Dimethicone for hair: uses, possible risks and alternatives

Dimethicone is, in principle, a safe component with great benefits. However, its accumulation could cause undesirable effects such as dryness and hair loss.

Last update: 06 September, 2022

Dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer that is present in various personal care products. and that has sparked great controversies. While some think that it should be part of the toxic list in the world of beauty, others believe that there is no reason for it.

This compound is found in skin and hair care products. Dimethicone helps form a protective barrier that decreases moisture loss in the skin and in the strands. Opinions regarding its safety are divided.

Dimethicone: what is it?

Dimethicone is a polymer derived from silicone. The latter comes from silica, a naturally occurring compound that is present in elements such as sand, sandstone, quartz and granite.

By subjecting the sand to very high temperatures, dimethicone is obtained.

This compound is also known by the name of polydimethylsiloxane. It is one of the most used in the cosmetic industry. The most valued characteristic is its viscoelasticity. This makes it flexible and moldable.

Provides a smooth, silky texture to skin and hair products. It makes them look velvety. It is an odorless, colorless, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic compound.

Uses and benefits

The main reason dimethicone is used in cosmetic products is the texture it provides. This compound makes such products feel soft, smooth and slippery on contact.

It also has some positive effects, such as the following:

  • Formation of a temporary barrier. Dimethicone sits on the skin and hair forming a barrier that protects from irritants and allergens.
  • retains moisture. The barrier effect helps retain moisture in the skin and hair.
  • Smoothes enlarged pores and fine lines. dimethicone stuffed partly cracks and gives the skin a more even texture.
  • Covers the hair cuticle. It is an effect similar to the one it has on the skin. This leads to the hair shaft looking and feeling more even.
  • Provides a matte finish. Allows you to seal in moisture without using fats. That is why it is widely used in foundations and moisturizers for oily skin, as it offers a shine-free finish.
Oily skin needs products that don’t add shine, so dimethicone seems like a good option.

Possible risks of dimethicone

Generally speaking, dimethicone is a safe compound. However, one report pointed out that the accumulation of this substance can cause hair loss. The barrier effect would trap moisture, but also prevent additional moisture from penetrating.

The above would lead to dry and brittle ends, as well as dry and lifeless hair strands. Dimethicone is not soluble in water. Therefore, it is not easily broken down by washing.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of this compound as an active ingredient. It is rare for dimethicone to cause side effects on the skin. And when it does, it’s only temporarily. Such effects can be itching, redness, burning or stinging.

This type of silicones are not absorbed by the skin and hair. So when they get washed, they go straight down the drain and from there they end up in rivers and oceans.

If they accumulate, they are toxic to flora and fauna. A 2021 study warns about the negative effects of silicones on the environment.

Identify products

Dimethicone is one of the components of countless cosmetic and medical products. It is found in different proportions, ranging from 15 to 60%.

It is important to look at the label of the articles, where this compound can be found with one of the following names:

  • Amino Bispropyl Dimethicone.
  • Aminopropyl Dimethicon.
  • Amodimethicone.
  • Behenoxy Dimethicone.
  • C30-45 Alkyl Dimethicone.
  • C24-28 Alkyl Dimethicone.
  • Cetyl Dimethicone.
  • Dimethicone.
  • Dimethicone.
  • Dimethoxysilyl Ethylenediaminopropyl Dimethicone.
  • Hydroxypropyldimethicone.
  • Polydimethylsiloxane.
  • PDMS.
  • Stearamidopropyl Dimethicone.
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone.
  • Stearyl Dimethicone.
  • Vinyl Dimethicone

It is usual to find dimethicone in products such as the following:

  • Sunscreens.
  • Sex lubricants.
  • Moisturizing creams.
  • Anti-itch creams.
  • Products to eliminate lice.
  • Shampoos and conditioners.
  • Bases and makeup primers.
  • Medicines for flatulence or the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
Dimethicone goes by various names on the label. It appears in shampoos, creams and sunscreens.

Alternatives to dimethicone

An investigation carried out in 2018 indicated that vegetable oils have a more beneficial effect on haircompared to silicone-based products. They provide strength and shine in a more lasting way.

There are several products on the market that are marketed under the label “no silicones”. Some alternatives to dimethicone products are those that contain the following:

  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate.
  • PPG-3 benzyl ether myristate.
  • Butylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate.
  • C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate Isopropyl Myristate.

As for skin-only products, alternatives to dimethicone include the following:

  • Hyaluronic acid.
  • Colloidal oatmeal.
  • Squalene.
  • Glycerin.
  • Kaolin.

Dimethicone is not a dangerous product by itself. In fact, it is very beneficial, but its action is superficial, temporary and when it accumulates it causes undesirable effects.

It is worrying that it has negative effects on the environment. The indicated thing is to turn to alternative products when seeking to protect and preserve the natural environment.

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