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Is Silicone Really Bad for Hair? Find Out the Pros and Cons

Despite being popular in hair care products, there’s an ongoing argument about silicones causing more harm than good. So, is silicone good for your hair, or are you better off using silicone-free products?

Fortunately, it’s safe to use hair products with silicone. However, not all silicone compounds are created equal. To minimize the side effects, you need to select the right type and keep some precautions in mind.

This guide will explore the benefits and downsides of silicone-based hair products and how to incorporate them into your hair care routine.

What Is Silicone in Hair Products?

hair products with silicone
Hair Products with Silicone

Silicone is a synthetic polymer that coats the hair strand. These compounds can resist moisture and temperature changes.

It can give your hair a nice glossy look, help prevent tangles, and protect against heat damage when you’re using hot tools.

Because of these properties, most hair products use this chemical as one of their ingredients. For instance, you might spot silicone in the following hair products:

  • Shampoos
  • Conditioners
  • Hair serums
  • Hair masks and creams
  • Hair sprays

Is Silicone Safe for Your Hair?

Silicone is generally considered safe for use in hair care products, and it is approved for use by various health authorities.

According to the American Chemistry Council, silicones are safe to use, provided you use them for their intended purpose.

Several regulatory agencies and scientific bodies, like the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, prove that silicone products don’t harm our health.

That said, there are some hair-related side effects that we’ll get to in a minute!

Different Types of Silicones Used in Hair Products

Silicone content in hair care products comes in three main forms: water-soluble, non-soluble, and evaporating silicones.

Water Soluble Silicone

Water-soluble silicone dissolves in water and washes off easily, so product buildup in hair is much less compared to non-soluble silicones.

Here are some water-soluble silicone and their uses in hair products: 

  • PEG-7 amodimethicone– Improves the spreadability and lather of shampoos and conditioners
  • Dimethicone PEG-8 succinate– Reduce frizz and flyaways
  • PEG-12 dimethicone– Soften and moisturize hair
  • Dimethicone copolyol– Hydrate and soften hair cuticles
  • Hydroxypropyl polysiloxane– Improve manageability and shine of hair

Non-Soluble Silicone

This type of silicone doesn’t get dissolved in water, it sticks to your strands instead of washing away. With long-term usage, non-soluble silicone-based products can build on your hair.

Here are the non-soluble silicone ingredients used in hair products: 

  • Dimethicone– Protect hair from heat damage and other environmental stressors.
  • Cetearyl dimethicone– Control frizz and flyaways
  • Stearyl dimethicone– Same as cetearyl dimethicone
  • Amodimethicone– Protect color-treated hair from fading
  • Phenyl trimethicone– Improves damaged hair appearance

Evaporating Silicone

Evaporating (sometimes called “volatile”) silicone dissipates minutes to hours after application. Unlike the other variants, you don’t need water or additional products to remove these compounds.

The most common examples are:

  • Cyclopentasiloxane– Hold curls and waves in place without making the hair feel stiff or sticky
  • Cyclomethicone– Add volume and body to hair
  • Dimethicone volatile: Similar to dimethicone, but it evaporates

How to Identify Silicone Compounds in Hair Products?

woman identifying silicone compounds in hair products
Identify Silicone in Hair Products

It is difficult to remember all the names and sometimes the full ingredient names are not mentioned on the product.

You can simply look for ingredients with the suffixes -cone, -lyol, -siloxane, and -silane to identify silicones.

When you’re looking at the ingredient list on a hair product, keep an eye out for anything that ends in —-cone or -conol. Those are typically the non-water-soluble silicones and tend to easily build up on the hair.

If you see an ingredient that starts with “PEG-” that’s usually a water-soluble silicone. They may leave a little less residue compared to the “-cone” silicones, but they can still build up over time.

You can not identify evaporating evaporating silicones easily but as there are only a few types used in hair products, all you have to do is remember the names.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Hair Products With Silicone

Silicone-based products can either help your hair or ruin it. Let’s see how that’s possible.

Pros

Here are some reasons that can make silicone-based hair products worth a shot:

  • Protection: Silicone coats your hair, acting as a shield against heat and ultraviolet rays, thereby minimizing damage.
  • Hydration: By forming a protective film on your hair strands, silicone helps to seal in moisture, which is vital for maintaining elasticity and preventing breakage.
  • Frizz Control: Silicone can help to smooth down frizz, leading to sleeker hair.
  • Ease of Styling: Thanks to its lubricating properties, silicone facilitates easier detangling and styling.

Cons

The downsides of silicone-based hair products are often tied to the non-soluble compounds. Here’s what you need to watch out for:

  • Buildup – Non-soluble silicones can build up on the hair shaft over time. This might leave your scalp greasy and irritated. It might weigh down your curly hair too.
  • DrynessSilicone prevents moisture from penetrating the hair. This can lead to dry, brittle hair especially if using other drying ingredients like sulfates.
  • Lack of nutrients – It does not provide any nourishing benefits. Hair may appear temporarily smooth but lack true hydration.
  • Dullness – The buildup of non-soluble silicone compounds can dry the hair and cause breakage.
  • Frizz – Your hair may become frizzy and unmanageable.
  • Weighs hair down – The heavy coating can make your hair flatten out or lose volume. Curls may become limp and straight styles lack body.

The bottom line is that while silicone can provide an initial glossy effect, it can end up doing more harm than good if overused. Moderation and clarifying washes are key for those who choose to use silicone products.

Precautions for Using Silicone-Based Hair Products

Some simple precautions can help you counter the drawbacks and adverse effects of using silicone-based hair products.

Shampoo with sulfate works well with non-soluble silicone products. Keep in mind that sulfate is a surfactant that effectively removes the lingering residue and prevents buildup.

However, sulfate hair products can cause drying, so it’s best to avoid using them daily. Using them once a week might do the trick.

Use a clarifying or chelating shampoo periodically to remove any silicone buildup from your hair. For mild buildup, consider apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy.

Wrap Up

So, silicones can lock in moisture and reduce the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays and heat. However, water-soluble silicones are better for hair care than non-soluble ones.

This way, you get the benefits but avoid product buildup that can result in scalp irritation and hair damage!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is silicone good for colored hair?

It depends. If you use silicone-based (specifically non-soluble) products, you might need to use sulfates, which can strip the color faster.

Does silicone thicken the hair?

It’s not proven that silicone thickens the hair. However, it could inhibit hair growth if it clogs the pores of your scalp.

How long does it take to remove silicone buildup in hair?

Non-soluble silicone sticks to your hair long until you wash it off. That said, it can take five shampoo cycles or more to rid your hair of the buildup completely.

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