Heat Protectants- Silicones Are Our Friends

In my Fry Eggs, Not Your Hair experiment I demonstrate the effects of heat transfer on an egg to emphasize the importance of incorporating a heat protection product into your thermal styling regimen. If this demonstration does not convince you that heat damage is real, I really do not know what will. Heat softens the keratin in hair to become more pliable; however, if you are not careful, too much heat penetrating the hair too fast will cause water to boil on the inside of the hair shaft, which will instantly weaken the hair. If you are going to use heat on your hair, there is no way that you can completely eliminate the damaging effects that it will have, but you can decrease the amount of damage by protecting yourself.

Health and Beauty Myth Busting

Myth: Silicones suffocate hair

The Truth: Silicones can build up on hair from shampoos and conditioners that contain high levels of high molecular weight, water insoluble silicones. If you over-use products like this everyday, it is possible to end up with hair that feels weighed down and limp. But even this does happen, you’re not really suffocating your hair.

1) Even if you didn’t wash all the silicone out, we’ve never seen any data that indicates that a small amount of silicone residue acts as a “barrier” between hair shaft and moisture. On average, your hair contains about 8 to 14% water by weight but it will equilibrate to the ambient humidity. In other words, it will pick up moisture when it’s very humid and it will lose moisture when it’s very dry. Slight silicone residue won’t substantially change that. Now, if you slather on a heavy layer of a silicone hair treatment product, that’s a different story!

Silicones & Natural Hair: Good, Bad & The Ugly

When it comes to silicones, the truth is pretty simple: they aren’t as bad for your hair as everyone makes them out to be.

But, just like everything else in life, moderation is key. You wouldn’t load up on chips when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, unless of course they were all-natural and baked instead of fried. There are exceptions to every rule and using silicones can actually be part of a good hair care regimen. The trick is to be sure that you understand which silicones do what, and keep in mind that while some aren’t ideal, others aren’t all that bad.


Water Soluble Silicones 101

Silicones have many unique properties that make them a preferred ingredient for hair care product formulators. They form a film on the surface of hair strands which allows them to effectively act as a lubricant between adjacent hair strands and reduce the forces required for detangling hair. Due to their high refractive index, they also impart a high degree of gloss and shine to hair when used in conditioners and styling products. Silicones also provide protection from the thermal damage often sustained during hair drying and heat styling. Certain silicones, especially amine-functionalized ones, have also been shown to increase color retention of artificially dyed hair.

However, despite their numerous benefits, curlies are frequently admonished to minimize use of silicones or to avoid them entirely.

So what’s the problem?

Sadly, there can be too much of a good thing. Years ago, it was fashionable for stylists to douse curly hair in heavy silicone oils in order to get control of frizz and to add a much-coveted shine to curls. Unfortunately, these products had a tendency to backfire over time. With repeated use, the serums accumulated on the surface of the hair, keeping water from entering the cortex and causing it to become dehydrated, weighing down hair, and completely disrupting natural curl pattern. The buildup could be very difficult to remove, requiring repeat applications of harsh shampoos. The result was dry, frizzy hair that resisted attempts to restore its natural beauty.

Similar results can occur when conditioners with high amounts of non-water soluble dimethicone are used. Buildup issues are especially problematic when non-traditional methods of cleansing are employed, such as conditioner cleansing, baking soda scrubs, or vinegar rinses. For this reason, it has become a popular recommendation for curly-haired people to avoid products containing silicones. This has the unfortunate consequence of depriving many curlies of some of the beneficial properties of silicones in hair care products.

Is There a Solution?

Happily, polymer chemists have spent time developing and optimizing water soluble silicone-based polymers for various reasons. These materials impart many of the desirable properties of ordinary silicone polymers, but they are more easily removed from the hair via rinsing, conditioner washing, or cleaning with mild shampoos, and do not require the use of harsh sulfate-based surfactants. They can also enhance moisturizing properties or add humectant qualities. These silicones provide more options to curly ladies and gentlemen.

What makes a silicone-based polymer water soluble?

