How To Easily Remove Silicone Buildup From Hair

by Gio
remove silicone buildup from hair

Silicone build up is a NON-problem.

There, I said it. If you’ve stopped using conditioners or styling products with silicones because you thought they’d build up on your hair, you can go back to them now.

Not convinced? Hear me out:

What Are Silicones?

Silicones are derived from silica, a common mineral that makes up a huge part of the Earth’s crust. You can easily spot them on the label because they usually end in “cone” or “siloxane”:

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

Why Are The Haircare Benefits Of Silicones?

Silicones can’t penetrate hair, they just coat it. This has several benefits:

  • It makes hair softer and smoother
  • It makes hair much easier to style
  • It seals in split ends
  • It smoothes out cuticles so your hair shines more
  • It protects hair from heat from blowdryer and styling tools

Related: Are Silicones Bad For Skin And Hair?

Why Do Silicones Buildup In Hair?

Let’s dig a little deeper into that last point. Silicones protect hair from damage by forming a protective barrier around it. Here’s how it works.

When hair is damaged, the cuticle opens, allowing moisture to evaporate. When that happens, hair becomes dry, brittle, and prone to breakage.

The protective barrier silicones create prevents that. It also protects your locks from the drying heat from your blow dryer and other styling tools.

But they can do this only if they stick to hair, obviously. And that can, overtime, leave some buildup.

How Much Buildup Do Silicones Cause?

That depends on several factors: the type of silicone you use, how much you use it, and how often.

Cyclomethicone, for example, evaporates off your hair pretty quickly. It never builds up. Instead dimethicone, one of the heaviest silicones, stays around until you wash it off.

Even so, you may never feel the buildup. I don’t. I wash my hair every other day (it’s oily and I can’t wait too long between washes), so before I slather on a new layer of silicones-laden conditioner, the old one has already gone off the drain.

If you wait longer between washes, or like to use a ton of haircare products, silicones will build up much faster.

You’ll notice when that happens. You hair starts feeling heavy, loses volume, and looks greasy. It’s not damaged. It just needs a good wash.

How To Remove Silicone Buildup From Hair

The secret to easily remove silicone buildup from hair? A good old wash. Forget co-washing or no poo. That won’t work. What you need is a shampoo with surfactants.

What are they? A group of ingredients that helps water mix with oils and dirt, so they can easily be rinsed away. Unfortunately, surfactants don’t have the best reputation either. The problem? Some surfactants, like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), can be very irritating.

But here’s the thing. Something that needs to remove dirt stuck to your body can’t be too gentle. If it were, you’d have to spend ages scrubbing your body. You’d irritate your skin, and some of the dirt would still be stuck to it!

Of course, surfactants shouldn’t be harsh and irritating either. You need to find a balance. That’s why you should stay away from shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate, and opt for gentler alternatives, like sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, or cocamidopropyl betaine.

Wash your hair regularly with a shampoo that contains these ingredients and you won’t have to deal with silicones buildup on your hair.

P.S. For best results, choose a shampoo without silicones. A 1994 study has found that such a shampoo can remove up to 90% of the residue from a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner!

Related: Should You Stop Using Shampoos With Sulfates? 

What If You Have Curly Hair?

Look, I’m a huge fan of silicones. My fine, straight hair digs them. They make it softer. Shinier. Easier to style. And then I shampoo them away when I don’t need them anymore.

But if you have a different hair type? Just like a moisturiser for dry skin may be too rich and pore-clogging for oily skin, the silicones and surfactants straight hair loves may not agree with curly hair.

If that’s you, I recommend you check out the Curly Girl Method by Lorraine Massey. It’ll tell you how to cleanse, condition and style your curly hair without damage.

The Bottom Line

Good news: if you wash your hair regularly, you don’t have to worry about shampoo buildup. Fact.

Do you like silicones, or do you avoid them because you’re afraid of the buildup? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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66 comments

Regn May 30, 2014 - 3:01 pm

Does it mean that one good wash with these surfactants will remove all build up? Most of the shampoos actually contain such surfactants. That’s why I don’t really understand why there’s so much panic about silicones. 🙂

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Gio May 30, 2014 - 8:22 pm

Regn, yep. Unless you use A TON of products with silicones and then wash your hair with VERY gentle surfactants, buildup is not a problem at all. I guess the whole thing originated from natural companies that need to “demonize” ingredients they don’t use to make their products more appealing.

