Do You Use Products That Contain Silicone?

When I first met Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and, more recently (thank goodness), Intelligent Nutrients, we spent a lot of time talking about silicone. Silicone, most of you probably know, is widely used in personal care products across the spectrum—from the relatively clean to your standard-issue drugstore brands. It’s especially useful in makeup, primer, sunscreen  and tinted moisturizer because it gives products a slippery sit-on-skin feeling that allows for even spreading, no rubbing, and produces a nice surface on top of which you can go ahead and make your face.

It’s also in a lot on conditioners and leave-ins, because it sits on the shaft of your hair and can take the guesswork (and manual labor) out of smoothing unruly manes, especially when it’s humid out. My experience is that repeated use of silicone on my hair makes it look like complete and utter garbage. My experience with my skin has not been quite the same.

As a refresher, most of the people I have spoken with who swear against it do so for one of a number of reasons. Because it’s occlusive (that means it sits on the surface of the skin and blocks moisture from escaping—but also blocks other things from going in); because it might be comedogenic (the research is equivocal on this one); and because it “doesn’t break down in nature,” says Rechelbacher (and others). On the other hand, dimethicone’s molecule weight makes it impossible, I believe, to migrate past the top layer of your skin—which is where it’s designed to sit, anyway. That’s how it “works.” But our research is ongoing at this point.

I know natural-beady diehards who swear by it and diehards who would, well, die before they used a product that contains it. We were in the latter camp. Now, we’re rethinking our position—but the jury’s still out.

No More Dirty Looks has historically said no to all silicone. It wasn’t on the list of our dirty 20-or-so in the book, mainly because the research we were able to find about its toxicity was unconvincing. At the same time, we can appreciate that many ingredients don’t have nearly enough scientific data published about their safety, and we definitely skew more toward “when in doubt, don’t.”

But then something happened.

Regular readers will know that we have been on the hunt for the perfect sunscreen since before the book came out. Yes, there’s Vive Sana, but many of you find that way too thick, not to meant ion absurd looking on people who are a shade darker than Snow White. I happen not to be, and  I liked it. I liked it a lot. (And in fairness, I know a few women with darker skin than me—not hard—who don’t feel like they’re wearing Halloween makeup with it on.) But over time, the thickness got to me, and I went looking for something a little more cosmetically appealing. Something a little thinner, maybe, more lotion-like. I found 100% Pure’s Argan Oil SPF 30. I fell in love. I shouted about it from the rooftops and I know I wasn’t alone. But soon, no one couldn’t get their hands on the stuff. Not in stores, not online, not through our trusted PR contacts. There wasn’t a bottle to be had, it seemed. So I used up the last of its sister product, the Pomegranate one with SPF 20, and prayed to the skincare gods for a replacement.

Then, as can happen sometimes at my amazing job, I came in one day to find a little white bottle on my chair.

Now, I’m going to hold off on telling you what brand it was because  1) it contains dimethicone and we’re still doing our homework, and 2) it’s beside the point because that’s not the conversation we want to have now. (Fear not: We will review it if we decide dimethicone is kosher for us—because, yes, we’ve been using it, and yes, we adore it.)

But right now we want to know…

Where do you stand on dimethicone? And if you’re anti, why? What research have you seen, either about its extraction method or its toxicity, to convince you?

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39 Responses to “Do You Use Products That Contain Silicone?”
  1. Alex says:

    I generally avoid it, though I have a few “occasional-use” type products that contain it (sunscreen is one of them, I think.) Silicone in hair products was one of the first chemicals I gave up, and I have to assume that if it dries out my hair by blocking out moisture, it’s probably going to do the same for my skin.

  2. philosophotarian says:

    for a while I was totally avoiding silicones. I remember telling the boyfriend about it and he looked confused because he had thought it was harmless or inert (this was a few years ago and I am not remembering the conversation well, but I do recall that it got my attention). Since then, I am somewhat less concerned about silicone products on my skin (on my hair, they make it too slippery and with hair as fine and thin as I have, I need less slip). They feel nice and they don’t seem to cause problems that are noticeable.

