Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Silicones in Hair Care 101

Full report this Wednesday Shine & Sparkle Report readers!

After my hair highlighting experience last week, it inspired me to encourage you all to put on your science hats.  Today, we are going to talk about Silicones in hair products*.  Put on your lab coats, grab a beaker (or graduated cylinder) and lets get started learning about silicone!

Like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.

What are Silicones? Silicones are ingredients in many hair care products.This includes shampoos, conditioners, leave-in detanglers, and serums. They are not all bad.  They are considered safe for the human body (breast implants anyone?) They make hair look shiny and soft.  They prevent tangles and protect your hair from the elements and heat styling (all of those fancy kitchen gadgets are made out of silicone for a reason).  I often describe them as "putting plastic wrap around each strand of hair".  Basically they coat each strand and take the brunt of heat damage, repel moisture/humidity that causes friz, and generally make your hair look great!  You can typically determine if one of these super hard to pronounce ingredients is a silicone if it ends in "cone", "col", "conol" or "zane". 

What is bad about Silicones? If you apply silicones before adding moisture to your hair or do not remove the "plastic wrap" every once in a while, it will prevent moisture and oils from getting into the hair.  The silicone can build up and create multiple layers of plastic around the hair which look great as long as you keep adding layers, but once removed, the underlying hair is dried out, brittle and damaged.  So at least weekly removal of silicones and infusion of moisture and oil at this time is important if you want the healthiest hair possible. 

How do you remove Silicones?  It depends if the silicones you are using are water soluable or not.  Not to scare you with basic chemistry, but basically, some silicones will disolve and wash away just with water in the shower.  Others, need sulfates of some kind to break them down.  You do not need to use super harsh clarifying shampoos, just ones that contain some kind of sulfate once a week (most drugstore shampoos unless they say "sulfate-free"--see my first post on sulfate free shampoos and second post involving sulfate-free shampoos). I have heard of apple cider vinegar rinses, baking soda, and other DIY methods for removing silicones once a week, but I find it faster and easier to just expose myself to sulfates once a week.  If you rather go completely chemical free, consider looking into those DIYs.

What are the different types of Silicones?  Different products have different amounts and types of silicones.  Depending on your hair type and condition, different levels and combinations might work better for your hair.  The below lists of silicones can help you find what you are looking for in a product.

These silicones need Sulfates to remove them and are likely to build up on your hair:

  1. Dimethicone (probably the most commonly seen are versions of Dimethicone)
  2. Cetyl Dimethicone
  3. Cetearyl Methicone
  4. Dimethiconol
  5. Stearyl Dimethicone
Also, there are some silicones that slow down the build-up process and mean you have to use a sulfate containing shampoo less often:
  1. Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
  2. Amodimethicone
  3. Cyclopentasiloxane
  4. Cyclomethicone
Lastly, there are a few totally water soluble silicones:
  1. Stearoxy Dimethicone 
  2. Behenoxy Dimethicone
  3. Also, if "PPG" or "PEG" is in front of the silicone, this means that it was specially developed to be water-soluble and will not leave a build-up like other silicones.
Final Gripe/Warning: Do NOT use pure oils as a heat protectant!  If your product has oils AND silicones, that is fine.  The silicone is protecting from heat while the oil is absorbed into your hair.  But a pure oil alone (like coconut, 100% argan, almond, etc..) will basically deep fry your hair.  Eek!  Think about it, would you stick your hair in a vat of oil heated to 450 degrees?!  I don't think you would.  That is essentially what using pure oil then flat ironing/curling your hair is.  Heat + Silicone is your friend!  That is the end of my public service announcement.  Deep fry your hair at your own risk.

 Shine & Sparkle! (without deep fried hair)

*Special shout out to CurlyNikki's Blog for compiling a lot (but not all) of the information seen in this post!

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