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Jamie March 1, 2017 - 7:17 pm

What happens if your shampoo contains sulfates, but then in the middle of the ingredients it also contains dimethicone? What happens then and why would they do this? Will it still be able to remove the silicone from your hair or not?

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Gio March 3, 2017 - 9:03 pm

Jamie, it would be less effective, but it would still be able to remove the worst of the buildup. It leaves some behind just to condition hair.

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Allison May 31, 2014 - 4:04 am

I’m a big fan of silicones for my thick, coarse hair. As I mentioned in a post this week, I’m very happy with Briogeo shampoo that, in spite of not having sodium lauryl sulfate, it definitely leaves my hair feeling clean. I’ve gotta look at the ingred list again to see which of the other surfactants are in there. Very interesting post!

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Gio May 31, 2014 - 2:09 pm

Allison, glad you enjoyed it. Silicones can do some great things for hair. It’s a shame that a lot of people refuse to use it, as all that’s needed to deal with the buildup is a well-formulated shampoo.

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sherry June 5, 2016 - 6:20 am

i just use a vinegar rinse to remove any and all build up. use one part vingar to about 3 parts water. let set 5 minutes. protect eyes. it will sting if you get it in eyes. then just rinse it out. don’t worry, the vinegar smell will dissipate quickly. you don’t have to spend money for anything special. vinegar is nature’s astrigent. been using it for many years. white or apple are both ok.

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Gio June 10, 2016 - 1:17 pm

Sherry, doesn’t it dry out your hair? Vinegar has an acidic ph that could harm hair is used too much/often.

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Bethaney July 21, 2016 - 8:38 pm

Unless you don’t use a conditioner, but no it doesn’t dry out hair. It’s a gentle yet great shampoo for hair, expecially since I have natural hair I don’t need my hair to be stripped of everything, just dirt, not oil.

Gio July 23, 2016 - 1:04 pm

Bethany, thanks for your comment. I have heard so many horror stories about it, but it’s great it’s working so well for you.

sarah October 3, 2015 - 10:04 am

my shampoo has both dimethicone and sodium laureth sulfate in it, do they cancel each other out?

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Gio October 3, 2015 - 11:33 am

Sarah, not completely. Some dimethicone may remain on your hair, but not much. You should still use a conditioner afterwards.

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Alysen January 7, 2018 - 4:32 pm

Yes, growing up vinegar was one of the things I was encouraged to rinse with for shine and bounce. Now I finally know why!

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Ojou March 4, 2016 - 1:49 pm

Hello, I was wondering, does the silicone build up prevent nutrients from penetrating the hair shaft? like will my hot oil treatment not work because i have silicone buildup on my hair? 🙂 I do hot oil treatments weekly and i’d like to use silicones in between them so as to protect the hair and make it easy to style, if i do so, will i have to wash my hair with surfactants every week to remove the buildup before the hot oil treatment or what? or can i just do that wash monthly? cause my hair is easily dried out and i don’t want to use surfactants that often with it. btw you have such a great blog 🙂 I’ll be spending more time on it in the future, much love <3

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Gio March 5, 2016 - 9:52 pm

Ojou, silicones have a particular molecular structure, with wide spaces between each molecule. So, nutrients can easily pass through these holes. However, if you keep applying silicones without washing your hair, the buildup may eventually create an impenetrable barrier. I think your best bet is to choose shampoos with very gentle surfactants, like cocamidopropyl betaine and soium lauryl sulfoacetate, that cleanse hair without drying it out.

Thank you! So glad you like it. 🙂

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Sharon Saad April 11, 2016 - 1:35 am

My 8 ur old daughter’s hair never looks clean even after shampoo and conditioning. Is that the build up? What can I use on her long straight hair that won’t hurt her?

