What is Silicone and is it bad for your skin?

by Paris B on · 46 comments

in Discussions,Eyeshadow,Skincare,Tips

I had been reading some online forums from various sources recently about silicones in skincare and beauty products and how they are bad for the skin. I have been curious about it for a while, because this discussion about whether silicone is good or bad for the skin has been going on for some time.

silicone What is Silicone and is it bad for your skin?

Silicone is a chemically derived product with occlusive qualities. What this means in terms of skincare is that covers the skin to protect and keep the moisture in. By doing so, silicone also fills in uneven skin texture like fine lines and acne scars so it gives the illusion of great skin when foundation is applied over it. This is why most makeup primers in the market will contain silicones because it helps the primer do its work i.e. prime the skin for makeup.

To identify silicone in a product, look for Dimethicone or methicone in the ingredient list (definition). In fact, the general rule of thumb is that anything ending in “cone” is likely to be silicone. Opinions however are divided as to whether silicone is indeed good or bad for the skin.

Silicone is good for the skin

Proponents of the use of Silicone in skincare say that silicone is not bad for the skin. The molecules in Dimethicone are too large to penetrate into the skin layers and only sit on top of the skin. By having this silicone layer on top of the skin, the skin moisture is prevented from escaping, thus helping keep the skin moisturized. Silicone in skincare is also supposed to be better for those with sensitive skin due to this occlusive nature and it does not irritate the skin nor does it cause acne.

In the beauty world, Dimethicone is commonly used in primers and liquid foundations because it fills up imperfections in the skin and creates a smooth canvas for the foundation to go on. Just think of putting on makeup like painting a wall and you’ll get the general idea. If you use long wearing or waterproof makeup, chances are is that it contains silicones too because silicone repels water and sweat. (source) Silicones are also present in oil-control or mattifying products so you will notice that some products with silicone give a matte look to the skin. I reckon it is because it is holding the oil in under the layer of silicone so you don’t notice it so much.

In hair products, silicone is commonly found in hair serums and conditioners. It is what gives that shine to the hair and makes it feel smooth and soft. The principle is pretty much the same. The silicone coats the hair so it feels and looks soft and smooth.

Silicone is bad for the skin

On the other side of the fence are the detractors who say that silicones are in fact bad for the skin. Because the silicone sits in a layer on top of the skin keeping in moisture, it also keeps in any sebum, dirt and bacteria that may already be on the skin. Once the skin is irritated, it will breakout. So, it is common to hear people say that silicones in products break them out. (source)

Also, prolonged use of silicones may also lead to allergic reactions and may cause sensitive skin to react adversely.  So, eczema flareups may occur and on the face acne or spots will form. I thought about it and this may be one of the reasons why my hair conditioner caused my acne. Also, large doses of silicone can be toxic.

Some people who complain that certain skincare serums or moisturizers break them out, or that they have foundations or primers causing spots and acne may be allergic to silicones or react to them.

Should I avoid products with Silicone?

On a personal note, I think avoiding products with silicone in them is not so easy. So many products these days have some element of silicone in it – the question is how much silicone will irritate your skin. However, if you find that certain products that contain silicone ingredients break you out, then you might want to stop using it and any other product containing silicone altogether.

I believe that the large majority of the population can tolerate silicone in products to a degree, depending on its quantity found in the product in question. In my case, I don’t really have very sensitive skin and I find that most products, even those containing silicone don’t cause breakouts. In my regular skincare routine, I’ve discovered that silicones are present in the Body Shop Vitamin C Skin Boost, Eucerin White Solution Sunscreen, Olay Total Effects moisturizer and Eucerin Hydro-Balance Refreshing Cream. However, these 4 products work well for me and I have no intention of discontinuing their use for now.

By contrast, silicones in Tresemme hair conditioner broke me out badly and so did the silicones in Redken’s Extreme Anti-Snap hair serum. It only took me a few days use to notice the breakouts on my face from coming into contact with the products. I think there may be more silicones in hair products than in skincare because hair conditioners and serums tend to feel more slippery, a sure sign of presence of silicones.

For myself, I ensure that I cleanse my skin well in the evenings to remove all traces of my makeup and skincare used in the day and for this, double cleansing works for me. In the morning, I also wash my face with a gentle facial cleanser before I put on any skincare. I don’t know if its enough, but since it works for me, I’ll continue doing what I do. Viva Woman also wrote an article about silicones which I found useful too.

In skincare, silicone is commonly found in serums and moisturisers.

In makeup, silicone is commonly found in primers and liquid foundations.

In hair products, silicone is commonly found in serums and conditioners.

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[ 31 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

cass September 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

means I can’t indulge in icecreamcone anymore ah

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Nikki September 24, 2008 at 9:30 am

this is a very timely post…a lot of people have been breaking out and some of them can’t find the main cause of it, this could be one. This is an eye opener post! thanks for this Parisb!

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whitney May 2, 2010 at 12:08 am

I totally agree :)

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Sesame September 24, 2008 at 9:35 am

Hey Paris, great article with the balanced view.

I agree. It depends on the skin types. I’ve been using products with it for the longest time actually. Still am for makeup especially. It’s not something you can avoid totally unless you go 100% natural and organic. Even then, some still contains this stuff which is what annoys me most.

