Silicones in Hair Products
Silicones have been used in hair products since the 1970’s. Today, they are found in over half of all new cosmetic products. Silicones have a silicon and oxygen (Si/O) backbone with carbon methyl groups (CH3) attached to them. The length and shape of the backbone chain varies, and this influences how thick the silicones are and can attribute heavy or light feelings to your final product.
Silicone is added to conditioner to give it the slippery texture that makes your hair feel silky. It lubricates the hair surface, so it feels smoother and combs easier. Also, it is great for conditioning because it reduces moisture loss from the inside of the hair.
There are no health or safety issues with using silicones, but some can be very hydrophobic or water-repellant. This quality helps to reduce the porousness of the hair, which helps to condition and reduce moisture loss from within the cuticle of your hair. Also, it makes it less likely to absorb humidity and therefore straighter and smoother. The downside is silicone buildup which makes hair feel heavy and can be difficult to wash out.
Here is a breakdown of the different silicones used in hair products to use or avoid depending on your needs:
Cyclomethicone is one of the most commonly used silicones in hair care. It evaporates and won’t leave buildup on your hair. It gives a silky, smooth feel and leaves wet hair with incredible slip which makes it easier to comb. Cyclomethicone is found in leave-in and rinse-off products.
Dimethicone copolyol is a lightweight, water-soluble silicone that provides very little buildup. It is often used in conditioning shampoos, but it can be expensive and will increase the cost of whatever product it’s added to.
Amodimethicones (or silicones that have “amo,” “amine,” or “amino” in their name) are chemically modified to stick to your hair better. While they condition well, they can be harder to remove. They are used in leave-in conditioners and are suitable for people with thick, tight curls or “unmanageable” hair.
Dimethicone is the most common and least expensive silicone. It’s great for conditioning and adding shine, but it can make hair feel heavy. It is water insoluble, so it can be difficult to remove. Dimethicone is used in serums and other leave-in products.
Washing your hair with a decent shampoo should remove any silicone buildup, Although, you may have to shampoo twice if using products containing dimethicone. Use products with cyclomethicone and dimethicone copolyol if you want the conditioning and shine benefits without the buildup. Silicone hair products make your hair look and feel healthier and shinier.