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Gio April 11, 2016 - 3:44 pm

Sharon, I have the same problem since moving to London. Is her hair oily too? I fixed it by not using conditioner anymore. Now, I just shampoo my hair, and then follow up with a few drops of argan oil. Hope this helps.

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Calmyogi July 27, 2016 - 1:42 pm

Just get a clarifying shampoo like the neutropenia anti residue. Suave also makes a daily clarifying one. You want something that has no silicone and is a simple stronger cleanser for the hair.

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Gio July 31, 2016 - 6:49 pm

Calmyogi, thanks for helping out. 🙂

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Luca October 9, 2016 - 11:18 pm

Hi! Thanks for the tips! 🙂 Do you think this Garnier shampoo would be good to remove silicones buildup in your hair? Here’s the ingredients:
aqua/water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium chloride, sodium benzoate, hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, sodium hydroxide, salicylic acid, polysorbate 20, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, benzoic acid, citric acid, prunus amygdalus dulcis oil/sweet almond oil, hexylene glicol, parfum/fragrance. (FIL C48482/2).

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Gio November 20, 2016 - 11:42 am

Luca, if you use it regularly and the buildup isn’t too heavy (ie you’re not using 10 styling products at once), then yes it should do the trick.

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Luca November 20, 2016 - 2:05 pm

Thanks for replying! 🙂

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Gio November 20, 2016 - 2:27 pm

My pleasure! Sorry it took so long. it’s been a crazy couple of months.:)

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Southern Gal December 17, 2016 - 5:29 pm

Thanks for your article. I love silicones for my curly frizz prone hair. I had been using a sulfate free shampoo weekly and co wash in between shampoos. Thinking that this routine would prevent any cone build up. Today I noticed that my shampoo has some of the ingredients that you list to remove any silicone build up, however I also noticed that it contains amodimethicone, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Yesterday, I put some demi permanent hair color on my porous hair. It turned out darker than planned. So I used a clarifying shampoo to try to remove some of the color. The results were not so much removal of color, but instead, my hair is fuller, shiner and curlier.

Does this mean that I had months of build up on my hair which I thought was being removed by the surfactants in my weekly shampoo? Is this because instead of removing the silicone build up I was adding more due to the amodimethicone in it?

Seems I need to shop for a silicone free sulfate free shampoo. So confusing. Anyone have a similar experience?

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Gio December 17, 2016 - 5:54 pm

Southern Gal, thanks for sharing your experience. I wouldn’t say you had months of silicone buildup, but you definitely weren’t removing as much of it as you thought. Opting for a silicone-free shampoo would be best indeed. 🙂

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Southern Gal December 17, 2016 - 6:24 pm

Yes I agree, off to shop for a new shampoo!! thanks

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Gio December 17, 2016 - 6:45 pm

My pleasure!

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EC September 16, 2017 - 5:42 pm

Sorry for such a late question. Would silicone prevent hair color from penetrating? I use shampoos and conditioners that contain dimethicone, and don’t believe I have any buildup, but wondering if I need to use a nonsilicone shampoo when washing hair the day before getting a toner put on. Thanks!

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Gio September 17, 2017 - 8:18 am

EC, I don’t think that’s a problem. I’ve always used silicone-based conditioners before dying my hair and never had any problems.

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AT October 3, 2017 - 9:39 am

Hi.
i used this conditioner from creme of nature and left it on for atleast one whole hour.
Now that ive read the ingredients i see that its probably got if not multiple, but atleast one type of silicon. I generally don’t use any hair products except your average daily shampoo and maybe conditioner every other day. Can a one time use cause build up? And are silicons actually damaging ? Also the cleansing agents as listed, these can be found in most regular shampoos yes?

Thanks!

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Gio October 6, 2017 - 9:22 pm

AT, don’t worry, a one time use won’t do any harm. Washing your hair with any shampoo will get rid of it. Buildup is a non-issue. If you wash your hair regularly, you’ll be removing old silicones before adding new ones, so they can’t build up.

