Silicones aren't all bad. Know which cones to keep and which to toss for healthy curly hair.
But, just like everything else in life, moderation is key. You wouldn't load up on chips when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, unless of course they were all-natural and baked instead of fried. There are exceptions to every rule and using silicones can actually be part of a good hair care regimen. The trick is to be sure that you understand which silicones do what, and keep in mind that while some aren't ideal, others aren't all that bad.
Why avoid silicones?
After all, they provide great slip for detangling and combat frizz. It's easy: because most silicones are not water-soluble and thus they cause build-up that weigh your curls down, diminishing definition and, for Types 2 and 3, even straightening out your curls.
These non-water soluble silicones are what are known as "bad silicones." But, luckily, there are good silicones too that slow down the build-up process and that are indeed water-soluble. Plus, even if you are attached to the bad kind – after all, if something works for you and your hair, then get at it! – there are ways to combat the build-up before it happens.
Know your cones
First, be sure that you are reading your product labels thoroughly. Silicones are often those ingredients that are much too long and difficult to pronounce, though they are easy to spot. For the most part, silicones end in "cone," "col," "conol" or "zane." Be on the look out for these ingredients if you are following the Curly Girl method or are avoiding silicones all together.
Now, let's break it down.
The Good: Water Soluble Silicones
Water soluble silicones will not cause build-up.
1. Stearoxy Dimethicone
2. Behenoxy Dimethicone
Deposit repelling silicones are bad because they cause build-up over an extended period of time. Watch out for these ingredients on your product labels:
The worst silicones are the ones that cause build-up quickly and are difficult to remove. Avoid these if at all possible:
2. Cetyl Dimethicone
3. Cetearyl Methicone
5. Stearyl Dimethicone
How to Get Rid of Silicone Build-up
Get yourself a good clarifying shampoo and use it at least once a week to rid your hair of any silicone product build-up. Be sure that if you use silicones often and also a clarifying shampoo that you follow-up with a deep conditioner. Clarifying shampoos strip the hair of all product as well as natural oils. Using a clarifying shampoo too often will dry out your hair, but curls do tend to take better to product after a clarifying shampoo. For some women, using a shampoo containing cocamidopropylbetaine is enough to rid their hair of silicones, so if you use silicones often, try a shampoo with the ingredient to see if you can avoid clarifying altogether.
Per usual, different hair types and textures take to ingredients differently and the only person who knows what works best for your hair is you. Try out the different types of silicones and the methods of removal (some women add baking soda to their regular shampoo to convert it to a clarifying one, for instance) to see what works best for your individual waves, curls and coils.