Yahoo April 11, 2023



Are Silicones Really Bad For Your Hair? Here’s What Stylists Have to Say


Spoiler alert: It’s not really a clear-cut answer.

There’s perhaps no beauty ingredient that has more of a notorious reputation than silicone. There’s also perhaps no ingredient that’s surrounded by more controversy than silicone. Still, at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that silicones are incredibly popular in personal care products—and hair care in particular. But why the bad rap? Is it warranted? What should you know about using products with silicones? We asked top stylists to set the record straight. Here’s what they had to say.

What Are Silicones and What is Their Purpose?

First, let’s understand what we’re even talking about. Silicones are substances that are synthetically created and are largely used to retain moisture, explains hair expert and colorist Lauren Paglionico, founder of LRN Beauty in New York City. They’re used in many beauty products, most often in hair care as well as makeup, she says.

As it pertains to hair specifically, silicones work by coating the cuticle, the outermost layer of the strand, says Jenna Spino, Stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. It’s a fairly simple mechanism of action, but one that makes this class of ingredients applicable and useful in a wide array of products and with a wide array of benefits. For example, silicones are often found in conditioners because they help lock-in moisture, leaving your hair softer,  Paglionico notes. Spino adds that they also add slip to the hair, making it easier to detangle it. You’re also likely to find silicones in anti-frizz products: “Because they coat the hair they act like a raincoat, blocking out the humidity that causes frizz,” Spino explains. They’re common in shine-enhancing products, again, because of the coating that they create on the cuticle, allowing it to better reflect light so that hair has a healthy sheen.

Not All Silicones Are Created Equal

So, why all the controversy surrounding this category of ingredients? Both experts we spoke with attribute it to the fact that not all silicones are created equal. “Ones that are non-water-soluble can leave a build-up or residue on the strands that’s hard to wash out,” says Spino. “This can end up blocking moisture from absorbing into the hair, ultimately leading to dryness and damage.” They can also weigh down your hair, especially if it’s finer to begin with, making it look and feel flat, adds Paglionico. On the flip side, water-soluble silicones are more than okay to use. These are great for all hair types, because they add shine and condition, but are still lightweight and much less likely to build-up on the hair, she says.

How to Use Silicones

Steer clear of the non-water-soluble ones; common ones include dimethicone, cetyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, dimethiconol, stearyl dimethicone, cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone, and cyclopentasiloxane, Spino advises. Instead, look for the water-soluble alternatives: dimethicone copolyol, stearoxy dimethicone, and behenoxy dimethicone, are a few good ones, she adds. 

While both stylists agree that the latter group is totally fine for all hair types, Spino does point out that those with coarser, frizzier textures will benefit most from their frizz-fighting, smoothing, shine-enhancing abilities. Regardless, just make sure to wash your hair thoroughly, especially if you are using a lot of stylers that contain them.

Silicone Alternatives

If you’re still feeling a little wary, there are some other ingredients that offer similar, silicone-esque benefits. Spino says bamboo extract is a nice option for detangling, as it gives the hair lots of slip, and comes with the added benefit of offering antioxidant protection, too. Olive oil is another option, one that’s very conditioning and adds shine, she says.

TL; DR: Silicones don’t necessarily deserve the bad rap they’ve gotten. However, stylists do caution against using non-water-soluble silicones, as they can build-up on the hair, potentially leading to damage and dryness, as well as weigh down your strands. But water-soluble silicones are great for adding shine, smoothness, and leaving your hair feeling conditioned and soft.