Silicones, also known as siloxanes, are synthetic materials with many uses and are found in a variety of consumer products.
The basic structure is common to all silicones: a backbone of silicon and oxygen with molecules of carbon and hydrogen attached, all very common elements found in nature. In fact, silicon is the second most common element found in the earth’s crust.
Silicones have been extensively studied and safely used for decades, and are commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products because of the excellent conditioning they impart to both skin and hair. They may be found in antiperspirants, sunscreens, shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers and lotions. They provide important product performance benefits such as facilitating a smooth texture and an even application. Studies have also shown silicones to be non-comedogenic.
Silicones don’t coat the skin or hair in a suffocating layer – silicones are breathable and allow water vapour and oxygen to freely pass through. If this were not the case, silicones wouldn’t have such an important role to play in wound care products.
Silicones and Haircare
Silicones have been used in haircare products since the 1970s. Although silicones all have a common basic structure, the outer parts of the structure can be modified in a huge number of different ways, to give an ingredient which is most suitable for a particular hair type. For example, different types of silicones will be used to seal split ends, to enhance shine, to protect from heat treatment, or even in products intended for fine hair versus thick hair.
Silicones need to remain on the surface of the hair in order to provide the benefits such as heat protection or conditioning. However, each individual cosmetic product will be carefully formulated to ensure just the right amount of silicones are left on the hair surface to give the intended result without leaving hair feeling heavy or looking dull. Silicones on the hair surface are easily removed by shampoo and do not build-up over time.