Silicone- you know that rubbery stuff that they make spatulas and flexible ice cube trays out of? That same compound is also an ingredient that is in a surprising number of personal care products ranging from shampoos and conditioners, to moisturizers, make up, and sunscreens. Obviously, the silicone they use to make kitchenwares isn't the same kind that's used for cosmetic purposes. But the same reasons silicone is used for non-stick, slick, and flexible spatulas is why it's used in personal care products.
The Good Side of Silicone
Polysiloxanes aka silicones impart a smooth slick feeling by creating a thin layer over your hair and skin. The result is that super luxurious silky feeling that is so coveted in skincare and hair care products. It works by filling in the tiny crevasses and wrinkles on the surface of your skin and hair, creating a smooth surface texture.
It additionally creates a barrier that traps in moisture and imparts a reflective sheen.
Rarely will you see silicone listed on a ingredient list. Some of the more common names you might see are listed below. Any ingredient ending in a cone or siloxane is a form of silicone.
INCI names for silicone: Dimethicone, Methicone, Trimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Amodimethicone, Trimethylsilylamodimethicone, Cyclotetrasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxan, Polydimethylsiloxane, and Dimethiconol.
The Bad and The Ugly
On the superficial end of the spectrum silicones seem fine. Without a deeper dive the worst thing you can say is that they don't actually make your skin and hair smoother- you're just coating yourself in a thin film. But once you look a bit deeper it gets pretty alarming.
The Canadian government declared two forms of silicone, cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane toxic, persistent, and to have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms. While they have not concluded that it's harmful to humans, the environmental harm it may cause has ended its use in Canada .
In the European Union, cyclotetrasiloxane has been classified as an endocrine disruptor or a chemical that alters your body's hormone system. And in lab studies cylcopentasiloxane has been shown to cause uterine tumors and harm to the immune and reproductive system.
Better Safe Than Sorry
If poisoning the environment and the risk of tumors, hormone disruption, and immune system harm doesn't scare you away from silicone, maybe the fact that it's just not needed in personal care will make you a silicone free convert.
We see it as an unnecessary risk to take, and choose to steer clear of silicones in our formulations. The simple truth is that there are plenty of safe and effective ingredients out there that can impart the smooth and lustrous effects of silicone without the scary side effects.