Skincare Competence

Silicone in Hair and Skincare Products

26 June 2024

Silicone is a common ingredient that can be found in many conventional hair and skincare products. It is generally considered safe and non-toxic with many positive benefits. In skincare products, silicone is popular for its velvety texture and the smoothing and hydrating appearance it gives the skin. Similarly, silicone provides the hair with a luxurious glossy appearance, hydrating effect, and protection from heat damage.

However, there are some known side effects and an even greater negative impact to the environment. In this post, we’ll explain what silicone is, why it’s used in cosmetics, and what the pros and cons of this cosmetic ingredient are. 

What Exactly are Silicones?

Silicone is a general term for a class of inert polymers based on alternating silicon (Si), oxygen (O) bonds known as siloxane bonds. Silicone is a synthetic material that is readily available and comes in many forms, including: 

  • Solids
  • Liquids
  • Pastes
  • Gels
  • Oils
  • Greases
  • Rubber

The versatility, durability, and chemical stability of this polymer make it an ideal material that can be used across several industries for a wide variety of applications. Silicone is heat-resistant, hydrophobic (water-resistant), and crease- or wrinkle-resistant. It is a very common material used in the beauty industry as well as many other fields due to its non-toxic, non-reactive, and anti-microbial properties.

Why are Silicones Used in Cosmetics?

Silicones have been used in cosmetics since the 1950s. In 1953, Revlon introduced their new hand cream, Silicare, which was the first skincare product to feature the unique soothing and occlusive properties of silicone. Over the course of the next 20 years, new types of silicone were developed and added to a multitude of other skincare products. 

It wasn’t until the 1980s that silicone finally made its debut in hair products like shampoo and conditioner. After its introduction, silicone quickly became a favorite ingredient among cosmetic companies for its desirable glossing effect and frizz control. 

In the US, the ingredients used in cosmetics do not require approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). However, the FDA does regulate cosmetic labeling. In Europe, on the other hand, cosmetics are regulated by the Cosmetic Products Regulation in conjunction with the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS). In the EU, the use of silicone in cosmetics is regulated under Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009, which requires cosmetic products to be assessed for safety before entering the market.

Benefits of using silicone in cosmetics:

  • Spreadable: Silicone is an inert polymer, making it easy to blend with other ingredients without it causing a chemical reaction. Its smooth consistency also makes it an ideal base ingredient for creams, gels, or shampoo and conditioner. 
  • Hydration protection: Silicone doesn’t absorb into the hair or skin. It’s a hydrophobic material that creates an occlusive film that can lock in water and keep the skin plump and hydrated. 
  • Non-comedogenic: Despite a common misconception that silicones in skincare products clog the pores, silicones are a non-comedogenic material, meaning there is no scientific evidence that it clogs skin pores. 
  • Versatile: Silicone is a highly versatile material. There are many variations that serve different purposes in cosmetics. They vary in consistency from thin fluids to thick gels, have an appealing smooth texture, add volume and luster to hair, and give the skin a hydrated appearance that blurs unwanted lines and wrinkles. 
  • Heat protection: Silicone is a heat resistant polymer, therefore, it can help protect the hair from heat damage, as well as maintaining hair color.


Chemical Properties of Silicones

Silicone is a highly versatile material with many useful properties. Among many other qualities, it can make products more durable, stable, and consistent. Some of its best properties include:

  • Resistance to microbial growth
  • Thermal stability
  • Low toxicity
  • Wrinkle & crease resistance
  • Hydrophobic
  • Electrical insulation/conductivity

Silicones in Hair Products

Silicone is a popular ingredient found in conventional hair products like shampoo, conditioner, and hair serums. It has a similar effect in each of these products; it coats the hair strands, giving them a velvety texture and glossy appearance, adding volume, and controlling frizz. Silicone can also help lock in hair color and prevent heat damage. 

