Artificial Shine: What You Need to Know About Silicone Hair Products
Style, heat. Color, treat. Wash, rinse. Repeat.
We all put our hair through fairly rigorous treatment on a regular basis. Sure, not every day sees a bleaching or Brazilian Blowout, but even daily use of harsh cleansers, toxic ingredients, and heated styling take their toll. The result? Dryness, frizz, limpness, dullness, and hair damage. Not a good look.
The Quick Fix Isn't Always the Best One
So, being the beauty lovers that we naturally are (and that’s ok!) we seek a fast fix. And the go-to for many a mainstream hair care line in the insta-fix department is a silicone hair product. Silicone will get your strands soft and silky in a hot second, and have you on your merry little, sleekly coiffed way. Artificial shine to the rescue.
Until the next time you wash your hair. So you apply more of that silicone loaded product that seemed to quell your bad hair day the last time, and … it works again. Then you wash it out and you’re back to square one. Or less.
This is how silicone works. It coats strands with its slippery soft feel and hair seems to have its game back. But this only works until the silicone is rinsed out, all the while suffocating strands and making hair need more and more silicone to look shiny.
Silicone is used in lots of household, auto, industrial, and medical supplies too, like adhesives and sealants. You don’t really want to use a hair product made with the same ingredient as tire protectant and furniture polish, right?
Since silicone is in loads of hair care products lining store shelves, it can be hard to avoid. Here’s the breakdown on this slippery stuff, how to identify it on product labels, and ways to get gorgeous, glossy hair without nasty ingredients.
What is Silicone, Anyway?
Maybe you’ve heard that silicone is derived from sand, and therefore natural. This is half true.
Silicone is a manmade chemical made from silica (think beach sand), which undergoes chemical processing before being used in cosmetics. So yes, silica is a natural mineral, but silicone is a synthetic ingredient.
Other Common Names for Silicones Include:
- pheryl trimethicone
- stearyl dimethicone
- cetearyl methicone
Silicone goes by many names, but dimethicone is the one most often seen on cosmetics labels. Dimethicone is good for providing that smooth, slippery feel, but it’s not water-soluble, so it tends to accumulate on hair and scalp, leaving behind a buildup.
This buildup inhibits the scalp from naturally sloughing off dead skin cells and expelling toxins. It can also cause an increase in sensitivity and breakouts on the scalp. Continued use of silicone hair products leads to dry hair and scalp, scalp irritation and breakouts, and the frizz, lack of shine, and unhealthy locks you are looking to avoid.
Why Your Hair is Shiny (or Not)
If someone asked you what your hair cuticle is and what function it performs, would you know how to answer? Don’t feel alone. Most people have no idea where to locate their hair cuticle, let alone how it affects the look of hair shine or dullness.
The hair cuticle is the outermost, visible part of the hair shaft, made up of dead cells that overlap like tiny scales, almost like a reptile. The cuticle provides a protective layer that coats the entire hair strand.
Shiny hair is the best reflection of a healthy cuticle. When the cuticle is in optimal condition, light reflects off of strands and produces the look of glossy shine. Damaged cuticles have small holes and raised scales that create a rough surface and cause the appearance of dull hair.
Silicone fills those holes in damaged cuticles like putty, giving a look of artificial shine. This is why the effects of silicone are only temporary, offering the look of artificial shine while suffocating strands, and vanish once the product is rinsed from hair.
The Cons of Using Silicone Hair Products
Yes, silicone will probably provide the results you are looking for in a flash. But this dream state won’t last forever. Before long your hair will be totally dependent on your new silicone bestie for artificial shine and manageability, while the health of your hair goes even further down the drain (along with all of that silicone, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Not a match made in heaven after all.
Silicone coats strands, rather than penetrating and restoring health from the inside out. Silicone ingredients are occlusive, meaning they create a barrier which stops scalp and hair from drawing moisture from the air, trapping sebum and bacteria, causing clogged pores, breakouts, irritation, and excessive dryness. Basically suffocating strands and making hair look dried out, dull, and lifeless over time.
Often, silicones are found in products labeled “oil-free”, which leads many consumers to believe the product is better for scalp and hair that is prone to oiliness, breakouts, or irritation. But silicone can actually exacerbate acne and sensitivity.
These ingredients are also hard on the environment. Silicone molecules are very stable and appear to take hundreds of years to breakdown, creating pollution and ecosystem disturbances.
How to ID Silicones in Hair Products
While dimethicone may be the most widely used silicone in cosmetics, these ingredients go by many names. When purchasing hair care, look for dimethicone, dimethiconol, dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone, methicone, phenyl trimethicone, and other ingredients ending in “cone”.
Safer and More Effective Alternatives to Silicone
Time for the good news! There are many natural ingredients with benefits similar to silicones that actually do deep down good things for hair. Horsetail is a natural ingredient rich in silica that repairs damaged tissue along the hair shaft. improving the look and feel of hair from the inside.
Biotin is a champion at giving hair a feeling of healthy strength and naturally enhancing shine. This beauty also minimizes breakage and encourages hair growth.
Natural oils and butters offer a smoothing quality to hair without the negative effects of synthetic silicone ingredients. Coconut oil is particularly good for hair as it has the unique ability to fully penetrate the hair shaft, reaching the cortex to repair hair damage. Hair looks sleek, strong, and feels luxuriously soft.
These natural ingredients are also water soluble, so they rinse away and don’t build up on hair and scalp.
Get your good hair day on after just one use of the ST. TROPICA hair mask, and let our healthy hair organic ingredients get to work repairing damage where it starts. Rather than reaching for the silicone hair care on your next drug store visit, opt for natural ingredients that smooth hair and give brilliant shine, while reversing damage. No toxins or product build up, just healthy, beautiful hair.
September 07, 2022
I am now 6 months into using silicone-free products and let me tell you, my hair never felt more stronger and vibrant!
I now rely on biotin and drug-free products! I’m so happy that I stumbled upon ST. TROPICA’s vitamins and hot oil mask.
Goodbye harmful chemicals! I’ll never go back!