Are silicones the Devil’s work?

Do silicones damage your hair?

No, I don’t think so. Rather than damaging hair, they make it feel softer and give it shine, while making combing easier. They do get quite bad press — lots of talk of “build up”, “drying out” and “weighing down”. But so many things that we do to our hair to get it just how we like it (colour, blowdrying, even brushing!) compromise the condition just a little bit. Without being evil.

Silicones don’t come from plants or natural oils. Although they do start off as silicate, or sand, and then they undergo a lot of synthetic processes. They are used a lot in hair products because when they’re used correctly they really work. They work better than any other hair care ingredient, and they help any natural components to perform much better. So what do they actually do? They form a film or coating over the hair (which is removable with shampoo) to flatten the cuticle, soften and protect it. “This coating serves several purposes, it helps reduce the porosity of the hair which makes it less likely to absorb humidity; it helps reduce moisture loss from the inside of the hair; and it lubricates the surface of the hair so it feels smoother and combs easier”, says The Right Brain of The Beauty Brains¹. Sounds good to me!

Silicones are nearly always found in anti-frizz products but definitely DON’T belong in shampoos. This is where you get “build-up” from. Shampoos which contain silicones will never wash away silicones! If you’re using an anti-frizz product with Cyclomethicone in it (like my hair perfumes do), shampoo will remove it just fine as this is one of the lighter, more modern sorts of silicone.

Philip Kingsley, a leading tricologist, says² “Considering they have been in existence for only about twenty years, their popularity in formulations is amazing. You have to be careful, as they were primarily used for their waterproof effects and as such were difficult to remove, often resulting in dry or heavy hair. Dimethicone was originally used in the two-in-one shampoo/conditioner combinations, which proved unsuccessful in the long term. The modern silicones are the volatile ones (those that slowly evaporate), which can be excellent emollients, softeners and protectors.”

The Beauty Brains sum it up — “You can’t simply say all silicones are bad. Some women will find silicones too heavy for their hair, others will love the soft, conditioned feel they provide. You’ll have to experiment to find what’s right for you”.

How have you found using them?


¹ From “The Beauty Brains: Real Scientists Answer your Beauty Questions”.

² From Philip Kingsley’s book ‘The Hair Bible: A Complete Guide to Health and Care.’

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