Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Aheli Sen (Fashion & Beauty Expert) on 16th Oct 2020
Everything you need to know about silicones in skincare products
The presence of silicones in skincare
The new untouchable skin and hair care ingredient has been silicone. Any product that contains silicone is shunned and looked down upon. It has come down to that. The second we see silicones on the label, we abandon the product we intended to pick up.
So, is it that bad, or has it just earned a bad name? Let us figure that out in this article, shall we?
Let us figure out what silicone is and the myths linked to silicone in skincare, and more.
What is silicone?
To rectify the biggest myth or misconception that people have about silicone, "silicone is not natural" well, it has a natural origin. Mineral silicones exist, upon forming strong bonds with oxygen it forms silica. This natural ingredient is taken up by chemists to create various synthetic silicones that are then used in skincare products.
It would also surprise that it is the silicone found in many personal care products which is used to heal wounds and scars.
Where are silicones used?
Scientifically speaking, silicone is a compound derived from its element form. It is located right under carbon in the chemical periodic table and thus, resembles a few of the chemical properties of bonding like that of carbon. Silicones used in skincare, cosmetics, and personal care are derived from silica and are based on silicone-oxygen atoms (-Si-O-Si-) & also silicone-chlorine atoms (polymer chain continues).
Silicones are created by converting quartz into silicon and further making this silicon react with methyl chloride to produce chlorosilanes. These chlorosilanes react with water additionally, and silanols (-Si-OH-) is produced. Such silanols can be transformed into cyclomethicone, dimethicone, and other varieties of silicones used in skincare products.
They have a unique molecular structure in which large molecules have wide spaces between each molecule because of which the molecules allow for a permeable barrier to be created.
Now that we have a better knowledge/understanding of what silicone is, let us look at some myths and what the real facts are about silicone:
Silicone Myths & Facts
The following are a few of the common myths about silicones that we are happy to decode for you to put your mind at ease when on the lookout for skincare.
Silicones are just filler ingredients. Silicones don't do anything for the skin
the ingredient that plays a significant role in making up for a skincare product's finish and texture are all different silicone types. They, not as the myth mentioned above, actually have a significant role to play other than just making up for pleasant aesthetics or fillers. Silicones directly influence the amount of moisture that a product imparts to the skin. It boasts its ability to make the best of other ingredients like antioxidants. Some silicones help keep skin matte or blur the pores' look or temporarily fill lines and wrinkles.
Silicone Suffocates Skin
It does not. How? The silicone's molecular structure is such that it can let both water and air permeate to the skin. Hence, silicones do not suffocate the skin. Further, it also does not create a barrier to prevent the product's critical ingredients from working; neither does it interfere with a person's ability to sweat. Thus, silicone does not block water-soluble elements from penetrating the deepest layers of skin.
It is the same as the permeability of a tea bag being steeped in water that releases the color—flavor and antioxidant compounds that tea contains. Silicone's structure safely "steeps" many types of skin-friendly ingredients into the skin's uppermost layers.
Silicones Clog out Pores
Silicone does not clog pores. How do we know this? Well, relate to the point right above. Silicones are permeable by both air and water, and thus, an ingredient that has that kind of permeability will not have the capacity to clog pores.
However, what might happen is the formation of siloxanes. What is that?
Well, siloxanes form if the skin has not been appropriately cleansed and the products with silicone have been on the face for too long. The skin needs to be cleaned well at least twice a day for silicone to react well with the skin. Otherwise, with the formation of siloxanes (smaller particles of silicone), sebum is created, in which case, clogging occurs.
However, it is not the silicones in the products that we use in either skincare or cosmetics that have this effect. Many other ingredients present in the same products have the same effect that can ultimately clog pores and make way for breakouts. Not to mention that sebum produced by the skin itself has the power to clog pores out, and it is this reason that it is recommended to wash the face twice a day.
Silicones Is The Cause Of Acne
Studies of silicone used in acne patients have not shown that this silicone group causes acne or makes it worse. If anything, acne patients' dermatological studies have realized that silicone's non-irritating properties and permeable nature make them helpful for smoothing and softening the often-flaky texture of skin affected by acne.
They have also been shown to help smooth out dry, flaky skin from using a prescription retinoid.
Silicones Do Not Allow for Exfoliation
Due to some other silicones being more occlusive than others, a lot of people are of the concern that applying silicone-based skincare will, in ways, impede the skin's process of natural exfoliation, but nothing could be far from it as silicones do not work that way at all.
Heavy silicones like dimethicone, too, have a porous nature. It is easy to conclude that in no way can silicone cast a barrier and prevent the skin's natural process of exfoliation. Interestingly, research has shown that a pure silicone bandage will not stop natural exfoliation irrespective of the skin being dry or hydrated.
The lighter-feeling, fluid siloxanes leave a sheer veil on the skin's surface as they evaporate, which also doesn't get in the way of skin cells shedding.
Silicones Are Toxic
Silicones are not toxic, and there are a thousand different studies that prove the same being used in cosmetics or skincare. Several types of silicones, inclusive of those made from dimethicone and all of the other common siloxanes, have continuously shown to be non-irritating or non-toxic on all kinds of skin.
Benefits of using Silicones in Skin Care:
1. Moisturizer - Helps trap moisture to the skin, thus, eliminating the possibility of skin feeling dehydrated.
2. Heals Scarred Skin from Acne – Silicone has been found to help smooth out skin that has been scarred and left dry and flaky.
3. Helps in healing Scars and Wounds – Silicones help heal wounds and scars as the molecular capacity makes for a barrier permeable by air and water but strong enough for scars to heal without skin clogging. If it did cause clogging, it would never have been used in such personal care products as the healing process would be compromised to form skin rashes.
4. Smoothness - Gives the skin a smooth texture and a flawless finish without any irritation.
Silicones are non-toxic, non-comedogenic, and chemically inert. They have been safely used for years at this point. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has given most silicones a rating of the safety of 1 (the best rating possible), so almost all silicones are safe to use.
Skincare products have to be formulated so that the skin can breathe and absorb essential nutrients. Silicons do not cause a buildup (through siloxane formation) and give all the benefits such as smooth, shiny, non-oily finish, which have delighted users for decades. It is indeed possible to make products that offer us the best of silicones sans any harmful effects. That is where smart formulations come into play.