Silicones in Hair Products: Good or Bad?

written by April Flores

From natural hair, relaxed hair, and everything in between, silicone agents in hair products have received both negative and positive propaganda. Not only have silicones been trashed and praised, many people don’t even know why silicones are good or bad. This encourages the revolving door of misinformation. The fact of the matter is that not all silicones are bad and it doesn’t have anything to do with your hair type, hair texture, or if you are relaxed or natural. This guide will finally put to rest the silicone debate and debunk myths about silicones in hair products.

Silicones are found in more products than you think. As a general rule of thumb, if you want to know if your hair products contain silicone agents, just read the label. Look for products that have “cone” as an extension. For example, dimethicone is a silicone because of its “cone” extension. If you do see ingredients like dimethiconol, amodimethicone, or lauryl methicone copolyol then your hair product definitely contains silicones. However, don’t be alarmed just because your product contains silicone. Instead of being concerned with silicone ingredients, you should be concerned with the TYPE of silicone agents in your hair products.

A common misconception about silicone based hair products is that silicones are bad for your hair. Not only is that statement untrue but it’s widely used, which is why many people remain uneducated. The fact of the matter is that silicone products themselves are not bad for the hair. In fact, some silicone products aren’t bad but are as gentle as water.

There are two types of silicones: Water soluble and non-soluble silicones. Water soluble silicones are ones that can be washed away with water and nothing more. Non-soluble silicones are exactly the opposite of its soluble counterparts. Non-soluble silicones require sulfates in order to be washed away. While there are two categories of silicones, one type is not better than the other because silicones do not actually benefit the hair in any way. In fact, silicones only give the “appearance” of healthier hair. Silicones coat the hair to make it appear sleeker, frizz free and healthier. For example, silicones found in conditioners, hair polishers and frizz taming products coat the strands to make them “appear” sleeker and more polished. They also add a bit of weight to give fine, fragile hair substance. In essence, silicone based products only provide a temporary smoothing effect.

Water Soluble Silicones
Dimethicone Copolyol
Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)
Any Silicone with PEG as a prefix
Non Soluble (not water soluble)
Phenyl Trimethicone
Cetearyl Methicone
Stearyl Dimethicone
Cetyl Dimethicone
Behenoxy Dimethicone
Stearoxy Dimethicone

Regardless of the type of silicone, both soluble and non-soluble silicones coat the hair. As stated before, water soluble silicones can be rinsed or washed away with water. This is optimal for people that co-wash their hair or do not want to use sulfates on the hair. Non-soluble silicones require the help of sulfate shampoos and conditioners in order to remove the silicone coating from the hair. This may seem meaningless to some, however, if you are trying to retain moisture then you may want to refrain from using non-soluble silicone products. It’s a fact that sulfates are found in products like dish detergent and laundry soap. I doubt that you would put those products on your hair. Moreover, aside from the type of products that contain sulfates, in general, sulfates strip the hair of its natural oils. Therefore, if your hair is moisture stricken, using non-soluble silicone products that require sulfates negatively alter your hair’s moisture retaining capabilities.

Although water soluble silicones only require water to dissolve them, water soluble silicones may still be bad for the hair. If you have a hair routine that requires daily moisturizing then water soluble silicones may not be a good fit for your hair either, unless you co-wash frequently. As with any type of silicone, either water soluble or non-soluble, the coating on the hair prevents moisture, protein, or other products from penetrating the hair shaft. Additionally, when an overload of silicone products are applied to hair, the buildup from the silicone coating eventually causes breakage. That is why it is important to clarify your hair after using silicone products to prevent buildup.

In conclusion, the misconception that all silicones are bad is exactly that: A misconception. All silicones aren’t actually bad for your hair, but the products needed to remove silicone makes silicone products less ideal for some. Additionally, water based silicones are preferred over non-soluble silicones as they can be removed with water. The use of silicone depends on how your hair reacts to it. If your hair doesn’t have a bad reaction, there is nothing wrong with using water soluble silicone products. Nonetheless, like with all things, silicone products may be ok in moderation. The best option is to become educated about silicone products and try them for yourself before coming to a final conclusion.

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