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Curly Nikki

The Curl Whisperer on Silicones

By January 27th, 20216 Comments

The Curl Whisperer on Silicones
For our last article on product ingredients: silicones.

There are few product ingredient subjects that inspire as much debate as silicones. Silicones are polymers used used to coat the hair shaft to provide a smoothing effect. All silicones, however, are not created equal.

Many conditioners and styling products on the market, both professional and drugstore brands, contain non-water soluble silicones such as dimethicone, which lie on top of the hair, creating an impenetrable barrier into the hair shaft. They look like a quick fix for frizz since they temporarily smooth the hair shaft down and make frizz seem to disappear—but they also suck out the moisture from inside the hair, dehydrating curly locks and creating more frizz in the long run. Since they can’t be rinsed away with water, they also build up on the hair shaft and generally require a surfactant (detergent)-based shampoo to remove.

Water-soluble silicones such as dimethicone copolyol, on the other hand, provide many of the same benefits but are generally considered safer to use on curly hair as they form a “breathable” film on the surface of the hair, allowing moisture to penetrate into the hair shaft. Additionally, they do not build up as non-water soluble silicones do, meaning any product containing water-soluble silicones will slide right off the hair shaft when you rinse your hair.

Some amine-functionalized silicones, such as amodimethicone, are not soluble in water, but have chemical properties allow it to repel further deposit, helping to prevent buildup although they will still lock moisture out of the hair and require a surfactant to remove, which may be an issue for those who prefer to solely do conditioner washes.

Incidentally, if you do an Internet search on amodimethicone, you will find quite a few sites (including mine, until recently) that list amodimethicone as a silicone that is “slightly” soluble in water as long as two additional ingredients are included in the formulation:

***Amodimethicone (and) trideceth-12 (and) cetrimonium chloride (as a mixture in the bottle)***

The assumption has always been that the inclusion of trideceth-12 (a nonionic surfactant) and cetrimonium chloride (a cationic surfactant) render the amodimethicone, non-water soluble on its own, slightly soluble in water and it could be considered fine for use.

Turns out that has been a completely incorrect assumption. What the trideceth-12 and cetrimonium chloride do is render the amodimethicone dispersible in water. Once the amodimethicone is deposited onto the hair shaft and dries to a film, however, it is not water-soluble, will prevent moisture from getting into the hair shaft and will require a surfactant to remove.

Tiffany has come to the end of the product ingredient classes, so next week, we will resume answering your most burning questions. Please submit your questions for the Curl Whisperer to Please put “Curl Whisperer” in the subject line.

For more Tiffany, The Curl Whisperer, click HERE.

For other articles on Silicones, check out the links below:
To Cone or Not to Cone
Hair Tip of the Day
Another Cone Question
Can Split Ends be Fixed?
Friend or Foe?


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