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Why and how to choose silicone free hair products for healthy hair

6 mins

Radhika Bhatia

Silicones are safe, effective, and widely used in hair products. Sadly, their cons outweigh their pros. Here’s why and how to choose silicone free hair products.

There is a new and growing trend in the haircare industry. Parabens, sulfates, and phthalates are quickly replaced with gentler and safer alternatives. 

One of the more recent ingredients to lose its place in hair care products is silicone. 

Silicone free hair products are now fast replacing products that contain silicone. 

So, what’s the deal with silicone, and why has it gotten a bad reputation all of a sudden? 

Is silicone bad for your hair? 

Are there safer alternatives?

Table of Contents:

  • What are silicones?
  • How are silicones used in cosmetics?
  • How are silicones used in hair products?
  • Are silicones safe?
  • The cons of silicones in hair care products
  • Silicone terms to look out for in cosmetic and hair products
  • The benefits of silicone free hair products
  • What to look for in silicone free hair products
  • Best silicone free hair products

What are silicones?

Silicones are a group of glossy synthetic polymers with the same flexible property as plastic. 

They are derived from silica and become silicones that end up in cosmetic and hair products after a series of chemical reactions. 

They leave a smooth and silky texture on hair and skin and give an appearance of shine. According to board-certified dermatologist Zenovia Gabriel, M.D., FAAD, silicones are occlusive, creating a physical barrier that makes skin and hair resistant to water and air.

How are silicones used in cosmetics?

Since their use in makeup products, silicones have revolutionized the industry by increasing the longevity of products like blushes, eyeliners, foundations, eyeshadows, and even hair products.

With a lower surface tension than water and oils, silicones help foundations and creams glide effortlessly over the skin and hair, leaving a luxurious and comfortable feel. It also allows them to feel lighter on the skin.

High levels of silicone in cosmetics form a barrier on the skin for protection against environmental and chemical exposure.

In cleansers, silicones help reduce the amount of foam.

Silicones that are insoluble in water leave a beautiful shine on the surface they are applied on.

How are silicones used in hair products?

In hair care products, silicones are ingredients used to form a thin, protective, waterproof coating on every strand of your hair. 

The hair’s moisture is locked in, and at the same time, external moisture and pollutants cannot cross this silicone barrier and penetrate the hair shaft. Insoluble silicones form a shiny coat, leaving hair with a brilliant shine.

As conditioning agents, silicones help to smoothen and detangle hair. Have you noticed the silky feel of hair after you condition your hair? That’s the silicone conditioner at work. 

dry frizzy hair

Unruly, dry, curly, or frizzy hair can be tamed and easily managed with silicone hair products.

Silicones are also known to be more stable than some natural oils. They don’t degrade when exposed to high temperatures or UV light. As a result, they are used in styling products exposed to heated styling tools (blowdryers, hair straighteners, and curlers).

Silicones are used in shampoos, conditioners, leave-in treatments, oils, serums, and even heat-styling products—the result is shiny hair that feels luxuriously soft and hydrated.

Silicone leaves your hair looking stunning, no doubt, But what’s far better and safe are silicone free hair products.

Are Silicones safe?

Unlike ingredients like parabens, formaldehyde resin, and phthalates, silicones are safe and effective and are used today in many hair care and cosmetic products. 

It’s no wonder that they are one of the most commonly found ingredients in cosmetic and hair products. 

They are vegan, lightweight, easily added to most cosmetics and hair care products, and leave hair incredibly soft, shiny, bouncy, and full of life.

But that does not mean that silicones have no setbacks. Today experts believe that the cons of silicone hair products outweigh the pros.

The cons of silicones in hair care products

Silicones in hair products have fantastic smoothing and moisturizing capabilities and effectively fight frizz. They also add shine and make hair manageable. 

However, the shine and softness attributed to the silicones in hair products are only temporary. And while their aesthetic benefit is undeniable, they do absolutely nothing for your hair’s overall health.

Silicones that are not water-soluble are the worst types of silicone for hair and are very hard to get rid of with regular washes. 

These silicones repel water instead of dissolving and washing away. Dimethicone, Cetearyl methicone, stearyl dimethicone, cetyl dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, amodimethicone, and trimethylsilylamodimethicone are all not water-soluble and tend to stick on to the hair.

Thick silicones such as dimethicones are excellent in leave-in serums and heat-styling products. Sadly, they tend to build up in the hair cuticles over time. A heavy silicone build-up leaves hair heavy, dull, and limp.

waxy limp hair

Since silicones form a physical barrier on the skin and hair, they prevent moisture and nutrients from getting absorbed. Over time, hair follicles are deprived of essential oils and moisture.

Silicone build-up attracts dust, dirt, and debris, which adds to your hair's dull and lifeless appearance.

A build-up of silicone can leave your hair dry and rough. Over time, the hair becomes brittle and weak, and prone to breakage.

Using several silicone hair products – shampoo, conditioner, hair-styling products, and serums, can cause a silicone build-up much faster. A hair care routine of using one silicone hair product over another will eventually clog the hair follicles and lead to hair loss or thinning.

Certain silicones can be hard on your curls if you have naturally curly hair. These silicones weigh down your hair strands and destroy your pretty curls.

The more you wash and style your hair with silicone hair products, the more damage to your hair. As a result, you will find yourself reaching out for more silicone hair products to disguise the problem by bringing back that shine and softness. According to Ron McLaughlin, VP of Living Proof’s research and development, that is a vicious cycle.

Silicone build-ups can affect the scalp, causing itching, inflammation, and persistent flakes.