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Von December 2, 2017 - 3:15 pm

Hi
What is the most gentle surfactant that can still clear my hair of all silicone buildup. I am normally sulfate and silicone free on my naturally curly hair. But when I straighten it I condition with silicones and use silicone laden heat protectant on purpose. When going back to curly I need something to clear that all off. Not because I am so paranoid of silicone but because I have a sensitive scalp and after a few days my scalp itches like crazy from I silicones so I deal with it a few times a year to enjoy heat safe straight hair. But I don’t want to deal with the severe dry hair after sulfate washing. It usually takes a super treatment for my hair to be soft shiny and detangled after using sulfate shampoo.

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Gio December 3, 2017 - 7:27 pm

Von, I’d say avoid anything with sodium laureth sulphate then. It’s considered pretty gentle but is not the gentlest. I’d say cocamidopropyl betaine is a safe choice for you.

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Mit February 10, 2018 - 6:20 am

I have long fine hair….but a lot of hair. Each strand is thin but I have a ton of strands. I love my conditioner, heat protectant, and smoothing cream….all contain silicone.

That said….I’ve experienced breakage and hair loss all of a sudden. Stylist said I had silicone buildup. I checked with my doctor to see if this was hormonal and after blood work came back normal….I’ve taken the plunge on removing buildup.

Process sucks because the build up prevented my hair from getting moisturized. Also the buildup prevented my hair color from penetrating correctly. My permanent dye would fade with 2 weeks….when it used to stick around and not fade for 6 weeks (same formula of dye). Beginning of process my hair felt like pine straw. And it’s tough to find conditioners with no silicone. But I did….and now my hair morphing into beautiful hair…reminds me of my hair as a kid.
So….I just wanted to share my story. I loved my silicones…lol. But it was an addiction I had to break to be able to have hair that requires less conditioner and smoothing cream.
I use biolage raw products by matrix.

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Gio February 10, 2018 - 5:34 pm

MIT, thanks for sharing your experience. I guess your type of hair made you more prone to silicone buildup. Can I ask what your washing routine was like? It seems that your shampoo wasn’t able to remove everything properly. 🙁

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Carlene April 3, 2018 - 3:33 am

I’ve been dealing with dimethicone buildup for a month now; a friend let me try her Mane n’Tail detangler, but my god, it will not come off my hair. I’ve tried several shampoos with surfectants, even hand and dish soap. Nothing. My hair is long and fine, and another friend couldn’t believe I’d showe red this morning… she said my hair was ‘visibly greasy’. My hair doesn’t do well with heavy conditioners, and I guess the same goes for dimethicone. Never again!

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Gio April 8, 2018 - 11:29 am

Carlene, oh no, so sorry this happened to you. Do give your hair a break from heavy conditioners indeed.

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Lacey September 28, 2018 - 12:33 am

I’m curious, how can you tell that you still have dimethicone in your hair? I have a hair appointment coming up and mycolour does have silicones in it, and I’m wondering how i’ll Know if I’ve removed them or not?

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Gio October 4, 2018 - 7:31 pm

Lacey, when your skin has too much buildup, your hair is flat and dull. If that’s not happening, don’t worry too much about it.

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Chrysa April 10, 2018 - 2:32 pm

Hello! I wanted to ask, there are shampoos out there called clarifying shampoos for silicone build up or wtv else. Are they needed or is any shampoo enough to get rid of the silicones?

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Gio April 14, 2018 - 9:03 am

Chrysa, it really depends on how many styling and conditioning hair care products you use. If you use them daily, a clarifying shampoo with silicone once every 10 days can help. But if you use them less often, any shampoo with surfactants will do the job. Sulfate-free shampoos could still leave some buildup behind as these tend to be too gentle to cleanse well.

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Natalie Reid April 18, 2018 - 7:06 pm

I’ve heard that silicones are bad because they put this barrier on your hair so your hair can’t actually get tany moisture it needs therefore it dries it out and when you stop using silicones you notice how bad you’re hair really is..

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Gio April 20, 2018 - 7:09 am

Natalie, the thing that most people don’t realise is that hair is dead and very few things can penetrate it. Coconut oil is one of them. But if you’re not a fan of using oil on your hair, silicones are a good option. As I said, hair is dead so it’s not like you can feed it antioxidants and co. But the barrier silicones creates does help protect it from heat, pollution and all external agents.

