Silicones are emollients often used in many hair and cosmetic products. Tonya McKay, polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist, explains: “The reason for the popularity of silicones in products for the skin and hair lies in their molecular structure. Rather than being made up of a carbon-based backbone (organic), silicones (inorganic) are made up of a backbone of repeating units of silicon bonded to oxygen, with small organic molecules forming a sheath around the outside of the molecule.” Silicones in hair products can often leave the hair shiny, silky, and soft as an end result. For curly girls, the silicones can help with slip while detangling our hair. Not every curly enjoys using silicones and decides it is best to read ingredients to avoid them. They often end in “cone”, which makes it easy to distinguish. However, that does not always happen. Below are examples of silicones to look out for.
Cyclopentasiloxane is a part of the cyclomethicone category of silicones. According to McKay, “Cyclomethicones are also favored by formulators because they spread easily on the hair and skin, and the lubrication they provide isn't greasy or tacky.” It is more likely for the product to have a looser consistency since this ingredient is easy to spread, which can give it a lot of slip. McKay also shares, “Because of their low vapor pressure, they evaporate easily from hair or skin at room temperature, and therefore aren't prone to build-up or an oily residue. For this reason, they are sometimes used as an additive in products such as spray leave-in conditioners to help speed drying time.”
Dimethiconol is a silicone that is non-water soluble, which means it is not as compatible with water. This could leave product buildup on the hair and scalp. A cleanser would be needed if you were to use a product that contains dimethiconol. McKay provides a chart with a list of silicones and the recommended cleansing agents for each. For dimethiconol, the recommended cleansing agents are the following: SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES.
Regardless of if your products contain water-soluble or non water-soluble silicones, it is important to make sure you have a clarifying shampoo or cleansing method to remove dirt, oil, and product buildup. Rinsing your hair with only water will not remove all of the buildup in your hair, which is why cleansing is important in a hair regimen. Follow your clarifying shampoo with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner for bouncy and shiny curls free of residue and buildup.
Read more: The Problem with the Water Washing Method
Are silicones apart of your hair regimen? Why or why not?