Getting rid of silicone build-up can be challenging, and you will need to use a clarifying shampoo or a shampoo containing sulfates. These shampoos are harsh. If you have color-treated hair, these shampoos can cause fading and even weaken your hair strands.

Are you thinking of coloring or bleaching your hair? If you have been using silicone hair products, it will be much harder for the color or bleach to penetrate your hair. That’s because of the silicone build-up over time. Worse still, a chemical reaction between the color/bleach and the silicone can cause irreparable damage.

Silicones are non-biodegradable and not eco-friendly, which means they will at some point bioaccumulate in the water supply. If you touch a hair product containing silicone and wash your hands, that silicone could go down the drain and eventually land up in the oceans.

Silicone terms to look out for in cosmetic and hair products

When you read a hair product label, you won’t find silicone labeled as “silicone.”

According to chemical engineer and cosmetic chemist Erica Douglas, you can identify silicone by looking out for terms ending with “-cone” or “oxane.” These are likely to be silicones.

For example, dimethicone, dimethiconol, cyclopentasiloxane, PEG-12 dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone, amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, and dimethicone copolymer are all different types of silicones used in cosmetics and hair care products. Other common names include nylon and bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane.

The benefits of silicone free hair products

  1.     A Healthy and hydrated mane

Silicone free hair products can give your hair incredible shine, smoothness, and bounce with natural moisturizing ingredients. These products nourish your hair without forming a barrier that blocks out other nutrients and hydrating agents.

  1.     A healthy scalp

If you suffer from an itchy scalp, switching to silicone free hair products can be the best thing for your scalp. These products can soothe the scalp and improve its overall health.

  1.     Get frizz-free hair with natural ingredients

Natural plant-based ingredients can fight frizz, tame your locks, and leave your hair looking healthy, moisturized, and frizz-free.

  1.     Easy to wash away

Silicones are hard to get rid of. On the other hand, silicone free hair products are easy to rinse away thoroughly, leaving your hair and scalp squeaky clean. The best part - your hair’s natural oils are not washed away.

  1.     Well defined waves and curls

While silicone hair products can ruin curls, silicone free hair products restore the moisture in your natural wavy or curly hair without destroying them. The result is beautiful and wild waves and curls that bounce with life.

  1.     The best option for color-treated hair

Some silicone free hair products are specially designed to treat colored hair. The ingredients that these products contain protect your colored hair without damaging your hair or stripping it of color.

  1.     Environment friendly

Biodegradable and plant-based silicone-free hair products are environmentally friendly and don’t end up in the oceans like silicone-based hair products.

What to look for in silicone free hair products

When switching from silicone-based hair products to silicone-free products, look for:

  1. Plant-based Ingredients like seed oils and glycerin that will address your hair type and needs.
  2. Natural emollients like coconut oil or hemp seed oil to seal in moisture and leave your hair smooth and light.
  3. Products that balance your hair pH and maintain it between 4.5 and 5.5.

Best silicone free hair products

WOW Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo is a purifying, reviving, and balancing shampoo. It is perfect for when you want to make a smooth transition from silicone-based hair products and reset your hair health. 

Prominent ingredients include apple cider vinegar, saw palmetto extract, almond oil, and argan oil. This gentle yet powerful shampoo gently detox’s your hair, removes excess oil and build-up, and restores your hair’s natural shine and vitality. Plus, the shampoo balances your scalp’s pH and can even be used on color-treated hair.

WOW Skin Science Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo bursts with ultra-nourishing botanicals. Moroccan argan oil repairs damaged hair, restores elasticity, and strengthens the protective barrier. Almond oil provides nourishment to dry, brittle and damaged hair. Aloe vera hydrates parched hair and soothes the scalp.

WOW Skin Science Coconut & Avocado Natural Hair Conditioner is infused with botanical extracts to soften, clarify, and strengthen your hair without harmful chemicals and silicones. Now you can sport healthy, hydrated, and moisturized hair that is genuinely nourished with coconut oil, avocado oil, and sweet almond oil.

Coconut & Avocado Natural Hair Conditioner

WOW Skin Science Castor Oil is 100% cold-pressed castor oil that delivers nourishment to your hair and scalp. Massage into hair and scalp and leave on for an hour or overnight. It can be used up to twice a week to boost hair health.

WOW Skin Science 10-In-1 Active Hair Revitalizer is a miracle spray packed with essential nutrients to nourish, strengthen, tame, manage, and hydrate your hair. The super ingredients in this spray include extra virgin olive oil, Moroccan argan oil, and sweet almond oil. Also, grapeseed oil, Jojoba oil, Safflower oil, Bhringraj extract, vitamin E, and tea tree and rosemary essential oils.

Get rid of frizz with a dose of deep hydration with WOW Coconut Milk Hair Mask. WOW Coconut Milk Hair Mask is packed with plant actives perfect for repairing brittle, dry, and chemically treated hair. Coconut mild provides intense hydration, while Shea butter fights frizz and hydrolyzed wheat protein repairs and thickens every strand of hair. Check out more silicone free hair products here.

There is no doubt that silicones are extremely beneficial in hair products. Unfortunately, they fail to improve the health of hair. 

Over time, they can cause product buildup, brittle and weak hair, clogged follicles, and hair loss. 

Switching to silicone free hair products that are rich in botanicals can get rid of excessive silicone buildup and help your hair regain its natural health and vitality.

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Radhika Bhatia

I'm a content writer, copywriter, and blogger with a background in marketing, planning, and eCommerce. I specialize in beauty writing, including skincare, cosmetics, wellness, aesthetics, and health. Classically trained and idea-savvy, I love living in the present.

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