might have heard that silicones (or 'cones) are bad for your hair
causing damage and you should avoid all products with any ingredients
ending in 'cone. We are going to tell you what you need to know
about 'cones and why you might or might not want to avoid them.
Why are silicones in my products
As a manufacturer of beauty products
we can tell you there are basically two reasons to put an ingredient in
- It's cheap- sometimes an ingredient is used just to take up space
(a filler) or because it's cheap. Mineral oil would be a good
example. A manufacturer needs to use an oil. But, instead
of using a more expensive oil, he uses mineral oil to keep his cost
- It's effective- an ingredient will be put in a product because it
has the desired effect on your hair and/or skin. This might be an
expensive ingredient or a cheap one, a natural ingredient or a
synthetic one. Sodium laurel sulfate for example, is a synthetic
ingredient (derived from coconut) that makes products foam and clean
effectively. Manufacturers use it because people like products
like shampoo to lather.
Manufacturers don't put things in products to purposely cause
harm. While it's true that unscrupulous manufacturers will use
cheap ingredients that don't work well, most manufacturers want their
products to work as advertised. So,
why do some of the best manufacturers use silicones if they are harmful?
Basically, silicones are put in products because they coat the hair
with a thin water-proof (hydrophobic) covering. Putting this
coating on the hair serves a few good purposes:
- It prevents the hair from absorbing humidity. While we want
to have our hair get moisture, we don't want this moisture to penetrate
the hair after we've flat ironed or pressed it which causes the hair to
frizz or revert.
- While the hydrophobic (water-proof) coating keeps moisture out,
it also keeps moisture in the hair, which we like. So, sealing the hair
after moisture has been applied can be desirable.
- The coating is slick. So, it makes the hair easier to comb
and smoother to the touch. It also makes the hair reflect light
better- so the hair appears more shiny.
- Another benefit to silicones in products it they protect the hair
from heat used while styling (blow drying, flat ironing or
Are all silicones the same?
No. As you would probably guess, not all silicones have the same
properties. There are a variety of silicones from some that are
pretty "heavy' and prone to building up to some that are relatively
"light". One of the heavier silicones used in hair products
is dimethicone or simethicone. It gives a great smoothing effect-
the best. But, it can be hard to wash out. On the other
extreme, cyclomethicone is very light and easy to wash out. It
gives a slippery feeling to the hair while wet. But, after it's been
rinsed out, you can hardly tell it was there.
How do I avoid silicone damage to my
To avoid having silicones damage your hair, don't use products with
silicones too often. If you use a shampoo, conditioner or styling
product with silicones, switch up and don't use them too often.
For people who wash their hair every day or multiple times a week this
is extremely important. For people who wash less often, the build
up from these products is not as troubling. Since most of our
clients wash less than weekly, silicone build up from shampoos and
conditioners won't be as much of a concern. But, even so you can
occasionally use a clarifying shampoo or do a silicone removing
treatment (see below) to be on the safe side.
How do I remove silicone buildup from
hair? How do I repair silicone damage to my hair?
silicones are not water soluble. So, simply rinsing them out with
water won't remove them. That's why they can build up. But,
the good news is most silicones are easily removed with surfactants
(cleansers) that are in most shampoos. You do not necessarily
need a "clairfying" shampoo. Some ingredients you'll want to look
for in a shampoo to remove silicones are sodium laurel sulfate (SLS),
sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine,
ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) and ammonium lauryl ether sulfate
(ALES). Products with clay like Sahara Clay and Rhassoul Clay can
also be used to deep clean hair and remove silicone buildup. If
you're going to use products with silicones, it's a good idea to
periodically use a shampoo with one of these surfactants to clean the
hair. Or deep cleanse with a clay mask product every month or
But, I don't want to use shampoos with
sulfates because I heard sulfates are harmful
Well... Sulfates are good and bad-
like silicones. Sulfates are
used because they are good surfactants removing dirt and oil (and
silicones). But, too much of a good thing can be bad. See
this article The Truth ABout Sodium Laurel Sulfate
information on their benefits and harmful effects.
Should I try to avoid 'cones entirely?
The answer is up to you. We
don't feel it's our job to tell you
what to do or not do but to present you with a fair and balanced
assessment of a topic so that you can make your own decision. Now that
you know why silicones are in so many hair products you can determine
if you think their benefits outweigh the risks. If you do happen
to experience silicone build-up you now know how to deal with it.
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