Are Silicones Bad For Skin?

by beautifulwithbrains
are silicones bad for skin?

Ah, silicones. No one wants them. But, when they aren’t there, everyone complains.

Well, they don’t complain of a lack of silicones. They complain of thick pastes that spread like chalk or hair that refuses to be combed through. You know, all those things silicones are there to fix.

Cos silicones are quite the handymen. But, they totally suck at self-promotion. They’re even too shy to tell women how they can help. So, others did it for them and now they’re stuck with a bad rep.

How unfair! It’s time to set the record straight once and for all about silicones. Here’s what they do and why you shouldn’t be scared of them (plus the REAL reason why some of you may want to avoid them):

What are silicones?

Silicones are derived from silica, a common mineral that makes up a huge part of the Earth’s crust.

Here’s an easy trick to spot them on the label: they end in “cone” or “siloxane”:

  • Amodimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Cyclohexasiloxane
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Dimethicone
  • Phenyl trimethicone

Why are they used in cosmetics?

Think of silicones as boosters. They make everything look and feel that little bit better:

  • Silicones give serums and moisturizers a luxurious texture that spreads effortlessly on the skin
  • Silicones create a film on the skin that locks moisture in, keeping skin hydrated
  • Silicones fill in fine lines and wrinkles so they look smaller
  • Silicones makes skin feel silky soft to the touch
  • Silicones make hair super shiny (they smoothen out the cuticles so they can better reflect light)
  • Silicones makes detangling and combing through hair a breeze (this reduces breakage, too)
  • Silicones protect hair from heat

What Types Of Silicones Should You Use?

Well, that depends. There are too many to mention, so here’s a brief overview of the most common ones:

Amodimethicone: a silicone that’s been modified to better stick to hair. It’s a great moisturizer but hard to remove. May cause buildup overtime.

Cyclopentasiloxane: one of the most volatile silicones (it’s water-based), it gives amazing slip to moisturizers and conditioners. It makes them glide on smoothly and then quickly evaporates. No need to worry about buildup with this one.

Dimethicone: the heaviest silicone of all. It’s not water-soluble so it’s the most difficult to remove. If you use too much of it, it can buildup overtime.


So, What’s Wrong With Silicones?

Well, silicones are accused of everything, so let’s go through these “dangers” one by one, shall we?

1. Silicones Suffocate Skin: False

It’s true that silicones create a barrier on the skin that locks moisture in. But, this barrier doesn’t suffocate skin. Skin doesn’t have lungs. Without lungs, it can’t breathe or be suffocated.

“Ok, know-it-all”, I hear you say, “but doesn’t that barrier prevent skin from doing its thing? (i.e. perspire)?”

Nope. You see, this barrier is quite peculiar. Silicones have a particular molecule structure, which is made of larger molecules with wider spaces between each molecule.

That means they can trap water in without interfering with your skin’s natural functions, like perspiration.

2. Silicones Prevent Other Skincare Ingredients From Penetrating The Skin: False

Same as above. The barrier silicones creates has gaps, so your vitamin C and retinol will still get through. No worries.

Related: Do Silicones Prevent Other Ingredients From Penetrating The Skin?

3. Silicones Cause Product Buildup: True (But, Not An Issue)

Silicones do accumulate on your scalp. That weights your locks down, turning your voluminous mane into a flat pancake.

But, I’m assuming you’re washing your hair, right? Cos if you do, you’ll remove the old silicones before adding new ones (usually with a conditioner).

If you do, they never have the time to accumulate to the point buildup becomes an issue.

Related: How To Easily Remove Silicones Buildup From Hair

4. Silicones Do Nothing For The Skin: True And False

This depends on what you mean with nothing.

Silicones do some things for the skin. Like, making it smoother for example. (See above for the entire list).

But, they don’t have antioxidants properties or anything of the sort.

Think of silicones like junk food: they satisfy the craving but don’t nourish the body.  

If you want something that makes your wrinkles look smaller while your retinol takes its sweet time to work, silicones will do the trick. But, once you take them off, your wrinkles are still there, as big as before.

This doesn’t make silicones bad or useless. It just depends on what you’re looking for in your cosmetics.

5. Silicones Are Bad For The Environment: True

If you must give up on silicones, do it for a valid reason. Like this one: silicones aren’t biodegradable.

Some types of silicones can be recycled, but that’s unlikely to happen to the silicones you wash down the drain when you cleanse your skin at night.

If this is a big issue for you, you may want to use silicones less or not at all.

Should you avoid silicones?

Silicones don’t ruin your skin or cause any serious damage. They simply provide a quick fix for wrinkles and a better sensory experience with cosmetics. If you’re looking for more or are worried about their impact on the environment, give them a pass. Otherwise, there’s no reason not to play with them.

Do you use products with silicones or prefer to avoid them?

Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping

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jojoba May 17, 2009 - 12:22 pm

hmm, this ingredient doesn’t seem to cause any problem for me. i tried tarte clean slate and find it super mattifying. then someone told me it contains lots of silicon and not good and etc… well, it doesn’t cause me any problem but just too matte.

beautifulwithbrains May 17, 2009 - 1:28 pm

Ooops, I wasn’t meant to publish this today but tomorow! I was just editing it and must have clicked publish instead of edit, hence why there were so many mistakes. But I fixed them and added the finishing touches to the post now 🙂
Silicones don’t cause any problems for me either. Everyone’s skin is different and most people can tolerate them quite well. I don’t really see any reason to stop using a product that works just because it contains silicones. I’ve never tried that tarte primer but it sounds like it works a bit too well lol. It would probably work really well for someone with oily skin.

nikki May 17, 2009 - 2:50 pm

I think it really depends on the person’s skin! I have heard a lot of people allergic to it, but some swear by it 😀 this is helpful article 🙂 thanks

prettybeautiful May 18, 2009 - 1:54 am

i am one of the unfortunate ones. everything with silicone just breaks me out!

beautifulwithbrains May 18, 2009 - 12:17 pm

Nikki: it really does. For example, those with nomal skin can use silicones without any negative reactions, while if you have sensitive skin they’ll probably break you out. And you’re welcome 🙂

prettybeautiful: I’m sorry to hear that. Those with sensitive skin are likely to experience negative reaction with silicones 🙁

Nic nic May 20, 2009 - 3:37 pm

i dont think ive had much reaction to silicone but i wouldnt be surprised if it was that stuff gave me blackheads lol

beautifulwithbrains May 23, 2009 - 11:34 am

Nic nic, there are lots of ingredients that can clog pores and cause blackheads, butu it is possible that they were caused by silicones. Maybe try and avoid them for a while and see what happens.

TravelingBlush May 16, 2018 - 11:57 pm

Great post! I’ll link here when I see anyone bashing silicones but still drink bottled water on the regular. *rolls eyes*

Gio May 18, 2018 - 3:45 pm

Travelingblush, tell me about it! Somehow it’s always cosmetics that get vilified. *sighs* glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for all your support.

Brooke July 13, 2018 - 5:45 pm

Hi Gio! Do you think acne-prone skin should avoid silicones? I find it difficult to find a moisturizer for my acne prone skin that doesn’t contain something that could make me breakout. I am currently using Clinque Dramatically Different moisturizing gel since it’s lightweight but after water, the second ingredient is Dimethicone! I don’t want to continue using if you think it could be making my pores clogged further… already dealing with that issue enough as is! Any recommendations for moisturizers after BHA treatment? Thank you!

Gio July 21, 2018 - 9:00 pm

Brooke, silicones themselves don’t clog pores. But if you use anything with comedogenic ingredients before silicones, they can trap them into your skin and that will give you breakouts. Some good alternatives include Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily and Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel.

Eyriaa August 6, 2018 - 5:54 pm

My skin is weird. It’s dry Irishy skin, but it actually looks slick and oily a lot of the time. I’ve been told this is “bloom”–i.e., the skin putting out its own oil or something to try to deal with the dryness. I use quite a bit of moisturizer, but it doesn’t seem to help, the shiny “bloom” still appears. Mattifying lotions with silicone help a lot in getting rid of that shiny look. I like them more than using powders. Is there any natural ingredient that works as well as silicone in terms of mattifying properties?

Gio August 9, 2018 - 10:12 am

Eyriaa, has your skin always been like this? It sounds to me like it could be oily but dehydrated. If that’s the case, use a hyaluronic acid serum before moisturiser. Natural clays like kaolin have absorbing properties that can soak up excess oil.

Sascha August 14, 2018 - 8:29 pm

Hi Gio,
Can I use silicones in my skincare without also using a sulphate containing cleanser to remove them again to avoid build up? I try to avoid sulphates (SLS, SLES etc.) in my cleansers, because my skin is prone to dehydration. I have heard that you should not use silicones in haircare without also using a sulphate containing shampoo, but what about skincare? Which surfactants disolves/removes silicones?
Thank you!

Gio August 16, 2018 - 1:36 pm

Sascha, use an oil-based cleanser. It takes off EVERYTHING.

Andrzej S. June 11, 2019 - 9:43 am

Will this cleanser work as it has some oil and emulsifiers?
5% Glycerin,
5% Watermelon Seed Oil
2% Polyglyceryl-4 Caprate
1% Sodium Polyacrylate

Gio July 6, 2019 - 1:23 pm

Andrzej, I have never used a cleanser with watermelon seed oil, but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work.

Sascha August 20, 2018 - 3:45 pm

Thank you so much, Gio, I will definitly try that. 🙂

Gio September 7, 2018 - 1:37 pm

Sascha, you’re welcome.

Cat September 16, 2018 - 2:07 am

I avoid dimethicone specifically, because everything I’ve ever used that has it gives me acne. *shrug* For skin care, I also prefer something with silicone low on the ingrediants list simply so I know if the product WORKS, or if it’s just covering things up with silicone. But for hair, I’m less picky. I’m a curly girl, so silicone me up.

Gio September 19, 2018 - 9:44 am

Cat, silicones are amazing for hair, aren’t they? Sorry to hear they make you break out. But I agree, silicones have their uses in skincare but if that’s all the product has, you know the effect is only temporary and not worthy it.


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