  3. Emma B says:

    I avoid silicones because they rarely come alone. Most products that contain them also contain PEGs, phenoxyethanol, petrolatum, or parabens. If you can suggest otherwise clean products I would be willing to give them a try.
    Another ingredient that I have been wondering about is coco-betaine (cocamidopropyl betaine) in shampoo, which is all over more natural options and in fact seems to be more harmful than SLS.

  4. Amy says:

    I haven’t done much research on it, but I noticed once I cut out both skin and hair products with silicone, my super sensitive skin broke out WAY less. It could have been another ingredient that happened to be in both silicone products I was using (fragrance perhaps? also a zit cause for me) but I decided since things were working well without the silicone products, I’m fine avoiding it regardless.

  5. Ann says:

    it is a bit confusing – most say regular silicone is horrible, while many say water-soluble silicone is actually good. ??

  6. Anu says:

    I have so far been avoiding silicones, just because I am too lazy to do the research and it is easier to just avoid them. However, I have been caught cheating on my routine with products containing talc and alcohol(!). I ordered a sample kit from Tatcha and the products were just exquisite.and they my skin glow, but when I looked at the ingredient list, their enzyme powder has talc and their lotion and cream both have alcohol. I couldn’t bring myself to order the full-size but I am using the sample kit all the way.

    And Vive-sana does not look like halloween makeup on my dark Indian skin. But greasy – it sure is.

  7. Mustang Sal says:

    100% Pure Argan Moisturizer with SPF 30 is back!! I’m so excited to try it after hearing Siobhan rave about it all the time, I just ordered two :)

  8. Mary says:

    I love Josie Maran’s Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 40+, but it is also one that contains dimethicone. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this ingredient.

  9. Victoria says:

    Let me count the ways in which I have found dimethicone to be dangerous. It is non-biodegradable which has a direct impact on the environment (I don’t imagine the dolphins could breathe very well in an ocean contaminated with conventional hair serums), it suffocates the skin by “trapping” moisture, bacteria, and toxins that need to be released by the skin and causing allergic reactions in sensitive types. There are different types of silicones and many get their “harmless” status because they don’t penetrate the skin, but instead rest or becomes a barrier on the skin. There are no studies done about the long term use, but there is some evidence that found rabbits covered in a hand cream containing silicone for a 90 day period had adverse effects and some scientists believe it caused hormone disruption, hence the reaction.

    When children catch lice the products used to get rid of them are a dimethicone based hair treatments that cover and suffocate the parasites. Who wants that action on the largest organ of your body structured to detoxify you? Absolutely, no way!

  10. Allison W says:

    I too love Josie Maran’s Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 40+, it doesn’t leave a white cast and works great on my combination skin. I will definitely be interested in hearing what you have to say about dimethicone! Maybe I’ll look into the 100% pure moisturizer if it’s available again.

  11. Lola says:

    My first taste of silicones was in Smashbox Photo Finish primer (before I saw the clean-beauty light) when I was seventeen. I only used it twice, and it took my skin three months to recover! I also used to use a leave-in conditioner with silicones in it, and would break out like mad around my hairline and even my neck, really wherever my wet hair would touch. So, I completely avoid them!!

  12. JeanineD says:

    Silicones were one of the last things I abandoned as I have quite curly, unruly hair and I always thought I needed them to keep my hair under control… but then I decided to stop using them (as someone mentioned, because they usually come hand in hand with other nasties) and lo and behold I don’t need them after all as I finally found products that are formulated so well that they are no longer necessary–I am talking about Acure’s shampoo and conditioner for dry hair. I recently also took my skincare one step further (ditched everything that was semi-natural like Korres and REN) and my skin has never looked so good! The blackheads on my nose and chin that have plagued me all my life are finally gone! Yipee! So, for those who are still using Josie Maran’s sunscreen (I tried it and it is quite good) all I have to say is that the ones from 100% Pure are even lighter and nicer.

