Are silicones good or bad for your hair?
What are silicones and what are they used for?
Silicones are man made polymers, they don't occur naturally and are not biodegradable. They are a wax-like substance that is commonly added to high-street shampoos, rinse-out conditioners and some styling products to create the coveted “slip” we all desire when detangling.
Silicone coats the hair strands to reduce and “smooth” frizz, gives hair a plastic-like shine and protects against moisture loss. Silicone also expands when heated so can make the hair appear thicker.
Unfortunately, long-term use of silicone-based conditioners could leave your hair in distress. At Afrocenchix, we avoid using silicone in our Afro hair products for several reasons, read on to learn more about them and make your own decisions.
What problems do silicones cause?
They are drying to the hair
Silicones coat the hair shaft in a thin film, which is a good thing if you want to smooth over frizz. However, this can also hold dirt and prevent absorption from additional products such as water, conditioner agents and moisture from penetrating the surface of the hair, which can, in turn, lead to weakened hair.
In an attempt to make your hair feel less dry, you may want to over-condition by leaving a silicone conditioner on your hair for longer. This can lead to hygral fatigue and hygral fatigue can lead to weaker hair, which leads to breakage, and so on and so forth.
With a silicone-free conditioner like Swirl, you don’t have to sacrifice slip for shine or vice versa. Your hair is well taken care of in the short term and in the long term.
Not all silicones are water or shampoo soluble
This means that if you are using a silicone-based conditioner and thoroughly rinsing your hair after conditioning, there is a chance that the silicone won’t completely wash away. As the product builds up on your hair strand, it can leave your hair dull and lifeless and weigh your hair down. Over time, this can lead to breakage.
It is for this reason that we recommend taking extra care to not condition your scalp. Leaving alkaline and silicone residue on your scalp can, over time, become an irritant, disturbs the acid mantle of your scalp and lead to itchiness.
If you are worried about having a build-up of silicone on your hair, use our sulphate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioner in tandem every week. Use Soothe on your freshly washed scalp to protect your scalp and fight against itchiness and flaking.
Silicones are not environmentally-friendly
Though silicones are less harmful to the environment than plastics and polyethylene microbeads, it isn't ideal to rinse silicones out of your hair and into the ocean each time you shampoo and condition your hair. Due to silicones not being biodegradable, they remain in the oceans and affect marine life.
In terms of being harmful or not, the types of silicones used in Afro hair care products are considered to be safe for human use and supported by scientific research. While safe for us, some silicones have been found to affect animals that can’t digest them.
How to spot silicones in Afro Hair products
On hair product labels, silicones are listed as:
- Dimethicone Copolyol
- Phenyl trimethicone
- Dimethicone copolymer
- Can also include ‘amo,’ ‘amine,’ or ‘amino’ or ending in -siloxane
- Usually, have -cone at the end of them
Pro tip: The further up the list, the higher the percentage of the ingredient in the product.
If environmental concerns or hair health are the main reasons why you’d prefer your products to be without silicone, Swirl is our shampoo that provides slip without the silicone. Read more about how we created this conditioner, here.