Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ingredient Investigation: Dimethicone and Other Silicones

Hey, beautiful people!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to take a few posts and investigate some of the more suspect ingredients in commercial rinse out conditioners.  This is my first one.

If you have been in the natural hair community for awhile, then you probably know by now that silicones have gotten a bad rap.  From what I know, it seems like most of that bad rap stems from the Curly Girl method created by Lorraine Massey.  As a result, many people, including me at one point, have just accepted that silicones are either good or bad without knowing why.  However, the science geek in me can’t just stick with assumptions.

As you may recall from my toolbox post, one purpose of a rinse out conditioner is to coat the hair to make it easier to detangle.  Silicones are great for this purpose because they coat the hair, creating an effective lubricant for detangling.  They also provide protection for thermal styling.

The reason why silicones can be bad for you is that they coat the hair and can cause buildup, preventing good things, like moisture from getting to your hair.  Silicones usually end in "cone," "col," "conol" or "zane."  There are four types -- water soluble, non-soluble that evaporate, non-soluble that resist buildup, and the rest. 

Water soluble silicones can be washed away with water, so if you wet your hair frequently, then water soluble silicones should not be a problem.  Non-soluble silicones that evaporate won’t wash away with water, but they completely evaporate from your hair anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours after application, so there’s no worry about build up or moisture lock out with these. 

Other non-soluble silicones may need sulfates or another cleanser to be washed away.  If you are a regular shampoo user, like me, or clarify periodically, then even non-soluble silicones should not cause a problem.  Here is a great chart from Chemist Tonya McKay that shows what cleansers will remove what silicones. 

The reason why non-soluble silicones are not good for people on the Curly Girl method is that the Curly Girl method discourages the use of sulfate shampoos.  Obviously, if you are avoiding stronger cleansers, then it is probably a good idea to avoid non-soluble silicones that don’t evaporate.  So, with that in mind, here is the list of silicones that I have been able to nail down into a category:

Water Soluble
  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)
  • Any silicone with PEG as a prefix
Non-Soluble That Evaporate
  • Cyclo-XXX-siloxane, like Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Decamethylcyclotetrasiloxane
  • Hexamethylcyclotrisiloxane
  • Hexamethyldisiloxane
  • Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane
Build-Up Resistant Non-Soluble
  • Amodimethicone
  • Bis-aminopropyl dimethicone
  • Aminopropyl Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone crosspolymer
  • Vinyldimethicone Crosspolymer
Other Non-Soluble (hard to wash out)
  • Dimethicone (when paired with cationic ingredient, like a such as a bromide, chloride or polyquaternium)
  • Bis-Phenylpropyl Dimethicone
  • Behenoxy dimethicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearoxy dimethicone
  • Stearyl dimethicone
  • Stearyl methicone
  • Propoxytetramethyl piperidinyl dimethicone
  • Polysilicone-18 Cetyl Phosphate
  • Trimethylsiylamodimethicone

Based on this, I am ok with testing out rinse out conditioners with silicones, with a preference for water soluble, evaporative or build-up resistant.  Maybe, one day, I’ll even go back to dimethicone -- GASP!

Do you use conditioners with silicones?  If so, which ones and how do you avoid buildup?

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