Is Silicone Bad for Hair? Yes and No. Here’s What You Should Know

Is silicone bad for hair

In the arena of hair care and beauty products, silicone is among the most used and discussed ingredients. However, as prevalent as it might seem, some concerns relating to hair health have arisen in recent years. But is silicone truly beneficial for your tresses?

Silicone’s effects on hair depend on the individual’s hair type and needs:

  • It’s good for very dry, frizzy, or curly hair as it locks in moisture and protects against heat damage.
  • It’s bad for fine, oily, or thin hair as it can cause product buildup and scalp issues.
  • It can weigh hair down, impacting volume and movement.
  • Overuse can lead to greasy, heavy hair.

I spoke with Jessica Le, owner, hair stylist, and nail artist at Alchemy Hair and Extensions studio in Scottsdale, AZ. First, I asked for her take on why silicones are getting such bad press lately.

She told me, “A lot of people are being drawn to natural products in their lives, not just hair products, and I think there has been a fear based response to a lot of popular products that have found themselves recalling their products to reformulate.”

For Jessica, silicone works wonders. Silicone gives her hair the sleek, shiny look that’s hard to achieve with natural, damaged hair. But, she knows her hair might not react the same way as yours.

The big takeaway is not all silicone products are bad for your hair. They can actually benefit everyone, but only if used sparingly. Le suggests not going overboard with any hair products, whether they contain silicone or not. “Too much of anything can be a bad thing,” she warns.

I’ve had a very similar experience myself. All in all, it’s true that silicones can be a problematic ingredient for some hair types. But they’re not terrible across the board.

The thing is, the FDA doesn’t do much to regulate cosmetics and hair care products. In fact, federal law specifies that the FDA doesn’t have to regulate or approve these products. (Source)

That’s why I put together this complete guide on silicone in hair care products, broken down into plain English. You see, silicones are a fairly typical ingredient in most hair care products. Odds are you’ve heard about silicones and how they’re bad for your hair.

In this article, you’ll learn:

What are Silicones Used for In Hair Products?

Silicone is a lab-created synthetic chemical. It comes from the mineral sand element, silicon. Once refined, this mineral is rather lightweight. So, it’s often used in shampoos and conditioners to make hair look shinier and more manageable.

Silicone has been a popular ingredient in the beauty industry since the 1970s. In the decades since it’s evolved into one of the most used ingredients in hair care and styling products. (source)

Why are Silicones Added to Hair Products?

Silicone is added to hair care products because it creates a shiny coating on your hair shaft. It also provides lubrication and slips for your hair. This can make your hair feel silkier and more manageable.

Silicone is such a common ingredient these days. It’s often difficult to find a product that doesn’t contain it! Dimethicone is one of the most common silicones you’ll find in beauty products.

Every variety of silicone coats your hair shaft almost entirely. This is even true for products you rinse away, like shampoo and conditioner. So if yours contains any kind of silicone, washing your hair will result in this coating.

Basically, using this ingredient is an easy way for brands to claim their shampoos to add softness and shine.

Silicones are also found in conditioners because they help reduce friction between strands. Does your conditioner claim to help detangle and smooth your hair’s cuticle layer? If so, there’s a good chance it contains some kind of silicone. (source)

Benefits of Silicone for Hair

Creates a barrier around your hair shaft. Silicone creates a barrier or coating on your hair. This barrier helps lock in moisture, reduce frizz, and give hair a shiny, silky look and feel.

Fights humidity. Does your hair poof up at the first sign of a humid day? Silicone creates a waterproof barrier to keep your locks looking luscious.

Great for detangling. The barrier on each strand of hair is very slippery. This keeps knots and tangles from forming. It also makes brushing your hair out much easier.

Locks in your style. Silicones in hair sprays and setting sprays help lock in your hairstyle on any given day. The barrier it creates between your hair and the elements is like a protective shield in bad weather.

When is it A Good Idea to Use Silicones?

Do you have very dry, very frizzy, or even curly hair? Or are you struggling with managing your hair in general? If you answered yes, you should try silicone in your washing and styling products.

Start with using a serum that contains silicone after a moisture treatment. This can help lock the moisture in for even longer.

You may also want to try a shampoo or conditioner that contains dimethicone, a type of silicone. Dimethicone coats your hair like silicone but doesn’t add as much shine. It’s a great option if you’re worried about your hair looking too shiny or greasy.

Silicones can also help protect your hair from heat damage. This is why many heat protectant sprays have silicone in them. The barrier on your hair shaft can help insulate and prevent breakage.

When is it a Bad Idea to Use Silicones?

It’s a bad idea to use silicones if you have fine, oily, or very thin hair. Even in small amounts, you’ll struggle to use the right amount of products containing silicone. I’ll explain more in the next section.

Also, if you have a sensitive scalp, suffer from dandruff, or have a dry scalp, you should avoid using silicones. This is because silicones can lead to the development of scalp acne and promote the build-up of bacteria on your scalp.

Outside of hair type, there are some other indicators you should avoid silicones. If you like to style your hair with a lot of volume and movement, silicones won’t be a great fit. This is because most varieties weigh hair down.

Hair sprays containing silicones can lock in sleek, smooth styles. Think of a classic French twist or ponytail, where there isn’t much volume.

