Why are silicones bad for the hair?

What you’ll learn:

  • What is the purpose of silicone in hair care products?
  • What’s not to like about silicones?
  • Types of silicones
  • How to spot silicones in hair care products?
  • Main reasons to avoid silicones: 
  • What are the alternatives to silicones?

A silicone is an inorganic synthetic polymer - a plastic - that’s commonly found in self-care products. Silicones have been found in beauty products since the 1950s mainly because they’re cheap and easy to manage within product formulations.

What is the purpose of silicone in hair care products?

Silicones are synthetic emollients, so kind of like a synthetic oil that can be found in skin products as well as in shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in treatments. They provide a silky texture for easier product application and to give an added shine to the hair. Additionally, some types of silicones are used to protect the hair from losing water at high temperatures, so they can be found in almost all heat-protectants. 

So, what’s not to like about silicones?

Silicones can be great for providing temporary control, but they’re not a permanent fix. They work on the outer layer of the hair shaft to seal the cuticles and smooth down flyaways. Silicones are often called the “make-up for the hair” because they give the illusion that the strands are smooth and nurtured. 

Silicones do not do any damage to the strands, but they are plastics at the end of the day and removing or cleaning them off requires harsh sulfates that end up damaging the hair. Not to mention that they contaminate the water. 

Types of silicones

There are different types of silicones with different properties and behaviours in the hair:

Small silicones. They are liquid and volatile, which means they evaporate faster and don’t stay on the hair or skin. This category includes silicones such as Phenyl trimethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane. 

Long shape silicones or silicone polymers. They can be found in liquid or solid forms and are usually soluble which means they can dissolve in water, for example: Dimethicone Copolyol, Lauryl Methicone Copolyol or any silicone with PEG as a prefix.

Non soluble silicones.  These are the cheapest silicones which is the reason they’re so often found in beauty and self-care products:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Pheryl Trimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Cetearyl Methicone

They are also the hardest silicones to remove from the hair. They stick to the hair strands and prevent the absorption of water and nutrients, and even though some of them are rather effective at protecting the hair from heat, they dry the strand.  

How to spot silicones in hair care products?

Look for ingredient names that end in:




Main reasons to avoid silicones: 

More often than not, adjectives such as moisture and hydration are used to describe silicones but, in reality, silicones do not provide any nutrients or water. 

Browse: Products that moisturize and nurture the hair

They create a plastic-like barrier that prevents moisture from coming in and, as they build up over time, it becomes harder to remove them from the hair. If a product contains a lot of silicones, it will most likely build up on your scalp, making it look dirty and seeming like an excess sebum problem. 

The only way to remove the non-soluble silicones is with the help of sulfates, which are also drying, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to stop. 

What are the alternatives to silicones?

Look for hair care products that are free from silicones, petrol, and sulfates. This Balancing Conditioner contains an array of oils that add shine and smoothness to the strands. It contains coconut oil which is rich in antioxidants and has  antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. It nourishes the hair with vitamins, minerals, and medium-chain fatty acids. It improves scalp health, fights infections, and supports hair growth. It also has grapeseed oil, a great source of vitamin E that aids hair growth. It helps strengthen to prevent split ends, thinning, and breaking. The boost in moisture caused by grapeseed oil helps  slow down oil production in the scalp while protecting the strands. 

From the same line, you can also try the Nurture Treatment which has oils such as olive and coconut oil that are specifically made to perform as natural silicone-substitutes for the hair. It rebalances the natural hair oils and deeply nourishes the hair thanks to its exclusive de-frizz system and formulation that includes up to eleven oils, leaving the hair shiny and defined.