  • Silicone in Shampoo: Silicone in shampoo leaves a thin film on the hair that provides glossiness, a healthy and hydrated appearance, locks in color, and protects from heat damage. 
  • Silicone in Conditioner: Adding silicone to conditioners softens the hair strands, adds shine, and improves the smoothness of the hair, making it easier to manage. 
  • Silicone in Hair Serum: Silicone is added to hair serums to help lock in hair color, moisture, control frizz, and add luster.


Are Silicones Bad for your Hair?

Silicones exhibit several positive effects; so, are silicones actually bad for hair? The side effects of silicone in hair products differ based on hair type. The coarser the hair, the less likely it is to cause problems; in contrast, the thinner the hair is, the more prone it is to being damaged. Silicone is not toxic to the hair, however, if not properly rinsed off, it can accumulate on the hair and impact your overall hair health.

Silicones in Skincare

Silicone can be found in many skincare products, including foundations, hydrating serums, and moisturizers. Due to its non-reactive properties and non-greasy, creamy texture, it is commonly used as a base ingredient. The silicones used in skincare products are divided into two categories:

  • Volatile Silicones: Volatile silicones have a non-irritating, hydrating effect, but rapidly evaporate, leaving the skin with a dry, but silky and powdery texture. 
  • Non-volatile Silicones: Non-volatile silicones range in viscosity from a thin fluid consistency to a thick gel-like consistency. This type of silicone is permeable and provides the skin with protection from water-loss and delivers a velvety smooth finish. 

Silicone is a non-comedogenic ingredient, meaning there is no scientific evidence that it clogs skin pores. It is considered to be beneficial to skin health, because of its occlusive finish, which locks in water and keeps the skin hydrated and dewy. It is also suggested that silicone may aid in healing wounds and reducing scars. Silicone easily bonds with other ingredients. Its easily spreadable and hydrating aesthetic gives skincare products a unique appeal. 


Are Silicones Bad for your Skin?

If silicones can be a benefit to skin health, what are the negatives of silicones in skincare products? Silicone is a safe ingredient, however, regular use may cause skin irritation or exacerbate pre-existing acne in people who are already struggling with this issue. Because silicone itself is non-comedogenic, it doesn’t directly cause acne by clogging the pores; instead, its occlusive property may trap comedogenic substances, such as dirt or oils. 

Silicone may also cause skin irritation, especially in those that have a silicone allergy. This may cause mild symptoms, like swelling, irritation, redness, or even a burning sensation. Silicone is a hydrophobic material, therefore, it may require more than one cleansing to wash it all off. If it doesn’t get completely cleaned off, it may lead to clogged pores or irritated skin.

Silicone-Free Beauty with ADA Cosmetics

At ADA Cosmetics, we put great consideration and thought into each ingredient we use in our cosmetic formulations. While silicone may be considered a non-toxic and harmless ingredient, it is a non-biodegradable material with a negative environmental impact. As a company committed to environmental sustainability with Cradle to Cradle certified products, we take pride in our efforts to avoid synthetic ingredients that harm the environment.

Instead, we opt for high-quality plant-based raw materials and other natural alternatives that are both healthier for our consumers and safe for our ecosystems. 


How can you tell if silicones are in cosmetics?

Although most cosmetic silicones are prohibited in the EU, you can determine whether there is silicone in a cosmetic product in one of two ways:

ᐅ If the product is labeled Silicone-Free or Free from Silicones, or
ᐅ If silicone is included in the ingredients list. Look for ingredients with suffixes such as:


Should I avoid silicones?

Silicones in cosmetics are non-toxic, however, they may cause certain side effects in people with sensitive skin or thin hair. However, silicone is not an environmentally friendly ingredient. It’s best to avoid silicones, because they’re harmful to our ecosystems and can be replaced in cosmetics but other natural, environmentally friendly alternatives with similar qualities.

Is silicone environmentally friendly?

Silicone is derived from a natural material, silicon, but silicone itself is a non-biodegradable polymer that negatively impacts the environment in both its production and disposal. The production of silicone requires hydrocarbons and releases a lot of carbon emissions. Furthermore, its non-biodegradable nature makes it difficult to recycle and is known to accumulate, especially in the ocean.