June 20, 2022
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Leo possesses more than 17 years of valuable experience as a researcher and lecturer within the fields of Biology and Genetics. Holding a PhD in Biology from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina...
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Leonela Carabajal Paladino
Silicones for curly hair are often a topic of inquiry, with a common concern being whether they “suffocate” hair. The straightforward answer is no—hair is essentially dead. However, the potential for silicones to excessively coat the hair, hindering moisture penetration, will be addressed later in this article.
Certain silicones can offer advantages for curly hair, sealing in moisture and preventing frizz, especially in humid conditions. They also protect against heat damage and environmental stressors. Yet, it’s crucial to be mindful of non-water-soluble silicones, as their prolonged use can lead to greasy, weighed-down hair. Regular use of a clarifying shampoo becomes essential to remove any build-up that may dull the appearance and affect the shape of curls.
For a comprehensive exploration of silicones, including types to avoid, challenges of removal, and their impact on water penetration, stay tuned. It’s worth noting that the insights shared here are in collaboration with an expert on the topic—my hair scientist friend with a PhD in Chemistry.
So, the question is; are silicones for curly hair good or bad? And, can silicones be beneficial to curly hair?
The answer can’t be a simple, Yes or No.
It depends on the following factors:
A single ingredient cannot be responsible for everything good or bad happening to your curls. It is the formulation as a whole that is responsible for the final outcome.
Moreover, the performance of an ingredient is also highly dependent on how it is used in the formulation. It is also important to understand the health or condition of your curls.
A good hair care product is one with a formulation where all ingredients work together to deliver the desired and promised results.
The type of silicone used in the formulation is also an important factor to consider. There are different types of silicones with varying molecular weights, and each type has its own set of unique properties.2
It is highly recommended to analyze the INCI listing,9 whether silicones are listed high-up in the list (which means they are used in high amounts) and most importantly, what type of silicones are used.
So, let’s talk about the many different types of silicones and their INCI names. It’s critical to study the product label and see if the product is good for your curly hair.
A general classification of silicones is listed below along with examples of each class.
They are strongly hydrophobic (they do not mix well or dissolve in water) and lubricate the hair shaft.4
· Cyclomethicone – Volatile silicone oil, frequently used high gloss 5
· Dimethicone – high molecular weight, heavy silicone oil, good for highly damaged hairs 12
· Phenyl Trimethicone – lustrous gloss due to high refractive index 6
· Aminopropyl Phenyl Trimethicone
· Amodimethicone – Amino functional silicone with high deposition on hair 12
· Trisiloxane – volatile silicone 7
· Bis-Hydroxy / Methoxy Amodimethicone
· Dimethicone Copolyol
· PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)-n Dimethicone (n = 8, 10, 12 etc) – surfactants and emulsifiers
· PEG-7 Amodimethicone
· PPG-12 Dimethicone
· PEG/PPG (Polypropylene Glycol)– 14/4 Dimethicone
· PEG/PPG – 20/15 Dimethicone
· PEG-40/PPG-8 Methylaminopropyl / Hydroxypropyl Dimethicone Copolymer
· Cetyl Dimethicone
· Cetearyl Dimethicone
· C30-C45 Alkyl Dimethicone
· Behenoxy PEG-10 Dimethicone
Fine and natural curly hair does not benefit from high-molecular silicone polymers with large molecule sizes and high viscosity.
For example, Dimethicone is one of the most commonly used silicones in hair care formulations. It is a methyl silicone polymer having a range of molecular weights and viscosities.
Dimethicone is highly hydrophobic and forms a water-resistant film on the hair shaft. This works as a sealant and prevents penetration of water molecules and other active ingredients. Therefore, it should be avoided.13
Similarly, other silicone waxes and alkyl-modified silicones (e.g. C30-C45 Alkyl Dimethicone) should also be avoided.
Water-soluble silicones are easy to rinse off from the hair surface. They do not form a water-resistant film and do not cause any heaviness or greasiness. They are suitable for curly hair in rinse-off formulations.
Volatile silicones that are good candidates for fine curly hair:
Silicones for curly hair are widely used in hair care formulations because of their multifunctional benefits to hair fibers. They are regarded as high-tech materials and are versatile in their chemistry, functionality, and impact on hair quality.9
New functionalized silicones are known for their higher deposition on hair fibers, superior lubrication on the shaft, and amazing shine.10
The amount of silicones deposited on the hair surface depends on many factors, such as:
Today, silicones are used as oils to lubricate the hair shaft and as surfactants to boost the foaming of a hair-cleansing formulation.
Likewise, silicone emulsifiers are used to formulate cream or lotion, while silicone waxes are added as occlusive agents.
Despite their benefits, silicones may not be an ideal ingredient for all types of hair.
This is so true for natural, fine, and curly hair where high molecular weight polymers can cause a limp-down effect and damage the curl pattern.15
Next, we will go through some scientific details of silicones and analyze whether they are good or bad for curly hair.
Do silicones cause build-up? Yes, they do.
However, it again depends on the type of silicone used. Hair products that have silicones (e.g. Dimethicone) listed among the first 5 ingredients in the INCI listing are more susceptible to causing higher silicone deposition on hair.
Repeated applications may also lead to significant build-up, demonstrated by heavy feel, limp down effect, distorted curl pattern, and greasy touch.10
However, their excessive application (especially for curly hair) can prevent the penetration of water and other active ingredients into the inner hair core. Therefore, applying too much of silicones could be detrimental to your hair.
Build-up from conditioning products undermines the natural look and cosmetic features of hair fibers.16
It makes it difficult to manage and style curly hair. It is essential that this build up is removed to ensure a natural look and texture of curly hair.
Though silicones are tough and highly hydrophobic; they can be removed from hair using a clarifying shampoo. That’s why it is advised to use clarifying shampoo once or twice a week to get rid of this build-up.17
While silicones for curly hair can be beneficial, they can also be difficult to remove. Fortunately, several detergents are specifically designed to deal with silicones.
These detergents usually contain active ingredients that break down the silicone molecules, making them much easier to remove.
Detergents that remove silicones from hair:
Note: Coco-Glucoside and Decly Glucoside are mild detergents and are not the best at de-greasing the hair if they are the only detergents in a shampoo.
There are a number of shampoos available that can effectively remove silicones from hair.
Here are a few suggestions:
These are just a few of the many silicone-removing shampoos available on the market.
When choosing a shampoo to remove silicones from your hair, be sure to read the ingredients list carefully to ensure that it contains one or more of the detergents listed above.
Silicones are amazing high-tech, high-performance materials that may benefit hair fiber in a variety of ways. They provide detangling, conditioning, and superb shine.
However, while they can provide a lot of value and benefits to our hair, it is important to use them with caution and in moderation.
You’re aware of the adage that, excess of anything is bad.
High molecular weight silicone oils are not preferred for curly hair. Silicone deposits can cause build up and suffocate hair fibers inhibiting penetration of water and other active ingredients.
A clarifying shampoo is essential to get rid of silicones build up.
We hope you found this article helpful. What are your thoughts on silicones for curly hair?
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