Flip over practically any smoothing hair product in the conventional hair product section and you’ll find the same ingredient. Silicone. Silicone in hair products goes by many names (we’ll get to that in a sec) but they all work the same way. Find out why you want to steer clear of silicone ingredients in your hair care routine and alternatives that work without the nasty side effects.
What are Silicones in Hair Products?
Everyone is after that glossy, silky feeling hair you see in ads. And, not gonna lie, silicones definitely deliver. Until they don’t.
Let’s back up a sec.
Silicone. Silicon. Silica. These monikers all make an appearance on cosmetic packaging. It’s where they come from that makes the big difference between the three.
Silicones are synthetic chemicals derived from silica (natural sand) that typically contain silicon (a natural mineral). When used in cosmetics, silicones are liquids that can be water-soluble (more on those below), non-water soluble, and evaporating.
So, silicones are natural, right? The silicone ingredients used in hair care products that we are talking about here are highly processed, man made chemicals. Far from the earth’s natural minerals from which they were originally derived.
The reason silicones are added to conventional hair care, like smoothing products and hair conditioners and serums, is to make hair look smooth and feel soft. And they are up to the job. When you first begin using a silicone product, your strands behave. They’re so good at their job that even super dry and damaged hair often sees instant results. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
But after using silicone ingredients on your hair regularly, strands start to crave it and the silicones cause a buildup, leaving your locks looking dry and damaged. Often worse than before you sought out silicone-laden products.
Here’s how that happens. Silicone ingredients are occlusive, so they coat strands of hair, making hair feel soft and smooth. That’s the upside. The downside is that these effects only last until the silicone is rinsed out of your hair. Even worse, while these ingredients are coating your strands, they are repelling water, keeping strands from drawing in water from the environment, basically sapping them of natural moisture and leaving them parched. Then you apply more of the silicone products and the vicious cycle continues. Occlusive ingredients can also clog pores, leading to outbreaks on the scalp and possibly irritation. Constant use of silicones can also clog hair follicles, inhibiting the appearance of optimal hair growth, trapping dirt and debris on the scalp.
Obviously not the healthiest way to make your hair look and feel soft, shiny, and smooth.
What are these silicone ingredients we are talking about? You’ll probably recognize dimethicone. It’s a super commonly used synthetic silicone ingredient added to hair care and skincare. Seriously, head to your local beauty store and pick up a product designed to smooth hair. Now turn that product over and read the ingredient listing. Betting dimethicone is one of the first five ingredients.
Other commonly used silicones in hair care to watch for are cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, and other ingredients that end in “cone.”
Before we get into our silicone free hair picks, it’s important to note that with silicones, like most ingredients, it’s key to know your hair type and needs. For instance, those with thick or coarse hair will probably see better performance with silicones than someone with thin or fine hair, which can get weighed down by silicone ingredients. And if you see breakouts or irritation after using a product made with silicones, discontinue use immediately.
Now, how about some alternatives to silicones that are nicer to your hair and deliver on those smoothing benefits you are after? Natural oils and plant butters provide vital moisture to scalp and strands, improving the look of shine and manageability while protecting your hair from the appearance of dryness. Watermelon, unguarhui (aka rahua), and shea butters are all good ones to try.
You might have heard of water-soluble silicones. Why are these viewed as less harmful than an ingredient like dimethicone that isn’t water soluble? Because they are easily rinsed away and don’t form a buildup on your hair like silicones that are not water-soluble. Examples of water-soluble silicones are dimethicone copolyol and PEGs. Before you use hair care products with these ingredients, read up on why you might want to avoid PEGs in your hair care routine.
Bottom line...Are Silicones Bad For You?
So, what you really want to know…dry hair and buildup aside, are silicones in hair products bad for your body? The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) deemed silicones in skincare safe for general use. That said, the use of silicones in hair products will likely result in the unwanted hair issues described above. Possibly worse, they end up washing down your shower drain and into soil and waterways. And while silicone ingredients might break down over time, they aren’t as readily biodegradable as other more natural ingredients.
If you choose to ditch the silicones and opt for natural alternatives to add the look of smoothness and shine to your hair, our silicone free hair care products picks above won’t disappoint. They offer extra benefits and won’t leave your hair dried out and damaged.
How to Remove Silicone From Hair
If you are experiencing build-up from long-term silicone-based product use, not to worry. By including a clarifying shampoo and scalp exfoliating product into your hair care routine, you can easily and gently remove it without damage. We love Original Mineral Original Detox Shampoo and Briogeo Scalp Revival Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo as they are both gentle while still have the muscle to remove unwanted silicone build-up.
We recommend using these products on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to remove dead skin, dirt, sweat, oil and general product residue.
Silicone Free Hair Products To Help You Get Your Smooth On
Here Are 6 of the hundreds of Silicone Free Hair Products at North Authentic.
Want to see more? Simply choose silicone free in our shopping filters.
This silicone free shampoo rescues dry, damaged, or frizzy hair. Natural oils and botanicals that provide a strengthening feel to strands leave hair looking healthy and vibrant. A gentle sulfate free cleanser that delivers moisture and smoothness to your hair.
The ultimate solution for vibrant, healthy hair. This conditioner bar deeply moisturizes and strengthens strands, revitalizing tired hair and enhancing its natural shine.
Repairing split ends and offering gentle cleansing, it promotes a healthy scalp environment. Plus, enjoy the refreshing citrus fragrance that lingers subtly on your revitalized locks.
Hair oil works wonders when it comes to moisturizing strands and scalp. Have you tried watermelon seed oil? It’s rich in omega-6 fatty acids and has a rejuvenating effect on the appearance of your hair. Also non-greasy and fast absorbing, so no limp, weighed down locks. Just healthy, shiny-looking hair. Try this 100% organic Kalahari melon seed oil for instant results.
Like a magic potion for taming unruly curls or styling your straightest, sleekest hair ever. It’s a silicone free, fragrance free hair serum that feels super light on hair and creates the most brilliant-looking shine, thanks to coconut oil-derived fatty acid and natural oils, like kiwi and sweet almond.
Where does this leave in conditioner get its smoothing power? Not from silicone. This beauty packs sweet almond proteins which are rich in omega-9 fatty acids and vitamin E.
A power combo that moisturizes dry hair and provides a silky smooth texture and incredible, all-day shine. No more frizziness or flyaways, use this leave in to curb the appearance of damaged hair and keep your mane looking gorgeous.
This clean, silicone free formula delivers brilliant shine with no greasy residue, thanks to silk amino acids. Plant oils and cupuacu seed butter are also included to lend a super soft feel to hair. Use it to corral curls and waves, and give unruly hair a smooth, well-controlled look with this weightless balm.
All North Authentic products are free of: Sulfates, parabens, EDTA, 1,4 Dioxian, and many more all provided in our Hair Crimes List. While we work with our brands to become even more conscious, we identify additional "Free Of" ingredients on every product page.
Shop "Free Of" ingredient preferences using our Filters. You can also take the North Authentic Hair Quiz to get your personalized hair care prescription of the best products for your hair curl type.