If you’ve ever taken the time to read the list of ingredients on a hair product, you’ve probably heard of dimethicone—but what effect does it have on your hair?
Dimethicone can be both beneficial and detrimental. While it’s not inherently bad, excessive use can lead to dryness and buildup.
Hop on board as we delve into the world of dimethicone that’s shaking things up in the hair care industry. Not only is it creating ripples for its ability to lock in moisture, but it’s also revolutionizing the way you style your hair.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What dimethicone is.
- Advantages of using dimethicone on hair.
- Disadvantages of dimeticone on hair.
- When dimethicone is right for your hair type (and when it may be best to avoid it).
- How to effectively use hair products with dimethicone to achieve beautiful hair.
- How to remove dimethicone build-up from hair using detoxifying treatments and rinses.
- Frequently asked questions about dimethicone, including answers about its connection with hair loss, effects on bleached hair, and more.
What is Dimethicone?
Specifically, dimethicone refers to a silicone-based polymer that is non-soluble in water and used in a number of hair, cosmetic, and personal care products. In hair products, dimethicone serves the purpose of creating a barrier around individual hair strands to lock in moisture, reduce frizz, and leave hair looking smooth and silky. Dimethicone is also an emulsifier, allowing other styling products to more easily bond to your hair.
How it Benefits Your Hair
Gives hair a sleek and smooth appearance. When a product containing dimethicone is applied to hair, it forms a physical barrier around each strand. (Source) This seals in moisture while giving hair a sleek and shiny appearance that many people enjoy.
Reduces the appearance of split ends. Because dimethicone essentially seals the cuticle of the hair all the way down the hair shaft, this can also reduce the appearance of unwanted frizz and split ends. It won’t actually get rid of split ends, but dimethicone products can make them less noticeable.
Makes hair easier to brush/comb and style. Dimethicones create a sort of slippery barrier around the hair, which can make it much easier to brush or comb hair—especially after a shower. This can also make hair easier to work with when it comes time to blow dry or style it. If your hair is prone to severe tangling after washing, a product with dimethicone can take some of the pain and frustration out of brushing or combing.
It can protect hair from heat during styling. Because dimethicone effectively seals off the cuticle of the hair, styling products containing dimethicone are often recommended for those who use a lot of heat during the styling process as a means of protecting hair from damage. (Source) If you blow dry your hair rather than allowing it to air dry, or if you use hair straighteners and/or curling irons on a regular basis, a hair product with dimethicone can help to protect your hair from unwanted heat-related damage and breakage.
How it Can Cause Issues to Your Hair
It can dry out hair over time. Even though dimethicone is added to hair products to lock in moisture by creating a barrier around the hair, it can actually have the opposite effect over time. This is because, over time, hair cuticles that have been “sealed” by dimethicone may not be able to receive the additional moisture needed to keep locks hydrated and healthy. Eventually, this can lead to hair drying out, becoming brittle, and becoming more prone to breakage.
It can lead to build-up. Because dimethicone is not soluble in water, it doesn’t wash or rinse away easily when you shower. When you use hair products containing dimethicone regularly, this will cause a gradual build-up that can weigh your hair down. This is why many people who use hair products with dimethicone may find that they seem to work well at first—but that hair becomes weighed down, dull, and difficult to style over time. Eventually, hair may even become greasy at the roots and locks may lack volume.
It can cause side effects. People can also have side effects when using products with dimethicone. Interactions can include burning, redness, irritation, scalp acne & stinging sensations.
Hair Type Considerations
Are products containing dimethicone good or bad for your hair? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question, as it really boils down to how often you use these products, how you use them, and your hair type.
Frizzy, Dry, Coarse, or Curly Hair
If your hair falls into this category, then you’ll probably benefit most from using products with dimethicone in your hair on occasion. That’s because dimethicone helps to seal the cuticle, thus reducing the appearance of frizz and sealing off split ends. If you have dry hair, dimethicone can also lock in moisture and give your hair that shiny, healthy appearance that you’ve been wanting.
Fine or Oily Hair
On the other hand, if you already have fine hair that’s prone to oil, you may want to avoid the use of products containing dimethicone. For these hair types, dimethicone can actually weigh down the hair, making it difficult to achieve volume and the appearance of fullness. Likewise, because dimethicone seals the cuticle, this can also lock in unwanted oils and make hair look greasier. Check out the best dry shampoos for oily hair.
How to Safely Incorporate Dimethicone Into Your Haircare Routine
If you have dry, frizzy, coarse, or curly hair that could benefit from the use of dimethicone products, you may be wondering how to go about using these products correctly to maximize your results. In general, the key to getting the most out of dimethicone hair products is to clarify your hair as needed, which will remove unwanted build-up and protect the pores on your scalp from becoming clogged.
Likewise, selecting the right hair products with dimethicone can make all the difference, as not all products contain the same concentrations of this ingredient. Explore a couple of dimethicone hair product recommendations below, along with how to use them to achieve luscious locks.
Kerastase Discipline Fondant Fluidealiste
This smoothing hair conditioner is formulated to make hair softer, shinier, and smoother—especially for those with naturally frizzy hair. It’s also made with amodimethicone, which is a lighter version of dimethicone, so it isn’t as prone to weighing hair down or causing build-up over time. (Source)
When: This amodimethicone conditioner is light enough to be used daily for those with dry, coarse, or frizzy hair. If you have finer and/or oily hair, you may want to limit use to a couple of times per week.
