Even if you are not passionate about makeup, moisturizers, and hair products, you probably know a lot more about these products than you think. You know you’ve heard of things like “sulfate-free”, “paraben-free”, or “all-natural”. Social media is packed with entire communities that take the time to learn and explain what is in everything that we use on a daily basis.
One of the buzzwords floating around the online world is dimethicone. You might have heard of it, but what is dimethicone and what does it do?
Where Does It Come from
Dimethicone is a silicone-based organic compound. What makes dimethicone so interesting is its ability to make your facial moisturizer feel so soft and silky. It is abundantly incorporated into a wide range of skin and hair care products. The primer of yours that feels so light and slippery under your fingers and goes on so light and fresh on your face most likely contains dimethicone.
There is a lot of talk about whether or not silicone-based personal care products are damaging to the skin and hair. The main complaint is that it makes acne problems worse. As a result, a lot of companies have started to remove dimethicone from their product and announce this all over their marketing to make sure that you know. But is everything about silicones bad? Sometimes it seems like it’s become another toxic thing to look out for in the products we use.
What Are Silicones
All right, dimethicone is just a type of silicone that contains the dimethyl chemical group. But what is a silicone then? Silicones were developed in the 1930s from a method of extracting pure silica from raw quartz and converting it to dimethyl silica. But it’s believed that the term “silicone” wasn’t coined until 1940.
So, while not a purely natural polymer – very few polymers in the world contain all-natural ingredients, natural rubber is the major one – the main constituent of silicone is a natural substance in the form of silica. Apart from quartz, you can find silica in rocks, sand, and granite. Of course, in the polymerization of silica to silicone, a number of synthetic ingredients are added.
What is very unique about silicone is the extremely strong alternating chemical bonds between the oxygen and silicon atoms in the polymer. It makes it a powerful and durable substance that’s especially resistant to degradation.
There are over 400 different types of silicones and their use extends far beyond cosmetics. You can find them as coating agents for certain types of medical-grade tubing due to the significant resistance to microbes and bacteria. They are also an ingredient in numerous pharmaceuticals that we take orally.
Dimethicone & Skincare
One of the primary functions of dimethicone in skincare products is that of an emollient, meaning it softens the skin. It is also an occlusive, which means that it decreases the amount of water that is lost from the skin or the hair shaft. Dimethicone is a non-toxic, colorless, and odorless oily compound. This might be somewhat peculiar, given that dimethicone can be found in many products that are considered oil-free.
However, they feel substantially lighter on your skin compared to mineral oil and petroleum-based moisturizers. So, dimethicone-containing skincare products are particularly recommended for people with oily skin, as it prevents your face from appearing “shiny”. Another thing that dimethicone does is add to the luminosity of the skin, which is the desired effect for people with all types of skin.
Dimethicone & Hair Care
Taking care of your skin and keeping it healthy, as well as making it feel silky and smooth, is very important. Your hair deserves equal treatment, so can dimethicone help your hair in any way?
Dimethicone and other silicone derivatives are also added to various shampoos, conditioners, and hair setting and styling products. Their job is to coat the hair shaft to keep moisture in and help prevent fragile hair and hair breakage. It also protects your hair from heat sources, such as hair dryers and other heat-based styling products. It also helps you with hair detangling.
An important caveat when it comes to dimethicone in hair products is that this particular silicone-based compound is not water soluble. This means that, unfortunately, dimethicone will build upon your hair shaft itself and weigh it down. Because it’s insoluble, rinsing it out with water is not enough. You most likely have to wash it with a sulfate-based shampoo in order to prevent hair breakage, frizz, or even hair loss. Or opt for a hair product that contains water-soluble silicones, such as dimethicone copolyol and any silicone that has a “peg” prefix.
Is Dimethicone Bad for You
Silicone derivatives like dimethicone are mostly inert so there is a very low likelihood that you might develop an allergic reaction or skin irritation from it. Despite being accused of promoting acne breakouts, it can be found in acne medications like Tretinoin due to its moisturizing abilities. Most active ingredients in acne creams dry out the skin, so the presence of dimethicone can make all the difference.
Still, there are a lot of outcries, especially online, about the damaging effects of dimethicone and other silicone-based skin and hair products. The prevalent complaint is that it clogs the pores and doesn’t allow the skin to breathe, thus causing breakouts. Again, some cosmetic brands have stepped away from dimethicone use. But many have not and continue to take advantage of its light, soft, and smooth properties.
World Without Silicone
We are way past the point of being able to go through our daily business in the world without silicone. It is such a layered and practical compound and found in almost everything, including a lot of foods. It has found use in cosmetic surgery and that is how the name silicone was popularized.