Does silicone damage hair? What does silicone do to hair and what are the signs of silicone build-up?
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In this article I'll be looking at the use of silicone in hair products and recommending some great silicone free shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products. I'll also tell you how to spot the signs of silicone build-up on hair and how to get rid of it to get more volume and to start to improve the health of your hair.
What are silicones?
Silicones are a group of oils, resins, rubbers and other compounds obtained from silica. Silica is abundant in nature, for instance sand is a silica.
Silicones appear all over the place in skincare, make-up and hair products. They smooth, improve spread and give a silky feel to products such as primers, make-up and moisturisers. They are hugely popular in hair care products and they appear in most mainstream shampoos, conditioners and styling products.
What do silicones do to your hair?
Silicones create a protective layer around the hair shaft, smoothing the cuticle for shine and helping to protect the hair from heat damage. They also help de-tangle the hair and put a coating around each hair strand to prevent moisture in the air causing the dreaded 'frizz'.
Are silicones bad for you?
There don't appear to be any serious health safety concerns about the use of silicones in hair products and they are not classified as a skin irritant. There are however concerns that some silicones are not fully biodegradable and that they may accumulate in wildlife over a period of time.
Does silicone damage hair?
In a word, yes. You might think that your hair feels better when you use a silicone based shampoo and conditioner but this is just a 'false' feel. The silicone is actually damaging your hair further because it is sealing the hair shaft itself and ruining the health of your hair.
What does silicone do to hair?
It basically smothers it so nothing can get through. It is no coincidence that some of the most effective head lice treatments contain silicone as it is so effective as a barrier that it suffocates the head lice.
Why is silicone bad for your hair?
95%+ of the hair care products on the market use silicone in them to temporarily mask damage to the hair. This means shampoos, conditioners, blow dry, styling and hairspray products.
Regular use of hair products containing silicone dehydrates the hair and weakens it. In the worst case over a period of time your hair may start to look dry and dull and break more easily. This is because the repeated application of non water soluble silicones has coated the hair so well that no moisture is getting through. Often when this happens people start using more and more products containing silicone to try and 'condition' the hair believing it to be dry, but in fact this is just making the situation worse.
Silicone build-up on hair
We've all had this problem. You get a new shampoo and conditioner and it works like a charm, great shine and volume and lots of good hair days. Then suddenly your hair is flat and greasy looking and bad hair days are the norm. What's going on? Well, probably silicone build-up.
Types of silicone in hair products
How to tell if there is silicone in hair products
There are many different types of silicone. You can spot them in the ingredients list on your hair care products as most of them end with the letters 'one' such as dimethicone, or with 'siloxane' such as cyclohexasiloxane. Silicones can range from heavy to light. A light type of silicone such as cyclomethicone is water soluble and gives minimal build up on the hair. Heavier silicones such as dimethicone or amodimethicone can build up quite rapidly on the hair causing loss of volume and flatness, particularly on fine hair.
Signs of silicone build-up on hair
difficulty in styling the hair (continual bad hair days!)
flat clumpy hair
heavy hair with loss of volume which can often look greasy
changing shampoo and conditioner doesn't seem to help
How to remove silicone from hair
This is very easy to do, you just need to wash your hair in a silicone free shampoo and use silicone free conditioners and styling products
There are clarifying shampoos out there that do this but many of them are quite harsh on the hair. Because you don't want to be totally stripping your hair when you remove the silicone use an SLS free shampoo. SLS, or sodium lauryl sulphate, is in most shampoos and can cause an itchy scalp and in severe cases, hair loss. There have been reports that a lack of rinsing off a shampoo with SLS in it properly can cause hair growth to slow down dramatically as it blocks and dries out the hair follicles. (Read more about the ingredients that you should avoid in your skin and hair products).
Best natural shampoos without sulphate and silicone for your hair type
Best natural conditioners without sulphate and silicone for your hair type
Best silicone free hair products
It might be that you want to go silicone free but don't want to use completely natural products. If you have very dry, damaged, heavily coloured or very thick hair you might feel that the natural products just aren't working for your hair and be tempted back to silicone hair products.
If this is the case then I recommend that you try Michael Van Clarke silicone free hair products - I'm totally obsessed with them! Michael Van Clarke is a famous London hairdresser with over 30 years experience and has been developing silicone free hair care products since 1988.
Whilst they want their products to be gentle, healthy and nourishing and they prefer natural ingredients they don't let rigid views stop them from including other ingredients. Most of their products are over 90% naturally derived and their silicone free LifeSaver pre-wash treatment repairs and conditions hair and helps repair broken bonds. They even have a Deep Sleep Overnight version! They have a whole range of silicone free shampoos, conditioners and styling treatments and I love their UV leave-in styling treatment which protects from colour fade.
Another great company for silicone free hair products is Living Proof and their