You may have heard some blanket statements in recent years about silicones in hair products being the devil, especially for curly hair. Many curly experts say “Avoid them at all costs!” while others say “They’re fine; what’s the big deal?!” And when you Google it, articles and opinions come up that cover all areas of the spectrum. And that’s when you get frustrated, roll your eyes, and surf to the latest cat video on YouTube, right? But deep down, you really want to know the facts. You’re determined, and today is the day you set out to research it till you figure it out. Right? Well, even if it’s not, we’ve put together a little info to help you out and clear the muddied hair-product waters. Read on, and check out our YouTube channel while you're at it!
What’s the purpose of the silicones in hair products in the first place?
Silicones are used in hair products because they actually have many benefits. They provide slip (making hair easier to detangle); they spread out and create a protective layer that traps moisture in the hair; they make products easier to apply evenly; they can help control frizz and add shine; and they seal the hair, helping protect hair color from fading and making it easier to style. So as you can see, they aren't just thrown in as a filler ingredient. They do serve a purpose.
Why the talk about using or avoiding silicones?
If, like many curlies, you are using any form of sulfate-free shampoo or are following the no-poo method, you may be concerned that your products won’t remove all silicones unless those silicones have been modified to be water-soluble (PEG-modified silicones are all water-soluble.) Some of the more widely used silicones (such as dimethicone and cyclomethicone) aren’t. However, there are many cleansers out there that contain gentle surfactants (such as cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine, which are derived from coconut oil) that will remove silicones, so don’t believe it if someone says “sulfates are the only thing that removes silicones.” False. Some of them (such as cyclomethicone) are even removable with strictly co-washing. And if you’re married to co-washing, there are certainly ways to remove the potential buildup without using a sulfate-free shampoo. We will discuss that in a future post! The point is, though, if you use a cleanser with one of the gentler-than-sulfate surfactants mentioned above at least once or twice a month, you’re good to go with even the strongest non-water-soluble silicones.
Silicones aren’t necessarily bad. And they certainly aren’t the only ingredient that builds up on hair.
So they’ve gotten a bad rap. Many people teach that silicones build up even just after a few uses, and that they build up so much over time that they eventually block moisture from being absorbed by the hair, and hair will become brittle and lifeless. In reality, they don’t keep building up indefinitely and probably wouldn’t even build up enough to reach the moisture-blocking point. So use your own judgment…if a product works for your curls, then go with it! Chances are just as good that you could use a silicone-free product that may not work for your curls at all. Works both ways!
Just because an ingredient name ends in ‘cone, doesn’t make it a monster.
Just like everything else, there's no black and white when it comes to silicones. All 'cones are not created equal, just like no two people have the same hair. What works for your hair might not work for your friend’s hair or your sister’s hair. The fact is that while some product ingredients are to be avoided, silicones aren’t necessarily one of them. In fact, Controlled Chaos Curl Crème contains amodimethicone, a silicone that releases its hold on the hair when water is applied; thus, it rinses out entirely!
So, you see it’s not just all-or-nothing when it comes to the ‘cones. Don’t rule a product out and don’t be scared of them. Bottom line, nothing is permanent—well, except that Nirvana tattoo you got on your eighteenth birthday—so go ahead and try out that product you’ve been itching to try! You just might be surprised what it does for your curls.