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LX May 15, 2018 - 1:03 pm

My shampoo has both silicones and surfactants. But the conditioner has only silicone…. But both of them are the same brand and also in the same pack…. I am so confused now, even the shampoo has surfactants but still condition will add more of silicones and it doesn’t contain surfactant as the shampoo has… or are there other surfactants that I don’t know in it…. What should I do ???

And Both shampoo and condition are composed of Dimethicone, Amodimethicone , Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclotetrasiloxane. Is it a lot?
PS. Shampoo has Sodium Laureth sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Both of them are at 2nd next to water and 4th after Dimethiconol respectively, will it really be able to get off those silicones?

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Gio May 27, 2018 - 6:46 am

LX, most shampoos these days have both surfactants and silicones. Especially if they’re formulated for dry or died hair that need the extra care. And yes, these shampoos are still able to remove silicones. What happens is that when you wash your hair, your shampoo will get rid of the silicones the shampoo and conditioners deposited last time. So when you get a new dose, it doesn’t build up on the old layer.

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Bridgette June 16, 2018 - 7:44 pm

This is very much Biased. It would be my guess that the woman who wrote this article has straight hair purely based on her wash routine and also I would guess many in the comments do as well. The dangers of sulfates (or surfactants as she refers to them in this article) and silicones are more common to the curly hair community. This is because sulfates tend to dry out our already dry hair (this is due to the natural oil known as sebum having a harder time moving from our scalps to the ends of our hair shaft because of the shape of our hair strands) but if we don’t use sulfates the silicones build up and leave our hair flattened and our curls looser and dull. This is why we tend to reach for sulfate and silicone free products. To say that sulfates and silicones cause no threat is completely untrue, unless only referring to the straight haired community. I would encourage the writer to next time be more specific about who they are targeting the article towards and include some other groups and examples.

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Gio June 22, 2018 - 10:19 am

Bridgette, I admit I’m guilty as charged. I have very straight hair. So straight that it won’t curl no matter what I do. Because my personal experience is that of a straight-haired girl, I hadn’t realised this issue may be more challenging for curly-haired women. I will do more research on the topic and update the post as necessary. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and sorry if I caused any upset.

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Lacey September 28, 2018 - 1:04 am

Haha well now I feel bad for my borderline rude comment ?
It’s true, this articles reads like the writer doesn’t understand the needs of curly hair, and the slightly condescending tone regarding hair washing could actually be problematic for women with tighter curl pattern, usually black women. Lol try telling a woman with 4c hair to just wash her hair like it’s no big deal…girl you have no idea!??
Me, I’m just a white girl who doesn’t like to wash her hair too often…if I care for my hair properly it DOES NOT GET GREASY, even after a week my hair looks clean. If I don’t care for it properly it’s greasy within 2 days of washing. My scalp only overproduces oil if I abuse my hair so I chose to follow the Curly Girl Method to get my curl pattern and washing schedule back ?

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Gio October 3, 2018 - 12:18 pm

Lacey, no need to feel bad. It’s important to educate people when they make mistakes. 🙂

I guess my condescending tone comes from my frustration re silicones. As a skincare blogger, I have to debunk myths about them being the devil incarnated all the time. I don’t think they’re right for everyone and I totally understand those who prefer to steer clear of them. I just wanted to point out thery’re not as hard to remove as many people claim but, again, I hadn’t taken into consideration other hair types. My bad! A rewrite of this post is coming soon.

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Johanna July 3, 2018 - 7:27 am

