What are silicones and Why are they in your hair products?

by Brianna Thompson


A lot of products claim to be “silicone-free”. And yet despite all the controversy and skepticism in this ingredient, it seems like silicones still get used in a lot of products. This becomes confusing to many people who have heard the controversy, especially the curly girls. Now everyone is unsure what is bad about silicone, or if it is actually bad. In today's blog, everything will be explained. 



Silicones are commonly found in conditioners and styling products. This ingredient is derived from a natural element called silica, which is from sand. It starts off natural, but silica is put through several chemical reactions to become the silicones you find in modern haircare products. Any ingredient that ends in ‘cone’ (like dimethicone) is like a sister to silicone.

There are hundreds of types of silicones used across different industries (car wax or tile grout for example). Thousands of personal care products use silicones. But the ones used in hair care products are made to give silky texture, slip, or shine.

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Silicones became an industry staple because the effects that they give are difficult to accomplish with alternative ingredients like oils.

Oils will give some of the benefits like shine – but typically to replace all the benefits of one silicone, you need several additional ingredients, and they still won’t do the same job. Silicone is a “one in all" efficient ingredient, which is why it is popular. 

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Why is Silicone bad?

Silicones has been known to be a water repellant that is drying to the hair, which makes anyone with curls run as hydration is essential for them. But not all silicones are the same.

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Here are the three key types of silicones:

  • Occlusive Silicones: These are the water-repellant silicones. They form a barrier or layer on the hair and stay there, unless removed with a cleanser. Some examples are certain forms of dimethicone or amodimethicone. If left on the hair, they form a barrier that keeps moisture out of the hair and can cause hair to dehydrate over time. If any ingredient in your shampoos, especially harsh waxes and silicones are hard to rinse off, build up will increase over time and cause scalp issues, and overall brittleness in the hair. 
  • Water Soluble Silicones: Unlike occlusive silicones, these ingredients wash away with water. They’re easily emulsified, and oncethey are in contact with water, they are removed from the hair. Some examples include: Cyclomethicone, PEG-12 Dimethicone and Dimethicone Copolyol, (both water-soluble forms of dimethicone) or Polysilicone-29. These are generally good ingredients to have in your shampoo or hair products. 
  • Volatile Silicones: Volatile silicones are completely different than most. These ingredients are typically added to products for initial slip and shine, but they don’t stay in the hair. They actually evaporate as hair dries. Examples include Cyclopentasiloxane, or Trisiloxane. There’s no reason to fear these ingredients, because they disappear on their own. 
Curly girls are still able to achieve the slip, shine, and silkiness with alternative ingredients. These ingredients are often oils, waxes, or mineral oil. Some of these can be good or bad. Some of these ingredients can even be worse than silicone alone. It is important to look at all ingredients before purchasing a shampoo. Let's discuss some of these ingredients.
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Oils, just like certain silicones, can ultimately build up if not removed or clarified out of the hair. However, many of them emulsify pretty easily.  Here are some common oils you'll find in curly hair products:

- Jojoba oil
- Vitamin E
-Coconut oil
-Avocado oil

The smaller the molecule of the oil – the easier it is to emulsify and avoid build up (like argon oil). Luckily, most ingredients are not made of pure oil, and only have a small amount to give enough benefits to curls. Using pure oil like coconut oil will cause buildup and breakage overtime.

Mineral Oil and Waxes 
Mineral oil and wax often form barriers in the hair, which results to buildup. Waxes are one of the most common silicone alternatives and are just as hard to emulsify as regular silicones. They can also lead to very significant buildup over time if not removed properly. Often times drug store brands use these waxes to create the "ultimate shine," but not clean hair. 

Silicones, waxes, and oils – all pretty much do the same thing. You just have to make sure whatever you’re using is evaporating, water-soluble, or is being rinsed away with your shampoo.

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Occlusive Silicones
If you use these, make sure you wash them away with a shampoo that doesn’t include any ingredients that stick to hair and scalp and don’t easily rinse off, otherwise you will just make matters worse!)

  • Amodimethicone
  • Dimethicone (High Molecular Weight)
  • Dimethiconol
  • Dimethicone/Vinyldimethicone Crosspolymer
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
Waxes can form barriers and create buildup.  If you use these, make sure you wash them away either with a clarifying shampoo from time to time or a very gentle daily shampoo. If you wash your hair often, I would avoid wax based products all together. 

  • Beeswax
  • Castor wax
  • Carnauba Wax
  • Candelilla Wax
  • Lanolin wax
Occlusive Oils

These are difficult to wash off and are heavy. If you use these, make sure you wash them away with a good clarifying shampoo. 

  • Mineral Oil
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
  • Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil
  • Hydrogenated Polyisobutene
  • Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Seed Oil
Water Soluble Oils
Rinses off, easily emulsified. Best kind of oils for hair care. . 

  • PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate
  • Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters
  • PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides
  • PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil

Water Soluble Silicones
 Rinses off, easily emulsified. Best kind of silicones for shampoos and products. 

  • PEG-12 Dimethicone
  • Polysilicone-29
  • Silicone Quaternium-18
  • PEG/PPG-20/15 Dimethicone
Volatile Silicones
Silicone that evaporates. One of the best ingredients to have in your shampoo. 

  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Trisiloxane
  • Disiloxane 
  • Phenyl Trimethicone

Hot tip: Using professional brands will avoid hassle in finding a suitable product for your hair type. If you need suggestions, feel free to message me @themanebri or chat with our other stylists at The Warehouse Salon. 

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About the Author

Brianna Thompson

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