Posted on by Paul WebDev

The Downsides Of Using Silicones + Natural Alternatives


The discussion about the safety of silicone use in skin and hair products has been going on for some time. While those who are pro silicones are trying to prove that they have no adverse effects, a growing number of companies is going silicone-free. To understand this trend, you need to understand what silicones are and how they work.

What are silicones?

First introduced to skin and hair care formulas in the 1950s, today silicones are found in more than half of the cosmetic products we use, especially leave-on skincare and hair styling products. They come in numerous forms, but are easily recognizable on the labels, since their names mostly end in -cone or –siloxane. The most commonly used forms of silicone are cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, dimethicone, and phenyl trimethicone.

It is a widely accepted opinion that silicones have revolutionized the application and longevity of many makeup products, from foundations and blushes, to eye shadows and eyeliners. They are fluid and non-sticky, which is why all creams formulated with silicones feel light on the skin and leave a nice silky feeling, tricking you into thinking that they actually do something for your skin. Since silicones are excellent pigment carriers, they are also added to lipsticks and lip glosses, cream eye shadows, concealers, etc.

Image Source Vagaro

While silicones have no real anti-aging properties, they have the ability to optically blur fine lines and smooth skin’s surface – two qualities that are highly valued among skin care manufacturers. This is the reason why silicones appear on the ingredient lists of 2 of 2 mass-market products.

Everything we’ve mentioned so far sounds great, don’t you think?

Why all the fuss about the use of silicones, then?

Although they are derived from a natural compound called silica (a major constituent of sand), silicones are synthetic substances, and they undergo extensive chemical processing before they end up in cosmetic
products. Like most synthetic ingredients, they provide seemingly excellent short-term results, but in the long run they have a cumulatively negative effect on our skin and hair.

How Do Silicones In Skin Care Products Work?

One of the major characteristics of silicone are its occlusive properties. In terms of skincare, this means that silicone creates a thin, rubber-like, durable layer over your skin. It serves to protect the skin from harmful external factors and to lock the moisture in. Unfortunately, along with moisture, silicones also trap impurities, bacteria, and sebum. So, do not be surprised if you notice that you break out more often
when using products that contain this particular ingredient.

Acne and spots are not your biggest concern, though. By covering your skin, silicone interferes with the natural processes of sweating, shedding of dead epidermal cells, and temperature regulation. It is as bad as it sounds. Not to mention that prolonged use can increase the risk of skin irritations and allergic reactions, and may even cause the skin to become too sensitive and dependent on silicone-based products.

What Effect Do Silicones Have On The Hair?

Most silicones that are used in hair care products are very hydrophobic, meaning they do not wash off from your hair easily. Frequent use of silicon-loaded hair care products, leads to silicone build-up, which takes away your hair’s natural volume, weighs it down, and makes it look lifeless. When you over-use products formulated with silicones your hair feels greasy, therefore you start to wash and style it excessively, causing even more damage. Apart from that, the built up layer of silicone prevents your conditioner/mask from penetrating the hair shaft. With time, your hair becomes dehydrated, more brittle and more prone to frizz. Not what you are after, right?

Truth be told, silicones do give the hair that shiny and bouncy look we all desire, but it is only a temporary illusion. The shine does not come from your hair being nourished and healthy, but instead from that plastic layer that forms around each hair strand and reflects light.

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Environmental Issues Related To The Use Of Silicones

The ecological risks of using silicones are not negligible either. Silicone molecules are very stable and chemically inert, and on average, it takes them 400 to 500 years to decompose. This is a pretty troubling fact in terms of environmental pollution and ecosystem disturbance.

Natural Alternatives Of Silicones

Although silicones seem to be almost unmatched in cosmetic formulas when it comes to their performance enhancing properties, luckily for us all, there are safer, natural solutions. These alternatives may not give you the instant effect silicones give you, but if you allow them some time, you will notice the same results, minus the side effects.

Try jojoba, avocado, or rosehip oils for that softening and soothing effect, or shea and cocoa butters which are also natural emollients and nourish the skin in depth (something that silicone doesn’t do).

To keep the skin moist, use products that contain lecithin, panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), and glycerine. These natural humectants prevent water loss, without being occlusive, so you can enjoy healthy looking, plump and radiant skin, all year round.

Image Source Loren’s World

As for your hair – there is a plethora of plant oils you can try. Coconut oilargan oil and camellia oil are great for people with dry/coarse hair, while jojoba oil is the universal split ends serum that works for all hair types. And trust me – none of these will make your hair look greasy, if you use the right amount.