are often used in skin care products. Although they are not natural compounds, silicons are often found also in natural cosmetics. That’s even not so surprising if I tell you that cosmetic products owe most of desirable properties – silkiness, easy application and waterproof properties – exactly to these chemicals.
There are many many different silicones out there, but if you read the list of the ingredients on skin care products or makeup, you will usually find cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, various types of dimethicone and trimethicone… Basically, anything that ends with -siloxane or -cone belongs to this class of ingredients, so it is not hard to detect them on the list of ingredients.
Here are few examples of hair products (left – conditioner, right – hair oil):
As I already mentioned, silicones make formula of cosmetic products much softer, they help to spread and apply the product. They repel the water and sweat, and in that way make products more waterproof. Besides, products that contain silicones feel more luxurious and comfortable on the skin and they act as a barrier when applied on skin. When we talk about hair, silicones also coat the hair and in that way protect it or slow down the process of hair damage.
Hair damage comes from many sources: sun damage, mechanical damage or heat damage, and it usually happens stage by stage: First, your hair gets weakened, the cuticle begins to break down and finally disappears, the cortex of your hair gets exposed and split ends appear. In the end, your hair can break. That’s why it is really important to protect it. On the other hand, it is known that some silicones can build up on your hair and weaken it.
Not all silicones used in cosmetics are the same; they can have different chemical structure and various sizes. Thus, their properties can slightly differ as well. Some of them are more or less water soluble, some of them are completely, so called, hydrophobic (which means that they are not soluble in water). There are concerns that silicones can clog pores on the skin and therefore cause breakouts. Generally speaking, all silicones used in skin care sit on top of the skin (if they are not combined with ingredients that could enhance the absorption into skin), they don’t close pores and create a silicone layer that protects your skin from external heat, moisture, air, … Basically, it protects your skin from its environment. However, the silicone layer that acts as a barrier can trap dirt and bacteria on your skin so it is really important to properly cleanse your skin before applying products that contain silicones.
Even if you cleanse your skin thoroughly, your skin can react to silicones. In that cases you should, of course, stop using them and generally try to avoid this specific ingredient that causes the redness, or some other reaction. Luckily, reactions to silicones are very rare.
One of the main issues connected with silicones is their non-biodegradability. Therefore, they are not the most environment-friendly compounds.
In the end, the only thing left is to conclude that silicones are not bad when used properly. Our skin needs to take a rest sometimes from all chemicals we use, and the same is with silicones. That’s why is sometimes recommended to take a break from them and apply products that contain some other ingredients instead.
Do you use products with silicones or you avoid them? Let me know in comments, and see you soon!