Simple silicone polymers, such as dimethicone (polydimethylsiloxane) are comprised of a linear inorganic backbone of silicone and oxygen, with organic (carbon-based) pendant groups. These materials are extremely hydrophobic oils. However, several different types of chemical reactions can be utilized to add hydrophilic character to the polymers. These new polymers are amphiphilic, containing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic portions, and are classified as silicone surfactants.
Perhaps the most straightforward and popular method for rendering a silicone molecule water soluble is by adding multiple units of ethylene glycol (-OCH2CH2O-) to sites along the polymer chain. The oxygen atoms in these segments add polarity to the silicone and are readily available for association with water molecules. This process is called ethoxylation or polyethylene glycol (PEG)-modification.
PEG-modification can be done on sites that dangle from the silicone backbone, which results in a polymer shaped like a comb with hydrophilic tendrils. PEG can also be added to the terminal ends of the silicone polymer, making a straight chain surfactant type copolymer, with a hydrophilic block-hydrophobic block-hydrophilic block structure. Star-like molecules can be created by PEG-substitution occurring both at the ends of the polymer and on the pendant groups. Each type of polymer has slightly different properties.
On product labels, these polymers were formerly denoted by the name dimethicone copolyol. The preferred nomenclature for the comb-shaped polymers now is PEG-X dimethicone, with X being the number of repeat units of ethylene glycol. The block copolymers are designated Bis-PEG-X dimethicone, and the star-shaped polymers are designated Bis-PEG-X/PEG-X dimethicone. The higher the number “x” is, the greater the water solubility. Below a threshold of approximately PEG-6, the polymer is only sparingly soluble, and when the degree of ethoxylation equals or exceeds 8, the material can be considered to be highly water soluble.

Similar modification of a different silicone results in the novel polymer Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, which is completely water soluble and highly moisturizing to skin and hair. Another interesting water soluble silicone polymer is one modified with side chain copolymers of poly glucosides (sugars), PEG-8-PG-coco glucoside dimethicone. This material is completely water soluble, has high substantivity to hair and skin, is very moisturizing, and also has sufficient surfactant qualities that it can be used as a foaming agent and mild cleanser in gentle shampoos. Silicone phosphate esters (INCI name: Dimethicone PEG-X phosphate) are another category of water soluble silicone surfactants that provide excellent moisturizing properties and act as foam boosters.

What should I look for on labels?

Ultimately, it is most important to be your own scientist and try various products on your own hair in order to determine what gives the results that you like the most. What works for one person may not work for another, for many reasons.

If you are interested in trying some of the benefits of silicone-based products, but find it important to stick to those that are most easily removed via no-shampoo and mild-shampoo techniques, you will need to know what to look for on labels. The following silicones should be compatible with that type of hair care routine, and should provide many of the desirable effects of silicones, such as the addition of shine, moisturizing effects, thermal protection, and color retention, without any accompanying worries about buildup and frizz..
  • PEG-8 (or higher) Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-8 (or higher) Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-8/PEG-8 Dimethicone
  • Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane
  • PEG-8-PG-coco glucoside dimethicone
  • Dimethicone PEG-X phosphate
  • Dimethcione copolyol (this is an older and less descriptive designation, but may still be found on some labels)
So curlies, are you willing to let your hair make friends with these water-soluble  silicones?

Understanding Silicones- Natural Hair

 via Good Hair Diaries 

Silicones are ingredients in many hair conditionersshampoos, and hair gel products. They usually have hard to pronounce names like phenyltrimethicones or amodimethicones. Too make things easier, just remember that most ingredients ending in "cone", "col", "conol" or "zane" are more than likely a silicone. Silicones will produce a  build-up on the hair and scalp because they are often not water-soluble. This is why clarifying shampoos are so important to those of us that use "cone" filled products.

There is one exception to this rule though. If the abbreviation "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. It's also important to note that some people don't experience build-up with any of the silicones.  As with everything, you must experiment and see what works (or doesn't) for you and your curls.

Silicones Likely to Build-up

  1. Dimethicone
  2. Cetyl Dimethicone
  3. Cetearyl Methicone
  4. Dimethiconol
  5. Stearyl Dimethicone
If you're someone like myself, silicones help me detangle my hair and keep frizz at bay, so I have no intention of letting them go completely. So what does a girl do in this situation? Luckily, it's not all gloom and doom- - there are some silicones that slow down the build-up process and others that are water-soluble!

Deposit Repelling Silicones
  1. Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
  2. Amodimethicone
  3. Cyclopentasiloxane
  4. Cyclomethicone
Water Soluble Silicones
  1. Stearoxy Dimethicone 
  2. Behenoxy Dimethicone
Getting Rid Of Silicone Build-up

Purchasing a quality clarifying or chelating shampoo will remove the product build-up. Some women still swear by mixing baking soda into their normal shampoo to convert it to a clarifying shampoo. Whichever method you choose, be sure to follow-up with a apple cider vinegar rinse to regulate the pH balance of your hair. You should find that your products take better to freshly clarified hair.