Gio, I have very straight, fine, long hair, but my hair is really sensitive to silicones.
Even when using a shampoo and conditioner pair that are made to be used together [presumably, that shampoo has been formulated to keep the companion conditioner’s silicone(s) in balance], if the conditioner has more than a tiny amount of silicone, the shampoo can’t remove the silicone properly from my hair and my hair strands quickly become more and more coated and plasticized.
It’s not that the coating would be too bad, if it kept my long, straight hair looking like it should, but unfortunately a siicone buildup on my hair makes the hair strands get unnaturally curly (randomly, not in any particular pattern), then it makes them break off high up on the strand, so that I develop hundreds of 2 to 4 inch stubs that stand straight out from my head and won’t lie flat, no matter what I do to them.
This has happened to me time and again in the last 2 decades, so I avoid hair products that have silicones.
However, my facial and neck skin are going through a period where they are reacting badly to many, many shampoo/conditioner brands/formulas, so I have been trying all the “hypoallergenic” and simple shampoo/conditioner duos that I can find (with no harsh sulfates, with preservatives that are supposed to be less irritating, with as few botanicals as possible, etc.)
Currently, I am trying out Exederm shampoo and conditioner which is for sensitive skin — the bottle states that it’s “for eczema and dermatitis” — and I am really surprised that the conditioner has 2 silicones, cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone, while the shampoo does not seem to have any sulfates at all, nor does it have cocamidopropyl betaine.
I have used the duo for 2 showers now, and unfortunately the silicones are building up already in my hair, and for my next shampoo occasion, if I don’t use a different shampoo that has at least cocamidopropyl betaine in it (if not sodium laureth sulfate), it is clear from how my hair’s condition is at the moment (the strands are looking and feeling very plasticized today) that I will next experience the random curling, and then the mass breakage that I have experienced on prior occasions in my life when the hair products I have used have had an improper balance of silicones.
The Exederm products get really good reviews on Amazon and so forth, and I don’t understand why no other reviewers have reported a problem with the 2 cones in the conditioner (particularly the dimethicone) not being balanced by strong-enough surfactants in the shampoo.
Here are the ingredients on my bottles:
Exederm shampoo: Purified water, decyl glucoside, glycerin, xanthan gum, disodium cocoamphodiacete, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, polyquaterium-10, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, EDTA, citric acid
Exederm conditioner: water, cetyl alcohol, steryl alcohol, cyclopentasiloxane, stearalkonium chloride, dimethyl stearamine, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, dimethicone, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, lactic acid
I am actually at a loss for what to do next, regarding the contact dermatitis, rashes, and breakouts that I am getting from most shampoos/conditioners (which is probably due to preservatives like methylisosthiazolinone, to botanicals like mint or orange etc. which I am often very sensitive to, to harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, etc.), because I’ve tried dozens of products, including all the brands that are high up on dermatology lists for being hypoallergenic, and many extra-gentle products that are made for babies.
Because my hair is fine, straight, and long, I cannot do a no-poo type of thing — even going 3 days without shampooing leaves my hair looking like a bottle of oil has been poured over it, and vinegar, baking soda, co-washing etc. are just not enough.
Well, I just wanted to let you know that even a straight-and-fine-haired person can have significant trouble from silicones, unless they are added to the conditioner with a very light touch and are very well-balanced with surfactants in the shampoo.
(By the way, I do not use any other hair products besides shampoo and conditioner, I don’t process my hair with coloring or perms etc., and I air-dry it 98% of the time.)

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Gio July 5, 2018 - 6:05 pm

Johanna, I’m sorry to hear about your problem. It’s very strange. I have straight, fine hair too but I have never experienced anything like this. It’s even more puzzling because the Exederm conditioner is very low in silicones: cyclopentasiloxane is volatile and evaporates quickly from the hair. It’s only dimethicone that builds up and there’s very little of it here.

Do you need to use a conditioner? Maybe switching to pure coconut oil (or another oil, if you don’t like coconut) as conditioner would help.

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Stacey September 17, 2018 - 4:05 am

I have very fine, very thick hair. Think, like a collie, except two feet long. It’s always been prone to some breakage, but a few years ago, I began to notice it getting out if control. Huge wads were collecting in the drain every time I washed it (about once a week or so, as that’s about how long it would take to get oily) and I was regularly pulling thick, felted mats out of my hair brush. After much trial and error, I finally found a routine that has all but stopped the breakage completely. There’s hardly anything in my drain or my brush, now.

