Most people today prefer shampoos and conditioners without ingredients like parabens and sulfates. But they seem to be confused about silicone. Are silicones bad for your hair? Should you use hair care products that contain silicones? While some brands boast that silicones protect hair and prevent frizz, others claim that silicones can leave your hair with product residue and damage your locks. So, what’s the final verdict?
Silicones are often used in hair care products to add shine to your hair. They also help tame frizzy and unruly hair. In addition, they smooth hair strands by sealing them. While these all sound great, they also have a dark side. This article discusses the pros and cons of silicones, the different types, and how to use silicones to the benefit of your hair. Keep reading to know.
What are silicones?
Silicones have been part of skin and hair care products since the 1950s because of their lubricating properties. They give a soft, smooth and silky feel to your hair (1). Silicones are especially beneficial for dry, frizzy and rough hair as they help tame strands and improve manageability.
While silicones are not toxic to your hair and scalp, they are occlusive and can leave residue and weigh down your hair. However, this mainly depends on the type of silicone used in the product. Let’s find that out in the next section.
Silicones for hair: are they safe?
Silicone and hair have a love-hate relationship. While they make your hair soft and silky, they also weigh it down and prevent the ingress of other hair care ingredients, moisture and products. As a result, your hair may react in two ways:
- Produce excess oil to cover the lack of moisture.
- Becomes dry and brittle over time.
Not all silicones are bad for the hair. Water-soluble silicones are hair-friendly. Pay special attention to the non-soluble silicone or the bad silicone. Let’s take a closer look at the types.
Types of Silicones for Hair
1. Water Soluble Silicone
Water-soluble silicones dissolve easily in water and can be washed out of the hair. They leave no buildup. They are breathable, give shine and care for the hair without causing damage. The water-soluble silicones include:
- Dimethicone copolyol
- Laurylmethicone copolyol
- PEG-12 dimethicone
- PEG-7 amodimethicone
Hair care products containing these silicones are safe to use. Remember that all silicones with the PEG prefix are water soluble.
2. Non-water soluble silicone
Water-insoluble silicones are the bad silicones to watch out for. They stick to the strands no matter how often you rinse. Bad silicones include:
- Cetyle dimethicone
- Stearyl dimethicone
- Cetyl dimethicone
- feryl trimethicone
- Behenoxy dimethicone
- propyl dimethicone
Amodimethicone is a popular water-insoluble silicone that leaves hair feeling heavy. However, it is soluble in water when combined with other ingredients such as trideceth-12 and cetrimonium chloride.
The next section examines the pros and cons of silicones for your hair.
Advantages and disadvantages of silicones in hair care
Water-soluble silicones have several positive effects on the hair, such as:
- They prevent hair damage and dryness.
- They prevent frizz and minimize split ends.
- They protect the hair from dust and pollution and keep it smooth and shiny.
- Silicones add shine to hair and prevent friction, minimizing hair damage and breakage (2).
- They prevent tangles, retain moisture and keep locks looking healthy.
- Silicones make hair easier to detangle and comb.
- Silicones, especially the bad ones, envelop the hair strands and prevent moisture absorption, which can dry out the hair over time.
- They are difficult to wash off and make hair limp, lifeless and dull.
- They can leave residue on the scalp and choke hair follicles, affecting healthy hair growth.
- Buildup of silicone can make hair sticky, especially when wet, and can break if you try to untangle wet locks.
You need a good cleansing routine to remove silicone from your hair and scalp. Here are a few ways you can try.
How to remove silicone from hair and scalp?
1. Use a clarifying shampoo
Clarifying shampoos contain sulfates, surfactants that can remove product build-up from the scalp and hair. However, make sure to use a conditioner and never use the shampoo more than once every two weeks.
White vinegar or apple cider is often used in traditional recipes to brighten and add shine to hair. You can mix equal parts vinegar and water and use it as a rinse.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda has abrasive properties and can help remove buildup from your hair and scalp. You can mix a tablespoon of baking soda with the shampoo and wash your hair. Another way is to wet the hair, rub some baking soda on it and shampoo the hair.
Note: Baking soda has a high pH and can be harsh on hair. Do not use it more than once every two weeks. Avoid it completely if you have a sensitive scalp.
Don’t worry if you don’t want to use silicone! Here are a few ingredients to look for in hair care products for similar results to silicone.
Silicone Alternatives for Hair
1. Octafluoropentyl methacrylate (OFPMA)
OFPMA creates an invisible shield to protect your hair from dirt, dust and environmental damage. It is lightweight and leaves no residue like silicone. OFPMA makes the hair look wonderfully smooth and shiny.
Mackaderm is a popular silicone alternative and has an emollient effect to keep your hair hydrated. This is a COSMOS certified ingredient used in many hair care products, especially shampoos.
Alkamuls is a natural oil dissolver formulated with different types of vegetable oil. This component adds shine to your locks without making them look greasy or heavy. It is mainly used in silicone-free hair products, especially in clear shampoos.
Silicones smooth the hair by taming frizz, lubricating the strands and adding shine, but they have earned a bad reputation for causing product build-up. However, water-soluble silicones can be washed off easily, avoiding product build-up. Plus, they help prevent hair damage, split ends, and breakage, while helping to detangle the strands. On the other hand, non-dissolvable silicones are bad for your hair because they stick to the strands despite frequent washing. These “bad” silicones coat the hair and prevent moisture from being absorbed, causing the hair to dry out. So choose the silicone wisely for effective results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do silicones cause hair loss?
Silicones may not directly cause hair loss, but they can clog hair follicles resulting in product build-up and eventually hair loss.
Is silicone-free shampoo better?
Silicones have some benefits for the hair and are not all bad per se. However, silicone-free shampoos are better for those concerned about the environmental impact of silicone or those with fine, oily or low porosity hair.
Are silicones bad for low porosity hair?
Yes, silicones that don’t wash off easily with water are bad for low porosity hair as they can cling to the strands of hair and make it harder for them to absorb water and get hydrated.
What happens if you switch to a silicone-free shampoo?
Switching to a silicone-free shampoo may initially leave your hair feeling less silky and smooth, tangled and even frizzy. However, in the long run (after a minimum of 5-8 washes with silicone-free shampoos), your hair may start to feel softer, lighter and more voluminous. Your scalp may also feel lighter and cleaner with no residue buildup.
Do sulfate-free shampoos remove silicones?
Yes, sulfate-free shampoos usually contain alternative surfactants that can help remove silicone buildup from the hair and scalp.
Should curly hair avoid silicones?
Individuals with curly hair types should avoid certain types of silicones—those that are not water-soluble—to prevent hair from becoming heavy, heavy, or brittle.
Key learning points
- Silicones have lubricating properties and are used in many skin and hair care products.
- They make your hair soft, smooth and silky and are especially beneficial for dry, frizzy and rough hair.
- Water-soluble silicones are hair-friendly and can be washed easily, while non-water-soluble silicones can leave a residue on the hair.
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