Silicones – Everything you need to know
Silicones are a hotly debated topic in the curly hair community. Many will avoid them completely whilst others will argue that they are fine and have no negative effect on their hair.
Either way, the use of silicon in hair products is a complex and divisive topic making it hard for anyone starting out their hair journey to make an educated decision on the matter.
In this article, we will give you a simple explanation of what silicones are, why people try to avoid them, and why some people continue to use them. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have gained enough insight to help you make your own decision.
What are silicones in hair products?
Silicones are widely used in hair products to provide shine and lubrication. They are the ones giving you that feeling of an amazing, moisturized slip!
Silicones are also known as synthetic polymers, and have hydrophobic properties. This just means that they help retain moisture by creating an impenetrable seal over the cuticle of the hair.
While the silicones that are used in our hair products today are all ‘safe to use’, it is important to understand that they have evolved over the decades. Today, it exists different types with some being superior to others, and with a little education, you can make better choices when choosing hair products.
What’s wrong with silicon in hair products?
Most silicones are non-soluble, which means that they cannot be removed or penetrated with water.
This in turn will lead to silicones “sticking” to the hair surface creating a film, preventing strands to absorb water, air and nutrients. This will then result in build-up that weighs your curls down, diminishing definition and ultimately affecting the natural curl patterns.
Now the reason this is an issue for us in the curly hair community is because of our reduced use of sulphates in our shampoos. We, as a community, collectively agree that sulphates are drying and can be damaging to our beautiful curls so we tend to avoid them. However, the only thing that will get rid of silicone build up, is a sulphate shampoo. Herein lies the agreed ‘no sulphate, no silicone’ mantra of the curly girl method (GGM) and the wider community.
So why do some people still use silicone?
The reason why some people in the curly community still include some silicones in their regime are varied. It may be that they have a particular product or range of products that they swear by and cannot part with, but the main difference will be that most of these people will also still use clarifying shampoos…. from time to time.
These people believe that using a clarifying shampoo occasionaly when their hair needs it, is not damaging. That’s why they can include in their hair regimen products they would otherwise need to stop using.
The good news is that there are some good silicones. These are the silicones that are water-soluble and therefore easy to wash out of the hair using mild shampoos as they do not leave a heavy build-up. These are the silicones that most people will tend to allow within their hair regimen and should not have any adverse effects on your hair if used properly.
What should I do?
Deciding whether to include silicones will depend on your hair, what it needs and how it responds to these products. You have heard it a million times, trial and error.
If you are following the CGM, or simply do not want to include sulphate shampoos into your regime then it would be best to avoid the use of silicones completely. This is easily done. There are hundreds of great silicone-free products on the market including the entire range from ‘The Wild Curl’, with all their product being free from parabens, silicones, petrochemicals, and sulphates.
If, however, you are not willing to part ways with a few of your holy grail products then the advice would be to try your best to use water-soluble silicones where you can, and ensure you use a good clarifying shampoo to get rid of any build-up as and when needed.
If you do this, be sure to follow up with a deep conditioner as clarifying shampoos tend to dry out your curls.
Common names for silicone in hair products
Below is a list of common names used for good, bad, and the worst silicones you will find in your products. This should help when choosing your products:
Ella Moyssi, creator of www.curlycrowncare.com is an informational and personal growth blogger who aims to empower others with the tools to restore, maintain and grow healthy curls, and celebrate the hair they were born with.