I got two empty condiment bottles, and before a shower, I mix together a silicone free conditioner (I’ve tried several and I like them all about the same) with several rounded tablesspoons of baking soda. Sometimes with thicker conditioners, I water it down. I wash my hair with this. In the other bottle, I put about 1/4 cup of vinegar and fill the rest with water, and I condition with this. I rinse out everything in between and afterwards. Don’t mix the two together, or leave the vinegar on your hair.

I had tried washing with conditioner alone, but this just leaves my hair sticky and heavy. Sticky or oily/dirty hair breaks when you try to comb it. It needs to be able to move and slide past each other. I’ve also tried clarifying shampoos, but they felt my hair into wool and dry it out like straw. It’s very bad to have to pick apart dry, felted wool. Everything just shatters.

Now, not only has the damage stopped, but my hair has really never looked better. I get compliments on it. My hair is soft and shiny and bouncy, and doesn’t tangle nearly as much. I can actually wear it down now without it immediately getting messed up (more brushing=more breakage). It stays in place on my head without falling into my face, and I admit I don’t even always bother to comb it every day, since I dont have to. It looks fine most days without it. Saves tons of time.

Moreover, I always thought I had flat, straight hair, even though I longed for curls. It turns out my hair IS curly, it was just the silicone holding it down. Any amount of silicone is way too hard on my hair. I think the sheath of silicone may have been forming a stiff, rubbery tube that wasn’t allowing my fragile hair to bend and move the way it needed to. I imagine it like a kink in a hose, crimping flat, smashing the scales together and severing the shaft, or maybe since the tube was affixed to the hair shaft, the outer part of the bend was being stretched too much, while inner part was being forced to go around too much material that wasn’t supposed to be there. Either way, I hope this helps. Believe me, I understand massive amounts of fine hair!

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Gio September 19, 2018 - 10:52 am

Stacey, thanks so much for sharing your experience. It does help! Glad you’ve found a routine that works well for you.

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Curly July 10, 2018 - 5:22 pm

Just to let u know, the sulphate and silicone cycle might be okay for straight hair, but it’s a recipe for frizz, damage and breakage for curly haired people, I think u need to be more inclusive in your research :<

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Gio July 21, 2018 - 9:31 pm

Curly, I’ve come to realise that too. I wrote this post a few years ago thinking it would apply to all skin types but apparently not. I will definitely do more research and update accordingly.

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Kelly July 14, 2018 - 2:36 am

As someone transitioning to the Curly Girl method, I have to echo Bridgette’s comment. I came across this article while searching for a way to remove silicone build up without using sulfates, hoping that apple cider vinegar might do it (not sure about the answer to that one yet). Anyway, Lorraine Massey recommends the opposite of what this article suggests in her method of caring for wavy/curly hair, because both sulfates and silicones are drying and damaging to textured hair. I can personally attest to this as I’ve used standard hair care products all my life until now, and have always fought with frizz and often difficult-to-manage hair. If you look into before & after photos of “curly girls”, the transformation from unruly, damaged strands to defined, healthy curls is amazing. As I’m beginning the journey to healthier hair, I’ve realized that I would rather use natural products on my hair and scalp than ones that produce an artificial shine with silicones anyway. On another note, Gio, your hair looks like it has a little wave to it in your blog photo 🙂

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Gio July 21, 2018 - 8:48 pm

Kelly, thanks for sharing your experience. I admit I am not familiar with the Curvy Girl but I will definitely do some research on it. So glad it’s helping you.

That was one of the few times I tried to curl my hair. A couple of hours in the open air and the curls were gone. 🙁

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Sue August 12, 2018 - 1:48 am

Hi,
I have fine and medium volume curly hair. I have been trying to follow the Curly Girl Method by Lorraine Massey as best as I could. I have been washing my hair with sulfate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioner for some time now. The problem is that I find my hair is difficult to untangle by just using the silicone-free conditioners. I remember how easy it was to untangle when I used the silicone conditioners in the past. I am happy using the sulfate-free shampoos and am not willing to give them up, but I am thinking of using a silicone conditioner with it. Will the sulfate-free shampoo be efficient enough in getting the silicones out? If they do, how often should I wash my hair so that they stay out until the next shampoo? I really appreciate your advice. Thank-you very much!

