Silicones in Hair Products: Good or Bad?

siliconeFrom natural hair, relaxed hair, and everything in between, silicone agents in hair products have received both negative and positive propaganda.   Not only have silicones been trashed and praised, many people don’t even know why silicones are good or bad.   This encourages the revolving door of misinformation.   The fact of the matter is that not all silicones are bad and it doesn’t have anything to do with your hair type, hair texture, or if you are relaxed or natural.   This guide will finally put to rest the silicone debate and debunk myths about silicones in hair products.

Silicones are found in more products than you think.   As a general rule of thumb, if you want to know if your hair products contain silicone agents, just read the label.   Look for products that have “cone” as an extension.   For example, dimethicone is a silicone because of its “cone” extension.   If you do see ingredients like dimethiconol, amodimethicone, or lauryl methicone copolyol then your hair product definitely contains silicones.   However, don’t be alarmed just because your product contains silicone.   Instead of being concerned with silicone ingredients, you should be concerned with the TYPE of silicone agents in your hair products.

A common misconception about silicone based hair products is that silicones are bad for your hair.   Not only is that statement untrue but it’s widely used, which is why many people remain uneducated.   The fact of the matter is that silicone products themselves are not bad for the hair.   In fact, some silicone products aren’t bad but are as gentle as water.

There are two types of silicones:   Water soluble and non-soluble silicones.   Water soluble silicones are ones that can be washed away with water and nothing more.   Non-soluble silicones are exactly the opposite of its soluble counterparts.   Non-soluble silicones require sulfates in order to be washed away.   While there are two categories of silicones, one type is not better than the other because silicones do not actually benefit the hair in any way.   In fact, silicones only give the “appearance” of healthier hair.   Silicones coat the hair to make it appear sleeker, frizz free and healthier.   For example, silicones found in conditioners, hair polishers and frizz taming products coat the strands to make them “appear” sleeker and more polished.   They also add a bit of weight to give fine, fragile hair substance.   In essence, silicone based products only provide a temporary smoothing effect.

Water Soluble Silicones

Dimethicone Copolyol

Lauryl Methicone Copolyol

Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)

Any Silicone with PEG as a prefix

Non Soluble (not water soluble)

Trimethylsilylamodimetheicone

Dimethicone

Phenyl Trimethicone

Cetearyl Methicone

Dimethiconol

Amodimethicon

Stearyl Dimethicone

Cyclomethicone

Cetyl Dimethicone

Cyclopentasiloxane

Behenoxy Dimethicone

Stearoxy Dimethicone

Regardless of the type of silicone, both soluble and non-soluble silicones coat the hair.   As stated before, water soluble silicones can be rinsed or washed away with water.   This is optimal for people that co-wash their hair or do not want to use sulfates on the hair.   Non-soluble silicones require the help of sulfate shampoos and conditioners in order to remove the silicone coating from the hair.   This may seem meaningless to some, however, if you are trying to retain moisture then you may want to refrain from using non-soluble silicone products.   It’s a fact that sulfates are found in products like dish detergent and laundry soap.   I doubt that you would put those products on your hair.   Moreover, aside from the type of products that contain sulfates, in general, sulfates strip the hair of its natural oils.   Therefore, if your hair is moisture stricken, using non-soluble silicone products that require sulfates negatively alter your hair’s moisture retaining capabilities.

Although water soluble silicones only require water to dissolve them, water soluble silicones may still be bad for the hair.   If you have a hair routine that requires daily moisturizing then water soluble silicones may not be a good fit for your hair either, unless you co-wash frequently.   As with any type of silicone, either water soluble or non-soluble, the coating on the hair prevents moisture, protein, or other products from penetrating the hair shaft.   Additionally, when an overload of silicone products are applied to hair, the buildup from the silicone coating eventually causes breakage.   That is why it is important to clarify your hair after using silicone products to prevent buildup.

In conclusion, the misconception that all silicones are bad is exactly that:   A misconception.   All silicones aren’t actually bad for your hair, but the products needed to remove silicone makes silicone products less ideal for some.   Additionally, water based silicones are preferred over non-soluble silicones as they can be removed with water.   The use of silicone depends on how your hair reacts to it.   If your hair doesn’t have a bad reaction, there is nothing wrong with using water soluble silicone products.   Nonetheless, like with all things, silicone products may be ok in moderation.   The best option is to become educated about silicone products and try them for yourself before coming to a final conclusion.

