Everything you need to know about silicones

When it comes to hair and beauty the controversy around silicones is a constant convo starter.

Is there ever a time where silicones in products can be used? Are all silicones bad for the hair? And why do brands opt for added silicones in their formula when knowing of the harmful affects is causes?

I've decided to break down the big "S" word, and provide insight on the do's and don'ts, when and how's.

In hair care, cosmetic manufacturers add silicones to shampoos, conditioners, and styling products to help create the slip needed to detangle and give hair a silky shine and manageability. It's the result of instant gratification, the deception and disguise that the product is good for you, not knowing the long term negative affects it has on your hair.

1. What is silicone?

Firstly not all silicones are created equal! And contrary to what you may believe some silicones have many benefits and are necessary to achieving your desired result. There are commonly 2 types of silicones you need to be aware of : water-soluble and non-soluble silicones.

Water-soluble are SAFE silicones that are easily washed and don’t accumulate on the skin and hair. They are necessary for the shine and protection of the hair from, heat, environment and products. 

They are not toxic and do not strip or damage hair. Hair care that claim they are silicone free most likely refer to being water soluble and don't create harmful buildup!

  • Cyclomethicone is one of the most commonly used silicones in hair care. It's a volatile silicone, which means it evaporates and won't build up on your hair. It gives a silky, smooth feel and leaves the hair with incredible slip when wet and is found in both leave-on and rinse-off products. This silicone gives just enough protection for the hair shaft until your next wash.

  • Dimethicone Copolyol is a water-soluble, lightweight silicone that provides very little buildup. It is often used in conditioning shampoos.

Non Soluble silicones don’t dissolve in water. 

They can be found in hair masks for quick recovery, hence the recommendation to use no more than one or two times a week. 

Long-term effects of usage, including build up and hair brittleness have been gaining more and more prominence recently.

These silicones have a more pronounced visual effect and can instantly transform even the most damaged hair. Products with such components restore weakened areas, protect against thermal effects, and are known to preserve colour of dyed hair. The disadvantage is that partially soluble and non soluble silicones are washed out much worse and require shampoos with harsh sulphates for deep cleaning.

Because you have added another layer (or barrier) to your hair strands, it can keep nutrients from getting in or penetrating the hair, which over time can cause the hair to weaken or break resulting in a cycle of damaged hair and an unbalanced production of natural oils from your scalp

  • Amodimethicone (or silicones that have "amo", "amine" or "amino" in their name) is a different kind of silicone that is chemically modified to stick to your hair better. That means it conditions well but it can also be more challenging to remove. Amodimethicone is commonly used in leave-in conditioners.

  • Dimethicone is sometimes referred to as a silicone oil. Dimethicone coats hair, providing great shine and conditioning to the hair. However, because it's so water insoluble, it can be difficult to remove. Additionally, this heavy coating is more likely to attract dirt and pollutants from the air, making the hair feel weighed down. Dimethicone is often found in serums and other leave-on products.

2. How to deal with buildup?

First would be to switch your products and then wash your hair! Any decent shampoo will wash away silicone. However, if you are a heavy user or products containing silicone (particularly those with dimethicone), you may have to lather, rinse and repeat.

Look for lightweight silicones, as mentioned above, like cyclomethicone and dimethicone copolyol. These ingredients won't build up but still give you some conditioning and shine benefits.

A home remedy of apple cider vinegar will also do the trick to lift buildup- known to contain alpha hydroxy acid and extra cleansing properties it closes and soothes the cuticles. Moreover helps restore the pH balance to your scalp. Simply dilute apple cider vinegar with water and apply after your shampoo and before your conditioner. 

In conclusion, when searching for haircare products - including your heat protect sprays and serums, look for water soluble silicones, protecting the hair shaft without leaving excessive buildup and rinsing out with every wash!  

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