If you want a head full of bouncy curls, lots of volume, or a structured style (faux hawks, pompadours), silicone will just frustrate you.

Hair Type Considerations

As with most hair products, there are hair types that tolerate silicone better than others.

When I asked Jessica for her thoughts on this, she said, “I think silicone products can benefit everyone in occasional use. Of course, with any ingredient, good or bad, too much of it can be a bad thing. I definitely recommend not overdoing it on products whether it has silicone in it or not.”

Dry, Frizzy, Coarse, or Curly Hair

If you have curly, coarse, dry, or frizzy hair, you’ll benefit the most from silicones. But you still have to be careful.

It’s true that these hair types are often lacking in moisture. Achieving smooth, shiny tresses can take a lot of trial and error. (Not to mention purchasing a lot of different products to try.) But if your hair falls into this category, you know it’s not that simple. Your hair is still prone to frizz and dullness, even when it’s perfectly healthy.

This is where silicones come in. So long as your hair is getting enough moisture from your conditioner, a serum containing silicone might be what you’re missing. The shiny coating it adds will lock in moisture and reduce frizz.

Just be sure to use a clarifying shampoo once a month or so to remove the buildup. Otherwise, your hair is likely to start feeling greasy and heavy.

Fine, Thin, or Oily Hair

If you have fine, thin, or oily hair, you know how hard it can be to find great hair products. You need something that keeps your hair’s moisture levels balanced. But even products that are supposedly designed for your hair type can exacerbate these issues.

The truth is you should use products containing silicone sparingly. You’ll find yourself battling buildup if you use too much. Instead, you can also look for products that moisturize from the inside out. Shampoos and conditioners containing marula, jojoba, or argan oil are great choices.

I asked Jessica for her thoughts on silicone and these hair types, too. She told me, “A more natural ingredient that can offer similar benefits would be coconut oil, argan oil, or even shea butter, but these ingredients can be heavy for fine hair and should be used sparingly.”

How to Get Rid of Silicone Build Up

How to get rid of silicone build up

Silicone buildup can be a pain to deal with. It makes your hair harder to style and makes your hair look dirty faster. Avoid this by using products with water-soluble silicone or avoiding the ingredient altogether.

But don’t worry if you’re already dealing with silicone buildup. It’s easy to remove with a clarifying shampoo!

All you have to do is wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo once a month. Then tweak the frequency until your hair starts feeling normal again. You shouldn’t do it more often than once a week, though.

Clarifying shampoos are designed to strip most types of buildup, including silicone. But they can be a bit drying. That’s why you should always follow this deep-cleaning shampoo with a conditioner. Let the conditioner sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.

Unsure if you’re dealing with silicone buildup or something else? There are a few telltale signs to look out for.

The first sign is that your hair still feels dirty or lackluster after a shampoo. You may also notice your hair feels greasy or heavy even after you dry it.

Finally, severe silicone buildup can cause breakage and a gummy or sticky feeling.

Confirm your findings by checking the ingredients of your hair care products. Common silicones include:

  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Any ingredients ending in “-cone”

If any of your products contain these ingredients and you’re seeing signs of buildup, it’s time for a clarifying shampoo.

Buying Advice for Hair Products with Silicone and Without

Now you know that not all silicones are bad. They’re a very powerful ingredient in many hair care products. The key is knowing your hair type.

That said, I have fine, curly hair myself. And my scalp tends to get oily fast. If I use a product containing silicone, I focus on my ends to avoid irritating my scalp or weighing down my hair.

So, only one of these recommended products contains silicone. The rest will give you the same benefits without the buildup!

Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum. I use this serum anytime I want to wear my hair straight. It contains a modified type of silicone that doesn’t build up over time. I love this product because it reduces drying time by up to 30%, plus it adds tons of softness and shine. And I have to say, it smells amazing.

Living Proof No Frizz Conditioner. This silicone-free conditioner is perfect for curly or frizzy hair. It works all day to fight humidity and frizz. When you want your hair to look magazine-worthy and feel lightweight, use this conditioner.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo. You’ve never tried dry shampoo like this. This one is lab-formulated to mimic a real hair wash, and it’s silicone-free. Best of all, it’s a fabulous volume booster and heat protectant if you have fine, thin, or oily hair.


Should I use silicone-free shampoo and conditioner?

You should use a silicone-free shampoo and conditioner if you have fine, oily, or coarse hair. These hair types need the right balance of moisture to look and feel healthy. The barrier silicone creates on your hair shaft makes it harder to achieve that balance.

Do silicones cause hair loss?

There is no current scientific evidence that silicones cause hair loss. If you have a great deal of silicone build up it, this can cause breakage. But the breakage won’t make your hair fall out.

Also, if you end up having build-up in your hair follicle that is attracting bacteria, then you can experience hair loss.

What happens to hair when you stop using silicones?

When you stop using silicones, your hair will start feeling a bit less heavy. But remember that regular shampoos can’t remove silicone buildup. To see noticeable results, stop using silicones and use a clarifying shampoo.

Are there any silicone alternatives?

Great silicone-free alternatives include argan oil and jojoba oil. You can use these oils in their pure organic form. There are quite a few hair products that contain these oils instead of silicones, too.

Does silicone straighten hair?

Silicone does not straighten your hair. But this ingredient can weigh your hair down, which makes it appear straighter.

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