After breaking down sulphates and sulphate-free shampoos we turn our attention to another controversial ingredient: silicones.
When they first appeared in the hair care industry, silicone shampoos were all the rage, professing many benefits including efficiency. But over time, we’ve learned new information about the different types of silicones and how they act on hair. So let’s unpack the big question: are silicones good for your hair or are you better off going silicone-free?
What is silicone?
Silicone is a synthetic ingredient (it’s a large class of materials to be more specific) used in many beauty products such as skin care, makeup and hair care, because of its range of properties. Silicone is emollient meaning it can help smoothen the surface, making a product easier to spread, as well as humectant, meaning it can retain moisture. It also prevents certain skincare or make up products like lipsticks or foundations from drying up.
You can recognize the silicones in an ingredient list usually by their “-cone” or ‘-siloxane’ ending, for example cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, amodimethicone, and dimethicone.
Why is silicone used in hair products?
Silicone-type ingredients can be found in many hair care products, especially shampoos, conditioners and hair masks. One main benefit is that it leaves hair smoother and shinier, because the silicone forms a protective layer on the hair shaft, therefore smoothing the cuticles. They can also protect the hair from heat damage caused by styling tools or blow drying.
One important thing to note is that not all silicones are created equal. The reason silicones have sparked controversy is due to a type of non-water-soluble silicone that was used in haircare products about 30 years ago. The continuous use of these “bad-silicones”, lead to build- up, which weighs the hair down leaving it lifeless and dull. The silicone build up around the hair also prevents nutrients from reaching deep within the hair shaft.
However, modern haircare products no longer use these types of silicones and have switched to water-soluble ones. These types of silicones don’t stay on the hair but are washed away without creating any build-up. They have conditioning properties for the hair, leaving it soft and shiny. Silicones have no influence on the performance of perms, nor do they affect hair that’s been coloured with permanent or semi-permanent hair colour.
Those with curly hair might want to really avoid products containing silicone though, because, unlike straight locks where the silicone can slide off the hair, it can remain in the curls, weighing them down. Those with fine hair, or who just want more volume in their mane, should also avoid silicones because of this weigh-down effect.
Silicone-free hair care alternatives
Even though modern-day silicones are safe and efficient, some of us prefer to use products with fewer synthetic ingredients and more biodegradable ones. Switching to a silicone-free hair care regimen doesn’t mean that you can’t have shiny, luscious locks. There are many alternative products that will provide the same care and conditioning for your hair.
A consumer study carried in May 2020 among over 200 women from the UK, ages 18-54, has discovered that 78% of the respondents avoid silicones in their hair products all the time, or at least sometimes. The majority of them do this because they believe silicones are not biodegradable, therefore having an impact on the environment.
In fact the harmfulness of silicones, i.e. cyclomethicone, on the environment has been widely discussed in several scientific journals. Also, the EU Scientific Committee SCCS confirms that these chemicals are under scrutiny due to their potential persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT) environmental properties.
weDo’s high performing vegan hair products like our shampoos, conditioners and hair masks are formulated without any silicones. Instead we’ve used natural origin conditioning agents such as murumuru butter or cupuacu butter that will coat the hair fibre and smoothen the cuticles, leaving the hair naturally soft, shiny and easier to comb.
Everyone’s hair is different so knowing how to read an ingredient list will help you to make better decisions for your hair needs. If you’re looking for a more natural approach to hair care than go for silicone-free alternatives.
Discover our range of silicone-free conditioners and nourishing hair masks. If you want to learn more about what free-from beauty is, check out our other articles.