Parabens, sulfates, phthalates…GMOs? Is it just us or does beauty shopping seem to require a chemistry degree these days? As we become smarter about reading the labels on our beauty products, more and more of us are turning to our hair care to check if it’s really good for our strands. While sulfates have been bundled into the beauty ingredients blacklist, there’s another harmful additive that might be lurking in your shampoo bottle. The chemical in question is silicone.
Silicones have gotten something of a bad rep in the past few years. From your hair dresses at the salon to neighborhood aunts, everyone seems to have a cautionary tale about silicones – but why are they added to hair care products, to begin with? We deep-dive into the topic to understand what silicones can actually do for our hair and where the fear-mongering stems from. Here’s what we learned.
Silicones are polymers extracted from natural resources like sand and quartz. They are then chemically synthesized to manufacture a flexible material for hair and skincare products. Silicones are added to hair care products to improve the feel and softness of strands while reducing flyaways and frizz. They coat the hair shaft, reduce frizz, lock in moisture, and give your hair that luxurious silky feel.
There are positives and negatives when it comes to using silicones for hair. When used for a short period of time, silicones work well for dry hair by creating a layer to keep the strands hydrated from within. On the flip side, this protective layer can also block other hydrating ingredients from penetrating deep into the hair follicle. So when used for a prolonged period, silicones can cause build-up on your hair, resulting in a dry feeling and dull appearance. However, this can be prevented if the roots of your hair are nourished with natural oil at least two to three times a week, depending on your scalp type.
Given that silicone is a synthetic agent, those who gravitate towards natural and green beauty are predisposed against them. However, there’s inadequate evidence to prove that just because silicone is a synthetic material, it is harmful to use. While the initial version of silicones led to build-up with concealed damage done to our hair from heated tools, haircare formulas have evolved since then to accommodate healthier usage. The present-day formulations are designed to be soluble in shampoo. Thus, ensuring lesser build-up in the long run on your strands and scalp.
If you’re looking to spot silicones in your hair products, keep an eye out for these three categories: water-insoluble, water-soluble, and volatile. You can look for the PEG prefix for water-soluble silicones. For water-insoluble silicones, looks for -cone at the end of an ingredient name. As a general rule of thumb, if a product ends in ‘-cone’ high up on the ingredient list, there will be a greater concentration of silicones in the formula.
At the end of the day, it totally depends on your hair type. Silicones are definitely beneficial for those with dry, coarse, or curly hair as they give shine and smoothness to hair. Fine, thin, and low-porosity hair should avoid silicones as the strands can get greasy quickly with these products. For folks who get frequent colour treatment, it’s best to avoid them.
And now you know!
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