  13. Kimmy says:

    I, too, am rejoicing in the fact that 100% Pure finally restocked their SPF 30 argan oil moisturizer! I’ve never used it but have been soooo anxious to try it because of the rave reviews. As for silicone, I stay away from it because, like another reviewer, my hair is super fine and I don’t want to make it even more unmanageable than it already is. Also, dolphins are awesome and I don’t want them to suffocate because of all the crap we wash down the drain.

  14. philosophotarian says:

    never mind. I totally lied. I do avoid silicones (though sometimes they slip in under the radar when I don’t have my reading glasses on). I was confusing silicone with silicon. My bad.

  15. Jacqueline says:

    I have avoided silicones for many years now. I noticed that when I used a product containing silicones, I broke out. I found it very occlusive for the skin. The feel of silicone-based products actually freaks me out. It has an unnatural amount of slip to it.

  16. Rebecca says:

    Like @Emma B says, there’s usually other stuff in the silicone products that I avoid. I’ve never liked the way silicone felt on my skin, but years ago I used silicone products on my hair. I feel that in the long term it made my hair dry and icky, but that could have been other dirty ingredients in those products too. I like silicone cookware though, and I haven’t seen anything convincing that says it’s a problem in that area. I’m not clear on the safety differences between solid silicone and the type used in personal care products.

  17. Alexis says:

    I tend to avoid silicone in hair products. Like most other readers have mentioned it makes my fine hair look like Mr. Einstein. I skip it on lip products and in my moisturizers. It only sneaks in with a few occasional use products. My BB cream by Jane Iredale has it in it and it made me a little bummed to see. I figure 3-4 times a month isn’t bad. I just try to avoid everyday use.

  18. elaera says:

    I avoid it when it comes to skincare but im okay with it in makeup. I like the ingredients in my skincare to be as clean as possible and when it comes to makeup, you can wash it off! (hopefully!) though i would like to minimise it in my makeup as well. healthy balance i say!

  19. mangomadness says:

    I gave up products with silicones a while ago. I did so because I learned silicones coat hair strands blocking moisture from penetrating. As someone with hair that tends toward dryness, I’m not fond of ingredients with moisture blocking properties. I don’t use silicone-contaning ingredients on other parts of my body (skin, etc) for similar reasons.

  20. Jan says:

    I have generally avoided silicones since reading your book No More Dirty Looks. But I agree, sometimes we may have to allow a small bit of unclean ingredients in some products. Like you, I love the 100% Pure spf lotions (argan oil and/or pomegranite) and I use this religiously as my sunscreen under my makeup.

    But if I couldn’t get it, I would try another semi-clean product for my sunscreen. Or I might try Josie Maran’s sunscreen. So I do make allowances for some products.

  21. This is why I love you ladies! For a while I felt like a silicone-cop on my blog constantly going on and on about silicones in my product reviews. It is nice to see a very informed community discuss this.

    I have a very mixed relationship with silicones. I don’t appreciate it especially in products that ‘smooth fine lines’ etc. because I feel it is a bit of a cop out since it is all a very temporary, superficial result. At the same time, I don’t treat it as harshly as I would treat say… Benzoyl Peroxide or Mineral Oil. Case in point, in my review of the Sunday Riley Good Genes serum, I pointed out how I didn’t like that there were silicones but maintained it was my favorite product of theirs. It irks me to put on something with silicones especially for night when skin really needs to decongest, and breath but at the same time I don’t have trouble sleeping ;-)

    I try very hard to move away from silicones, and I echo Emma regarding silicone primers – it took my skin a good month or so to get over the Hourglass Veil Primer. At the same time I realize how difficult it is, it seems so much of what I actually do like including my SPF contain silicones.

  22. Britta says:

    My favorite sunscreen is Beyond Coastal Active Sunscreen (SPF 30), which I use on a daily basis. It contains dimethicone, but it has a rating of 2 on the EWG site. I generally try to stay away from silicones otherwise, especially from my curly/wavy hair.