Where: For best results, apply this conditioner to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. Avoid the roots and top of your head unless they have been heavily damaged by bleaching or other chemical treatments. This will help to prevent gradual product build-up at the roots, which can otherwise make your hair appear greasy and weighed down.
- Begin with your regular shampooing routine. Then, apply a quarter-sized amount of conditioner to wet hair, focusing on the mid-lengths and ends.
- If you have especially long or thick hair, use a wide-tooth comb to distribute product evenly and ensure easy detangling.
- Allow conditioner to sit on your hair for 2-3 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioner
This leave-in conditioner is formulated to smooth and hydrate frizz-prone hair while protecting it from heat damage. Safe for color-treated and chemically treated hair, this leave-in conditioner is made with a blend of vitamins and green tea extract to bring out the best in your hair without weighing it down. (Source) This product also contains a lighter version of dimethicone known as amodimethicone as one of its main ingredients, so it won’t cause build-up over time.
When: This leave-in conditioner can be used on wet hair after shampooing and conditioning.
Where: For best results, concentrate this leave-in conditioner on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair, which tends to be the driest. Try to avoid the roots and top of your head unless they have been heavily damaged by bleaching or other chemical treatments.
- Start with hair that has been freshly washed and conditioned.
- Using the spray bottle, apply leave-in conditioner liberally to the middle and ends of your hair. If you prefer, you can also spray the product directly onto your palms and distribute it through your hair using your hands.
- Using a brush or wide-tooth comb, work the product into your hair while detangling. Focus on the mid-length and ends of your hair to avoid unwanted product transfer to roots.
- Dry/air-dry and style your hair as you normally would, enjoying less frizz and amped-up moisture.
How to Remove Dimethicone Buildup
While dimethicone hair products can be beneficial to those with frizz-prone, coarse, or dry hair, it can create unwanted build-up over time. The good news is that dimethicone build-up can be removed from hair using the right clarifying/detoxifyng shampoo and/or the occasional rinse with apple cider vingear.
The important thing to remember, however, is that not all clarifying hair products are safe on color-treated hair. If you color your hair, you’ll want to be careful about the products you use to remove dimethicone build-up from your locks. Fortunately, there are some great products out there.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day™ Triple Detox Shampoo
Formulated with anionic polymer to gently remove build-up from hair, this shampoo contains activated charcoal to absorb excess oil while balancing hydration levels throughout the hair and scalp. (Source)
When: Use as needed, whenever buildup from dimethicone products (or other products) becomes noticeable.
Where: Apply from roots to ends for an all-over cleansing, paying special attention to the roots and scalp (which tend to accumulate the most product build-up.
- Begin with wet hair.
- Apply a quarter-sized amount (more for thick or longer hair) to wet hair, using in place of your usual shampoo as needed. Work into a rich lather.
- Rinse and follow up with your favorite conditioner.
- For stubborn build-up, leave in hair for two minutes prior to rinsing.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
A store-bought apple cider vinegar can also work wonders as a clarifying treatment. Plus, it’s rich in vitamins C and B—both of which are great for your hair. (Source)
When: Because apple cider vinegar is acidic, you should only use it on occasion. In general, it’s safe to use on hair about once a week or once every other week.
Where: Focus application of apple cider vinegar on the roots, which tend to accumulate the most product build-up.
- Begin with your usual shampooing routine.
- Mix 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 16 ounces of water.
- Pour the apple cider vinegar mixture over your hair, working it into your scalp and roots with your fingers.
- Let the mixture sit in your hair for a few minutes before rinsing and conditioning. (Source)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does dimethicone cause hair loss?
There is no direct link between dimethicone and hair loss. However, when used long-term, products containing dimethicone may cause hair to dry out and weaken, which can lead to breakage.
Q: Is dimethicone safe for the environment?
While dimethicone is non-toxic to humans, little research has been done on its effects on plants/wildlife. As a result, it is not yet known whether dimethicone is safe for the environment.
Q: Is dimethicone bad for hair extensions?
Because dimethicone can over-proteinize and dry out hair, its use is not recommended for those with hair extensions. (Source)
Q: Is dimethicone bad for bleached hair?
While dimethicone products may initially help bleached hair feel smoother and healthier, they can dry out lightened hair over time and cause it to become more brittle and prone to breakage.
Q: Does shampoo remove dimethicone?
Because dimethicone is non-soluble in water, regular shampoo does very little to remove its build-up. However, some shampoos (such as detoxifying and clarifying shampoos) are specifically formulated to lift this type of product build-up when used correctly.
Q: Is dimethicone bad for natural hair?
This really depends on your hair type. Generally, products with dimethicone are best for dry, coarse, and curly hair. Those with fine and/or oily hair may want to avoid products with dimethicone, as they can further weigh down each strand.
Q: Should I avoid dimethicone in hair products?
Not necessarily, as dimethicone can leave hair looking and feeling healthier. The key is to know your hair type and to use a clarifying or detoxifying treatment as needed to remove build-up before it becomes a problem.