What Is Silicone?

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by Mary Wolff

Most women are nervous about what we put on our hair. We want to make sure we are using the best products to get the results we desire. The problem is sometimes understanding that ingredients takes an advanced degree in chemistry.  With so much talk lately about what chemicals do to skin and hair, it’s no wonder you have questions!

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Silicone is a top concern among curlies, and it is often misunderstood. Much like sulfates, silicone serves a purpose but sometimes gets a bad rap due to misunderstandings. What is silicone? What does it do to hair?

Silicones are compounds found in many beauty products, from wrinkle cream to shampoo. A good way to determine if your products have silicone is to look for anything ending in “cone,” such as the commonly used amodimethicone or lauryl methicone copolyol, within the ingredient listing. Before you start throwing out your styling gels, let’s learn a little more.

There are two types of silicones, soluble and non-soluble.  Soluble silicones are easily washed away with water whereas non-soluble silicones require more intense removal such as a sulfate based shampoo. What does this mean for hair?

Silicones can provide some benefits for the hair, despite their bad rap. Whether soluble or non-soluble, silicones coat hair to help make it appear less frizzy or dry. They are also great at creating a barrier to protect the hair from heat tools. While both types of silicones do the same job essentially, it is better to opt for soluble silicones so you can wash them out of your hair and let it breathe.

If silicones serve a purpose, what’s the fuss? The reason silicones get a bad reputation is because they can lead to build-up, making hair heavy and weighed down. They also create a barrier that may make it harder for certain nutrients to reach the follicles. If you choose to use hair care products with silicones, make sure you use a clarifying shampoo or a sulfate based shampoo on a regular basis to keep hair healthy and beautiful. Another option is to opt for light silicones to reap the benefits of frizz-free shine without as much buildup. Lighter silicones tend to be the soluble ones because they are more easily broken up by water. Be sure to look for "PEG" before any dimethicone. If it contains PEG, then you know it's water soluble.

Your hair is your choice. If you don’t want to use silicones, there are plenty of natural remedies out there that might get the job done. Whatever you decide, curl care is more than a one-step process. Get to know your hair and you’ll quickly figure out what works best!

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