As you all know I craft handmade cosmetics on a regular basis to give my face and hair a rest from the chemical stuff that is out there at pharmacies today: hair spray, lotions, shampoo, conditioner–they all have preservatives, cheap synthetic additives and little to no healthful ingredients. At home, I stock up on things like organic natural coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter and use it in all kinds of handmade natural products. But as much as I believe in the benefits of natural stuff, I know the limitations, cosmetically, of what natural products can do. I also know that some synthetic ingredients such as silicons are often over vilified based on the fact that they are not naturally derived.
Silicones, the good news and the bad news…
The most common forms of silicone are dimethicone and cyclomethicone. The actual ingredient name may vary from product to product, but you will see some form of “icone” at the end of the ingredient name if it is a silicone. The higher it is on the list of ingredients, the more there is in the product. Now to explain why it has a bad rep: It is a synthetic product that is derived from sand by chemical means and is very processed; its manufacturing and the washing of it into drains is bad for the environment. When silicons are used in hair, it fills porous areas, giving only the “appearance” of healthier stronger, more hydrated hair. But the actual effect is cosmetic. Your hair is not really stronger, healthier or more hydrated. It is shinier, and thicker because silicons coats each strand with a seal that is water resistant, oil resistant…and makes hair unable to breathe because of that seal. This is the good news: Hair is not alive, it doesn’t need to breathe. Hair is made up of an organic protein called keratin. A coating of silicone on the hair is not suffocating the hair, like I hear so many say, but it actually tames it and makes it shine like diamonds! It becomes unhealthy when it builds up, and prevents natural oils from penetrating the inner hair shaft, making it dry and brittle. Over use can turn a little beauty trick for softness and shine into a dependency for function.
Going au naturale…
I often hydrate my hair with coconut oil in salve form on dry hair and also as an additive in my conditioner to give it more conditioning power. Coconut oil has been known to be able to penetrate into the hair shaft and really strengthen hair, not on just a cosmetic level. But coconut oil also makes my hair limp, greasy, dragged down, and if it builds up, it takes away shine, actually. But my hair is actually healthy, and hydrated, even if it looks dirty and unstyled. I have been able to grow my hair longer these years by using coconut oil and just shampooing and heat styling less. But boy did my hair love, love, love soaking up all the silicons in this hair conditioner I tried after coloring my hair the other week. My hair was thicker, bouncier, fluffier, shinnier, and just more smooth feeling after using the silicone heavy conditioner included in the color kit. I saw first hand how silicones are more powerful at giving an appearance of health than using natural products, even if it is a “fake” look of health, and I couldn’t believe how soft my hair was after using the silicon loaded conditioner.
So should we avoid or embrace silicones in hair products?
Silicones are not inherently bad, but if over used, they can cause your hair to form a dependency that is bad. Also, their use and manufacturing causes damage to the environment, lakes and wildlife. So perhaps the solution is to cut back and rely less on silicons to have healthy hair. Get healthy hair it the hard and true way by not over heat styling or over chemically processing. Condition hair with nutritious oils. Also, avoid shampoos with silicones! Removing build up is key to hair health, so it baffles me why so many shampoos have silicones in them?! It is like peeing in the tub, you’ll never get clean. Use hair conditioners with less amounts of silicone (lower on the ingredient listing) and/or only use silicones in finishing products as a means to cosmetically boost shine and maintain a style, as a last touch to give your hair the fake confidence it does need!