Today in the “OMG!”series I am taking a look at another one of those ingredients that is fast emerging as the mischief maker of the hair-care world, Silicones! Initially it was the wonder ingredient that made hair look spectacular but lately its being called into question due to its many negative effects.
Q: What are Silicone?
A: Silicones are a class of minerals. They can be identified by names ending in ‘cone’. They are a common ingredient used in hair care products. Primarily used to condition and add shine. It helps smooth and straighten hair and gives it a lush, conditioned feel.
Q: Are they also used in skincare products?
A: Yes, their slippery property boosts the look, feel, and spreading performance of a lotion or sunscreen, especially mineral sunscreens, where silicones are also used to avoid the whitening/ white-cast effect. Read about my white-cast struggle here. Silicone is the magic ingredients that makes a cream or a lotion feel light, silky & luxurious.
Q: Why are they used in hair products?
A: The hydrophobic or water-repelling property of Silicones helps to reduce the porosity of the hair. When the hair strand is coated with Silicones it wont absorb humidity therefore making it smoother and straighter. This attribute also helps to condition and reduce moisture loss from within the cuticle of the hair.
Q: Why do they have such a bad reputation?
A: Silicone are like rubber that seals the hair against water and air, making the hair appear shiny. Although, the shine that silicones provide to the hair is an illusion. This shine should not be mistaken for the shine of healthy hydrated hair.
Some silicones are also known to make the hair feel heavy making it limp and difficult to wash out. This effect is called “Build-Up“. When this happens one tends to wash their hair more often to get rid of the build up, in-turn causing more damage. Silicones are especially bad for curly hair because they cant slide off curly hair as easily compared to straight hair. The silicone buildup gets stuck on the curls weighing it down and causing dryness & damage in the long run.
Over time the silicone coating makes the hair dry and dull since it prevents moisture from penetrating into the hair shaft. Due to the constant lack of moisture, the hair becomes brittle, frizzy and prone to breakage. Effectively Silicone products make the hair shiny temporarily but in long term it is damaging the hair.
Q: So are all Silicones bad & are to be avoided?
A: No, not all silicones behave the same. Water soluble silicones like Cyclomethicone & Dimethicone Copolyol dissolve in water and are easier to wash off. They are also known to leave very little build-up. So goes without saying the products with these will be expensive.
The non- water soluble silicones like Dimethicone & Amodimethicone do not dissolve in water and are difficult to wash, so one has to use a clarifying shampoo to get rid of the buildup.
Not all silicones are bad. But like everything they should be used in moderation. Its best to read labels and understand what has gone into the product. Based on guidelines abroad, brands needs to list the ingredients in the decreasing order of quantity used in the product. So if an ingredient is seen on top then the product has a high percentage of that ingredient (so it better not be one of those non water soluble silicones!)
Have any of you gone silicone-free? Do let me know your experience and the products you rely on in the comments section.