Why are silicones in hair products?

Posted on 10 May 2016
Author:Emilia Obiekea

They are in everything! Every new natural is told to avoid 'cones. They are bad for your hair and cannot be removed without using sulfate shampoos. We've all heard it.

Don't panic and toss out all of your hair products just yet. There is much more to learn about silicones before you decide to remove them from your hair regimen all together. You might decide to keep them.


(image source: istock)


Types of silicones

There are two types of categories that silicones are grouped into. They are water-soluble and water-insoluble.

Water-soluble silicones are able to dissolve in water and be removed from the hair with regular water. An easy way to tell if an ingredient is water-soluble is if is dimethicone, PEG, PPG or Hydrolyzed. Products that are in this category are wonderful for those that are looking for "curly girl friendly" products. They are easily removed with cleaners that contain surfactants such as ALS (ammonium lauryl sulfate) or cocamidopropyl betaine.

Water-insoluble silicones are formulated to bind to the hair. This makes it more difficult to remove from the strands. Ingredients in this category will have any of the following before the -cone Bis, Cetyl, Cyc, Di, Tri, and Poly. They are removable by using shampoos that contain SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). 


Why are they used in product formulations?

They are highly emollient which gives tons of slip to products. When products have slip they are easy to apply to the hair and make the hair easier to handle, detangle and reduces opportunities for mechanical hair breakage to occur. Silicones help to reduce frizz, lock in moisture, protect the hair from direct heat appliances and preventing split ends. Check out your favorite shampoos and conditioners. They are most likely formulated with 'cones for those very reasons.

Too much of a good thing can be bad. Although I've shared how wonderful they are I will say that they can be a downer. If you have very fine hair or hair that is lightly textured (ex: waves or straight hair) 'cones can weigh your hair down. You can still use them but should avoid being heavy handed when applying silicone based serums. They are made to coat the hair and can make your hair look flat and greasy (when over used). Silicones are not bad for the hair. When you know what they are, their purpose and use them properly...you will enjoy them being in some of your products.

Rather go silicone free? Silicone is not necessary for great hair. While they are good when used properly that doesn't mean they are a must in your regimen. Check out the Curly Girl Method. There are great and highly effective products that are formulated without silicones. They are considered "curly girl friendly". I love to use florets & creme or stimulating leave in cream as my moisturizers. They are silicone free with tons of slip and don't weigh down the hair. Check out the products you have and see if your favs are silicone free too. 

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