  23. I have been struggling to find great all-natural products, especially now that I’m pregnant. My skin has been a MESS because of the hormones and I have been looking for products without silicone that could clog my pores. I just ran into this new maternity line– Nine Naturals ( – that uses broccoli seed oil as a natural alternative to silicone in their hair and skincare products. I just got my order of shampoo and conditioner and love how they feel. I’m glad that there are actual 100% natural alternatives out there that work on me. I’m surprised that more brands aren’t using broccoli seed oil. Does anyone know of any others that do?

  24. Shampa says:

    Silicone is my arch enemy. I am severely allergic to it and it cause cystic acne on my skin. I have been silicone free for few years now and my skin has never been more thankful.

  25. Victoria says:

    @Pregnant And Looking For Safe Shampoo

    Broccoli seed oil has a similar structure to silicone and the very reason we use it in our formula for Barbary Fig Renewal Serum. Because of the broccoli seed oil (which is also rich in Vitamin A) it imparts a sheen and luster comparable to silicone without the annoying clogging and rashes some experience. I used to love the flawless look a primer gave to my makeup application, but that was a long time ago and our serum can be used as a natural primer among its many skin loving uses! So excited you discovered the benefits of broccoli seed oil.

    La Bella Figura

  26. manitoba says:

    No research needed – every time I have tried any products with any silicones in them (including dimethicone) I break out terribly – even hair products with silicones make my neck break out. Although my skin is oily, I seldom experience acne unless I use silicones or sunscreen, so I’ve stopped using them altogether unless you count mineral makeup. I shudder to think what would happen if I used a sunscreen WITH silicones.

  27. Megan says:

    I am just falling more in love with this blog all of the time, because these posts keep on being so relevant! I have researched this myself, and I am also undecided of whether or not they are good. It seems as though silica is ok, but dimethecone is not. Does anyone have any information to comment on that one? Or proper research to back that up?

  28. Colin says:

    Silicones are a large family of chemicals, and although they do share a certain family resemblance it isn’t really very meaningful to make blanket statements about them. I am not personally a fan of them and rarely use them unless there is no other way to achieve what I want to do. But the grades used in personal care formulations have been assessed by people who know what they are doing and there is not one single piece of evidence that they have ever done any harm to anybody. As to the people who have had bad experiences with products that contain silicones, well the problem may have been the silicone. But equally it might just be that that particular formulation isn’t a good choice for you and another that contains different silicones or the same silicone combined with other ingredients might be great,

    Although I don’t think it at all likely that silicones will do you any harm in everyday use, I think it is possible that overall their extraction, processing and disposal might well have an adverse on the environment – though I suspect that the use in cosmetics contributes only a small proportion to this given their widespread use for other purposes. I think avoiding them is logical enough if you are concerned about the future of the planet and want to reduce the burden we place on it. But there is nothing much to worry about for your own personal well being.

  29. Brigitte says:

    I avoid, for many of the reasons already stated in the comments. But mostly if I wouldn’t dare put silicone in my hair, why would I put it on my face? I think it’s far easier to create an all-natural/clean/organic/etc. hair care routine than it is to do the same with skincare. Maybe it’s easier to give in and say oh a little silicone on my face can’t be so bad because you wash your face 1-2x a day (whereas hair is like 2-3x a WEEK) but still… why do it?

  30. Julia says:

    i have extremely much, very coarse, curly, dry, blond hair and the only product i have loved is – CITRE SHINE COLOUR (Schwarzkopf), which contains silicone alongside definite no-no’s, so i discontinued use for about a year and have not been able to find a replacement, even though i tried dozens of all natural products. IF silicone turns out to not be harmful i will try to find a natural product, but ALL ADVICE is appreciated.

