why silica in cosmetics is not dangerous

Word on the beauty streets is that silica in skincare is trying to kill you.

Silica is the latest ingredient accused of giving you silicosis and all sorts of nasty diseases. Once the rumours start, everyone adds its fair share of gossip and side effects.

We don’t do gossip here. We do science. And when there’s a scare like this, it’s to science we need to turn to.

So, what does the science says about silica in cosmetics? Is it really killing you or not?

What is Silica?

Silica is one of the most common minerals on earth. You can find it in sandstone, clay, granite and even in parts of plants and animals. You can also make it synthetically in a lab.

You get some of it when you eat fruits and vegs. It helps keep your joints flexible, your bones and teeth strong and your skin glowing.

P.S. Silica also goes by the names Silicone Dioxide and Hydrated Silica.

Silica Skincare Benefits: How Does It Help Skin?

Silica is a multitasker. It’s used in skincare for a variety of reasons:

  • It absorbs oil and sweat, so your makeup lasts longer and you don’t look like a frying pan all day. You’ve guessed it, silica works wonders for oily skin. Dry skin? It may be a bit too drying for you.
  • It helps your makeup adhere to your face better. Again, thank its oil-absorbing properties for that.
  • It thickens the consistency of a cream or lotion, so that it’s a pleasure to use.
  • It helps foundations spread onto your skin more easily, effortlessly covering every nook and cranny of your face.
  • It improves even distribution of pigments in cosmetics, preventing them from settling in makeup.

Silica’s main job is to keep oily skin matte, but it also helps create a lovely texture for your lotions and potions.

Related: Very Oily Skin: Why It Happens And How To Treat It

Want to know what ingredients you really need to avoid in your skincare products? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheatsheet:

Does Silica Has Any Side Effects?

Silica can cause silicosis. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a lung condition that causes inflammation in the lining of the lung. Overtime, lung tissues become thickened and scarred.

The symptoms are:

  • Blue nails
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleeping problems

Scary stuff, huh? Why would you use it?!

There’s a BUT. It’s an important one.

You see, not all silica is created equal. The type of silica that causes silicosis is crystalline silica. It’s dangerous for you only when you inhale way too much of it. So, if you were a miner not using a mask, you’d do well to worry.

If you’re using a makeup powder or a mattifying serum with silica, you won’t get silicosis. Here’s why:

What Type Of Silica Is Used In Skincare?

Skincare and makeup products don’t contain a drop of crystalline silica. Instead, they use amorphous silica (this means it has no definite form).

The most popular type of silica in beauty products is Hydrated silica (a.k.a. silicone dioxide). Hydrated Silica has additional water atoms attached to silica. This is a solid spherical powder that doesn’t interact with your lungs the way that crystalline silica does.

So, if you’ve been wondering whether you should go out and buy a jar of MUFE HD Powder, do it safely.

P.S. It’s true that amorphous silica too can irritate the respiratory tract if you inhale too much of it. But, given the small concentrations used in skincare and makeup products, this is very unlikely to happen.

Who Should Avoid Silica In Skincare Products?

Silica in skincare is safe. But that doesn’t mean you should use it.

If you’ve got oily skin, go ahead. Silica’s absorbing properties help you mattify your skin and keep the shine at bay. Less oil = less breakouts, too.

Dry skin? Avoid it. Your skin never pumps out as much oil as it needs. The last thing you want to do is absorb the little it makes on its own.

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Silica?

  • Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Clay Mask + Scrub ($28.50): Available at Asos, Sephora, and Ulta
  • La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Anti-Shine Dry Touch Gel-Cream SPF 50+ (£17.50): Available at Escentual
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 ($33.00): Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice

The Bottom Line

This is what happens when well-meaning people read something online without looking at the science first. They get scared, warn others in good faith and cause an unnecessary stir. Unless you’re allergic to silica, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in your cosmetics.

What’s your take on silica in skincare? Share your thoughts in the comments below.