From makeup primers to leave-in hair treatments, dimethicone (a silicone-based polymer or silicone oil), is a popular ingredient in both conventional and (mostly) natural products. It coats the hair shaft to give it a shinier, soft texture, and, when applied to your face, it’s supposed to even out the appearance of pores and help your makeup stay put. Sounds pretty magical, right?
As it turns out, silicone in beauty products is the subject of much criticism and fret—and may actually wreak havoc on beauty over time. But maybe not.
We’ve spoken about silicone and your hair before. Until recently, I absolutely avoided them in everything having to do with my hair—and it seems like silicone is in everything—hair spray, shampoo, conditioner, leave-in oil treatments, etc. Living sans silicones seemed to result in fewer split-ends and generally healthier, stronger hair.
I also kept it out of my makeup routine for the most part. Although I’d read everything from Sephora reviews to posts by natural beauty bloggers warning that dimethicone (especially in primer and foundation) clogs pores to no end, my experience with silicone on the face was a little different.
Although I’ve had many a headache courtesy of stubborn acne, I am fortunate (?) that my skin issues stem mostly from hormonal issues. Makeup or no makeup, my skin will breakout as it chooses, usually on my chin. As a beauty editor (a.k.a. professional beauty addict), I’ve sampled a variety of BB creams, foundations, facial serums, etc., none of which have caused any noticeable reaction. Still, I was very nervous to try Josie Maran’s Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation, which contains silicone. My only problem with it was that it made my skin look excessively dry and flaky.
That was a few years ago. Since then, I’ve sampled primers and foundations containing dimethicone and have experienced similar results with most—dry, gross looking skin. As a disclaimer, my skin can get very dry, especially in the Pacific Northwest. I’m either huddled by the heater (October – April) or enjoying the blissful (dry) warmth of summer.
But why would something designed to soften and smooth your skin dry it out? Ditto your hair?
Silicone may be occlusive. One of the reasons why it makes hair look shiny-slick (at least for a moment) is that it seals in moisture—which would be great if it didn’t potentially block additional moisture from absorption. Hence, dry, frayed hair after months of use.
Many beauty buffs are also concerned that silicone may clog pores for this very reason. Even if it doesn’t clog the pore itself, it’s easy to imagine how it could trap bacteria and other nasties in there.
But after a few years of being against silicone even coming near my body, I now find myself on the fence. It started with a sample of I.C.O.N. India Oil, a vegan, paraben-free hair therapy oil. Even though it contains synthetic fragrance, which I typically avoid as well, I thought I’d try it just once. Then once turned into every other day (basically every time I wash my hair.)
After over a month of using it, I’m reconsidering my stance on dimethicone. This little bottle has a magic way with my hair. I also came across a blush by GlamNatural that contains silicone as well, and it’s not so bad. I wonder if this is this is because I only use on a small part of my face.
Did I just have to find the right products? Will they turn on me? I certainly don’t plan to go dimethicone crazy anytime soon, but my mixed experiences have certainly made the ingredient all the more mysterious to me. Furthermore, I’ll remain cautious about it since its toxicity isn’t clearly established either.
Do you use products containing silicone? Thoughts?
Related: Are Charcoal Beauty Products Safe?
Photos: Mainstream via Flickr, Mary Hood