Author: April Flores

A up-and-coming BHM blogger!

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16 Comments

  1. This was beyond awesome. I’ve stopped using some products and washing my hair more frequently and the flakes are gone. I’ve done everything in the book to get here so I’m really appreciative.

    I would like to find a a hoar smoothener like Freda frizz ease straight styles or garner sleek that have eithe no silicones or at least the water solvable ones. Any recommendations.?

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  2. HELP! I have had silicone coated my hair for 1 year now! I have thin curly black hair (medium length) It started when I damaged my hair last year to straightening my hair, it was really bad.. I regret it now so much! So I tried the hair products for damage hair and it didn’t do that much. I went to the hairdresser and they recommend the keratin treatment, it did kinda fix my hair, it started to make my hair dry and I think it was because of treatment but 99% it was the shampoo & conditioner I had to use for the treatment for 4 months. I went to get my hair trimmed 2 months and it the hairdresser put MOROCCAN OIL that coated my hair! (Ends) It did repair it bit at the same it COATED IT so it was oily and horrible ! Now I use a non silicone shampoo which is good but my hair is still coated :( basically, my hair has reacted bad to the silicones by all the silicone products I have used in the past months. Im scared to tell People incase they think I’m being silly & the hairdresser may not know what silicones are so I don’t know what to do.. I really need someone to help me, I have been putting up with my hair for a long time now and I can continue for now but it makes me upset and I REALLY need answer and solutions, please thank you.

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    • I damaged my hair by continuously dying it and the best thing I found was applying 1tbs of lemon juice, 2tbs olive oil and 3 egg whites to damp hair and leaving it in over night once a week. the egg whites will add the protein to your hair while the olive oil will moisturise it as the lemon juice locks it in the cuticle (And helped strip out the hair dye). Hoping this will help you as it has no silicons in it at all :) I also use argan oil on a daily bases on my ends only. It’s pricey but well worth the sleekness it gives my hair x

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    • Use a cleansing treatment and or shampoo. They are available at sally’s beauty supply and super easy to do.

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    • To get rid of silicones – shampoo your hair with BAKING SODA or find a good clarifying shampoo (this removes the silicone coating allowing the hair shaft to absorb minerals, conditioning treatments and hair colouring) then after shampooing apply a good silicone free conditioner (I actually sleep with mine on – then rinse off in the morning)x

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    • This problem will probably be solved by using a clarifying shampoo. If you have silicone, oil or product buildup, using a clarifying shampoo once a month can removes all buildup. But you have to follow it up with a conditioner, because it strips your hair of all its natural oils.
      Also, when you get a keratin treatment, you don’t have to use the keratin products that they give you to wash your hair. I used my regular shampoo and conditioner when I got my treatment. It did make the treatment fade faster, but it kept my hair healthy throughout the treatment.
      Hope this helps!

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  3. Very educational, well needed information.

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  4. I was extremely pleased to uncover this page. I want to to thank
    you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every
    part of it and i also have you saved to fav to check out new information in
    your site.

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  5. Thank You so much for clearing that up, Im using the curly girl method but i wanted to straighten my hair after a year & need something natural as a protecter, I couldnt find anything so I got ELASTA QP Silkening Polisher & I had to decided if I wanted to use this product or not..well I used it & I guess after a year of being “CONE FREE” i now have to use a sulfate shampoo..I guess it cant hurt..=(

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  6. Good job. And great focus on the chemistry of it all. A+

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  7. I am now even more confused. would you reccommend Joico K-pak shampoo & conditioner… or Alterna Bamboo UV shampoo and conditioner for colored yet chemically relaxed hair?

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  8. Great article and I too needed the clarification. I’m told there are sulfate free shampoos that will clean the hair of non-soluable silicones. If would be great to have a list of these shampoos. If anyone knows please share.

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  9. Thank you for this! I’m so confused about what’s “bad” for my hair. I really needed this clarification.

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  10. Will cocamidopropyl betaine remove silicones?

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    • Cocamidopropyl betaine wil only remove water-soluble silicones, maybe a bit of the non-water-soluble as well, but it is not at strong surfactant.

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