  31. Alessandra says:

    Hi, I never avoided silicones deliberately and I am not particularly anti-chemicals.
    However, after decades (I am 44) of struggling with hair breakage (I didn’t use hot tools or color my hair) and clogged pores, I found out empirically that simply switching to non-dimethicone and no- ciclomethicone products fixed both problems. I have been using Phyto on my hair, and avoiding high-dimethicone skin makeup such as BB creams and some moisturizers, for 1 year, and my hair hasn’t looked this good since I was a child. Pores have also improved.

  32. Sharon says:

    If it weren’t for the fact that 99% of people on the planet are actually ‘sheople’, I’d be stunned by the amount of misinformation and paranoia over silicones!

    Clearly, people choose to be ignorant and fearful rather than educate themselves.

  33. Kevin Truong says:

    Great post! There are so many conflicting views on dimethicone and I am extensively researching it as I am formulating a skincare product for eczema which I need to use for myself and many children. I have been playing around with different percentages and types of dimethicone and thought I would share my experience.

    You can get dimethicone at different levels of viscocity. I tried 100cs and 350cs (centistrokes). The higher it is the thicker it is. I tried them out in a cream base made with a high amount of organic jojoba oil at 3-5% and it gave an amazing slip. Initially my skin was a lot more hydrated however the 350cs at 3-5% seemed to break out my skin a little while the 100cs was a bit better. Potentially there are more adverse affects as you keep using it and it builds up.

    Most definitely my pores don’t seem to sweat very well and I get hot very easily from it. However it gives such a great slip and is non irritating as its molecules are too large to penetrate. There seem to be some benefits perhaps if added at a very low amount, say 0.5-1% which I will try next! I’m wondering at what percent would it be considered ‘semi-occlusive’ and can we avoid the negatives of it by only adding a small amount?

  34. Lisa says:

    Silicone works great – unless you’re allergic to it. Then watch out. It’s a hidious itchy rash…taking days to recover. I typically use only natural oils but did not realize this product had the Silicone until it was too late. I am not a proponent of silicone use for skincare or beauty products. I used to produce my own line of skincare…we found great solutions for all sorts of skin conditions using essential oils. I miss those days. :(

  35. Laura W says:

    I found this article very helpful. Google:Cosmetic Silicone Safety – Fact vs Fiction – Kevin James Bennett. Apparently silicone is derived from the natural mineral silica….

  36. Laura W says:

    I wasn’t sure if including a link would block my previous comment, but for convenience, here is the link to that article.

  37. CL says:

    Try the Juice Beauty product line of sunscreens and moisturizers.Gwyneth Paltrow is the line’s creative director. I discovered the line just by investing time in some serious Internet research. During my search, I discovered more natural cosmetic options than I anticipated. Many companies are sensing people’s health awareness, and they are slowly but surely changing their formulas. Also, a trip to your local health food store is an option. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and MOM’s (My Organic Market) are great places to start. Still, I advise people to read the ingredient labels before purchasing. Even some products sold at health-food stores may contain undesirable ingredients. Finally, shea butter is said to be a natural sunscreen. I also learned that aloe vera gel can serve as an excellent primer. Ultimately, do your own research and decide what is best for you!

  38. Suzanne says:

    I feel the need to point out, amongst the angst and hysteria being fostered from one site to another, that if one wanted to be pedantic, one could claim that “all ingredients are natural”, given that there’s nothing created under the sun that the earth itself hasn’t first provided the raw materials for.

    You cannot create a silicone – or any other so-called ‘unnatural’ ingredient – without there first being some form of raw material, compliments of the earth, with which to work. No ingredient can be created out of ‘thin air’.

    Whether those raw materials take the form of organic or inorganic compounds, the earth itself does the providing so that we might play around with formulating, creating new ingredients from the raw, and make discoveries, which, frankly, 9/10ths of the fun.

    To the horror of those who prefer to ride the ‘Fear Train’,there are two main ingredients that I refuse to live without in my own personal skin care formulations: silicones and mineral oil.

    If people would loosen up just a little, think for themselves and do their own exhaustive research and experimentation, they might enjoy life a whole lot more.

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