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Gio September 6, 2018 - 9:00 pm

Sue, I hear ya! People love to hate on silicones but they do make your hair so easy to comb through and manage! Unfortunately, sulfate-free shampoos won’t get rid of silicones so using them together would result in build up. Can you tell me what conditioner you’re using now?

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Radha August 31, 2018 - 6:16 pm

Johanna,
I have incredibly fine, pin-straight, long hair as well. Additionally, my skin is ultra sensitive. Once I got all of the silicone off of my hair, I was able to transition to using silicone-free conditioner to cleanse my hair most of the time (without any shampoo). Generally, once a week, I’ll wash it with a sulfate-free shampoo before conditioning.
I used Neutrogena T/Gel shampoo to remove the silicone, but the Neutrogena Anti-residue formula would work as well., and afterwords used the same conditioner I use now– it’s one by Maui Moisture.
In the past, if I went more than ~24 hours without washing my hair, it started to look stringy and gross. Like you, I had breakage close to my scalp. Before doing this, I thought I’d never be able to use a (mostly, anyway) no-poo method. I’m so glad i tried it, because it looks and feels fantastic, and I no longer have an issue with breakage!
Good luck!

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Lacey September 28, 2018 - 12:50 am

Your article has me torn. I’ve been silicone free for about 4 months and my hair loves it. (I thought I was getting buildup after about 2 months of strictly cowashing so I used my regular SLS shampoo and holy cow is that stuff HARSH!?)

i’m coloring my hair pastel pink in a month and I don’t want to use sulphates to removed the cones from my pink hair dye, especially after bleaching. I was happy to hear that cocamidopropyl betaine will remove them, especially from this one time use.

Your article states (in a low key condescending way to be honest) that a no poo will not remove silicones, rather I need “a good wash,” but my devaCurl no poo had cocamidopropyl betaine in it.

So will a nopoo remove silicones or no? Do you know what a nopoo is? (Full disclosure: I don’t!?) Do you even know what you’re talking about??‍♀️ I’m not trying to be rude, but these are the things we should ask ourselves before following advicen on the internet.

So I guess my feedback is maybe try to be more accurate in the future, and my question is, does cocamidopropyl betaine remove silicones, regardless of whatever kind of “poo” it is?

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Gio October 4, 2018 - 7:28 pm

Lacey, I completely agree that we should question someone’s background and knowledge before taking their advice.

To me, no poo is a method of cleansing hair that does not involve surfactants. Usually, surfactants are the most effective way to remove silicones. This site has a list of all the surfactants that remove silicones, including coco betaine: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2016/05/detergents-which-remove-silicones.html

Coco betaine works when used with “harsher” surfactants and MAY work alone too. I say MAY because how well it (or any other cleansing agent, for that matter) works depends how much of it you’re using and how much silicone buildup you’re trying to remove.

If the shampoo has only a couple of drops of coco betaine and you’re trying to cleanse a lot of dimethicone, it’s unlikely to work. But if CB is at the beginning of the ingredient list and you don’t have that much buildup, it’ll be more effective.

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Marcus March 21, 2019 - 7:51 pm

Fascinating article and great advice proffered. Silicones certainly made shiny hair possible for “everyone”, unfortunately a small number of people do not react well long term exposure and use of silicones. Over the past 20 years I have suffered from a perpetual and very painful acne on the scalp. Only when I accidentally stopped using shapoos and conditioners with silicones did the acne eventually heal and leave to my doctor’s bemusement and my own incredulous amazment.

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Gio March 29, 2019 - 2:44 pm

Marcus, oh no! Sorry to hear silicones don’t work for you. But at least now you know what to avoid.

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admon April 17, 2019 - 1:49 am

hi I have short fine to thin hair men I use sulfate free or sulfate shampoo still my scalp dandruff and also my eyebrows dandruff I don’t know if the silicone or free silicone is the problem or if I use shampoo for oily hair my scalp dandruff more .if I use shampoo for dry hair cause my hair like straw so would you please recommend me any thing to do or which shampoo type should be used thanks

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Gio April 20, 2019 - 3:07 pm

Admon, are you using conditioner after shampoo for dry hair?

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