CN Says:
When I first jumped off the Curly Girl (CG) Bandwagon, I fell right into a vat of amodimethicone.  The old DevaCare formulation contained this silicone and it did amazing things for my hair.  What was once dry was now soft, and what was once tangled... smooth.  No longer avoiding silicones like the plague, I began experimenting with great success.  I've found that my fine strands require some silicone action for less stressful detangling sessions and more productive styling sessions... they protect my hair from some of the wear and tear of detangling, help my highly porous strands stand up to humidity and keep the moisture from wash day in much longer.  After extended use, I found fewer single strand knots, fewer split ends and less breakage.  As far as build-up goes, I've found that shampoos containing the gentler surfactant 'cocamidopropylbetaine' effectively rid my strands of all traces of silicone, but once every couple of months, I'll use an SLS containing shampoo for good measure.  The only ingredients that I've experienced build-up from are mineral oil, petroleum and the like. I don't seem to run into issues with silicones. 

I love this chart by chemist, Tonya McKay, which at a glance, will inform you whether or not the silicone is water soluble or not and what form of cleansing agent can be used to effectively remove it.

Water soluble?
Recommended cleansing agents
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
Phenyl Trimethicone
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, ALS, or ALES
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
PEG-modified dimethicone
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing
Dimethicone copolyol
cocamidopropyl betaine, cocobetaine, other mild surfactants, or conditioner washing

As with everything in my life, I'm either on the wagon or off.  Currently, many of the products I'm using actually would be classified as CG (no silicones, mineral oil, or petroleum, etc.).  I'm not avoiding silicones, I'm just trying some new curl creams, many of which are boutique brands that abide by the 'natural' rules of the community.  I'll keep you posted!

What about you? Do you play with silicones?

Silicone Hair Products: Not So Bad?

by IAgirl via NaturallyCurly.com

There is no single perfect recipe for hair care, products or styling. Not even all curlies who fall under one specific curl type need the same product or have the same miracle worker. One recent trend that’s taken the curly hair product world by storm, however, is to avoid silicone hair products. As smart, curly women we must first ask ourselves and get the facts: is this needlessly limiting, or even based in fact?

The purpose of silicone hair products are to coat the hair with a micro-fine layer of conditioners creating sheen, reducing friction for easier combing and to prevent tangles and breakage. Silicones also help other ingredients in conditioners and lotions to spread easily. Silicones are not water-soluble unless they are modified to be, so they also form a water-sealing barrier to prevent loss of water from hair and help retain dye by making hair more hydrophobic (water-repellent).

Healthy, undamaged hair is also hydrophobic. In skin products, this effect is desirable – silicones slow down trans-epidermal water loss by sealing in moisture and slowing dehydration. Unlike vegetable oils, silicones are not likely to cause skin sensitivity reactions.

What Do Silicone Hair Products Do?

Silicones are generally used at a rate of 1 to 2 percent in hair conditioners and skin lotions. If you add one drop of dimethicone to 99 drops of hair conditioner – that is 1 percent. Diluted silicones spread around, but cannot form a 100 percent solid barrier.

Silicones bond to the hydrophobic, or undamaged, parts of hair better than the hydrophilic, or damaged, areas. When added to a conditioner containing cationic surfactants (positively charged conditioners) such as behentrimonium chloride/methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride/bromide, the interaction of ingredients helps silicone bond to damaged areas.

Can You Remove Silicone Build Up?

It was reported in a 1994 article in the journal Skin Pharmacology that silicones deposited on hair by 2-in-1 shampoos can be removed by a single washing with a silicone-free shampoo. This removed 90 percent of silicone residue. Oils and proteins applied to hair can also be removed by shampoo, but cationic surfactants, which provide benefits similar to silicones, are resistant to shampooing because they bond more tightly to the hair. This effect has been demonstrated by several studies reported in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemistry.

You can remove silicone residue from hair or skin with cleansers containing Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Sodium C14-17 Alkyl Sulfonate (Olefin Sulfonate), or Cocoamidopropyl Betaine. Skin constantly sheds cells, so silicone build up is rarely an issue.

Silicone build up is not a problem for everybody. If you use silicone hair products and never use shampoo, silicone will begin to accumulate on your hair. But there is a limited amount of surface on the hair for the silicone to bond to, and it will not accumulate indefinitely. If you use shampoos containing the ingredients above, you need not worry much about build up from silicone hair products. If you never use shampoo at all, or have very fine, silky hair, silicones may weigh your hair down with repeated use.

Want More?

Our CurlChemist breaks down each silicone for you, letting you decide what works best for your hair type, texture, porosity and density.

Final Thoughts

Build-up of any product is only a concern if it causes your hair or skin to do something you do not want it to do. Be your own judge about what ingredients to avoid in hair care products. Consult the science, and most importantly ­­— get feedback from your own hair and skin.

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