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mamisensual January 31, 2010 at 8:48 am

i totally agree with you that’s so right depending on skin type. that’s why a lot of Mary Kay products have silicone. and it kind of helps whatever skin type cause what the silicone does is it locks in moisture. and mostly why your skin gets sensitive is cause your face lacks some thing. it also has a lot to do with your diet. so if your skin gets irritated you should talk to someone about Mary Kay cosmetic line they will be able to help you out. they have almost every solution to a problem.

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ParisB September 24, 2008 at 10:54 am

@cass : *giggles* icecreamcone still can ;)

@Nikki: Welcome hope its useful info!

@Sesame: The thing about natural/organic products is that they use other ingredients that may be chemically derived from other sources. May not be necessarily better too.

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Tine
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September 24, 2008 at 10:55 am

Great post, very informative. I’ve been looking for information on silicone in makeup actually, since I was thinking of whether to get Smashbox’s Photo Finish foundation primer (it contains silicone). Silicon-based products are a hit and miss for me; it really depends on the product. Some works, some don’t.

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ParisB September 24, 2008 at 10:57 am

@Tine : Thanks! Most primers will have silicone as a key ingredient. Its what “primes” the skin and keeps it matt and smooth.

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Monstro September 24, 2008 at 11:50 am

Great article, just the info I needed.
Was wondering if I was allergic to it as well. But I’ve also been using that TBS Vit C Skin Boost, and that stuff is packed with silicones. And so is my Armani foundation, so I think I’m safe-yay!

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Ms. Blacklace September 24, 2008 at 9:52 pm

These products also contains silicone:

1) Neutrogena Ultra sheer dry touch sunblock.
2) Witch Clear complexion moisturiser
3) ZA true white emulsion [I use this as a night body lotion]

All three of them contain dimethicone. And I use all three of them. Number 2 being the longest and most frequent.

but so far, I haven’t experienced any allergic reations. Maybe it’s also because I exfoliate my face on alternate days and I exfoliate my body twice a week. haha….. I think I’m more allergic to oil based products.

Anyway, the ZA lotion make a good night body lotion. It’s actually for the face but it contains a petroleum based ingredient. ANd I wasn’t comfortable using it on my face. But when I apply it on my body at night, I wake up to smooth and silky skin the next day.

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ParisB September 25, 2008 at 2:03 pm

@Ms. Blacklace : Thanks for sharing. I think most of us can tolerate some silicone. Much depends on how much is actually used in the ingredients and won’t the ZA as night body lotion be a tad pricey? :)

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Ms. Blacklace September 25, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Lol…. I used the ZA sample bottle. Haha!

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Stephanie September 25, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Hmm… Dermalogica’s Barrier Repair uses silicone too, and I haven’t experienced any adverse reactions to using it yet *Touch wood*!

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ParisB September 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm

@Stephanie : Which is why I say not everyone reacts to silicone. Glad its working for you.

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S-Kay September 28, 2008 at 11:04 pm

I’m using the Vita C booster thing from Bodyshop. It’s a silicone thingy also right? Anyway, it’s really keeping my skin on top of its game with the workload and stress going on.

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Robyn September 29, 2008 at 2:11 am

I can’t speak for hair and skin care products, as I have no expertise in that area, but I can speak about makeup. Silicone derived products are often found in cosmetics because of their tactile feel (which doesn’t mean that it actually serves a purpose functionally), and because of their adhesive properties. Because it sits on your skin and prevents any absorption, it should be avoided for all skin types. It will clog your pores, and since it occludes, I commonly use the analogy to wrapping your skin in saran wrap. It’s the LAST thing you’d want in an oil control formula, or if you live in humid weather. There are many non-liquid primers that also work well and don’t have silicone based products. If you have oily skin, look for ingredients that contain kaolin, or preferably, bentonite clay. Bentonite is well known for it’s oil absorption properties – to the point that it’s used industrially to clean up oil spills. Silk powder and pearl powder are 2 ingredients that multi-task: they’ll hydrate your skin where needed, and absorb excess oils as well. Silica (not to be confused with siliCONE) microspheres will help reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores due to it’s optical light reflecting properties, but can also be drying to the skin, so those who have dry skin wouldn’t want a very high percentage of silica.

Hope this helps,
Robyn

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Hannah April 6, 2013 at 1:43 am

Thanks, very helpful! I am wanting to start making cosmetics myself to possibly sell, and Im trying to use the best ingredients. Silicone sounds iffy- I dont want it to break out my customers or harm their skin. The other products you mentioned are ones I had seen before and am now really considering. Do you think TKB Trading is a good source?

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coconut March 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Just wondering, I have really bad acne prone skin. I use prescrption retinol/antibiotic creams at night. I just bought a new moisturizer that is for sensative skin. It’s fragrance and oil free and says it’s non comedegenic. If it “doesnt clog pores” then how could it have dimethicone in it? (which it does). I thought dimethicone was a cheap moisturizer but not good for skin? I love moisturizers with natural, non pore clogging oils, but they are soo expensive. Also, if a product has dimethicone, does that mean that none of the other ingredients will be able to penetrate the skin??

Thanks for the help! Also if you have time, check out my health/beauty blog , i JUST started it so there isnt much, but it’s a start:)

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Christine May 10, 2011 at 4:41 am

Love your blog! I just did a comprehensive round-up up of silicon-free primers that I think your readers might enjoy and linked to you as a info source. Here’s my article http://beautysquad.net/2011/05/08/the-best-silicone-free-face-primers/
Christine recently blogged…Why You Shouldn’t Mind Getting A Cold StareMy Profile

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Addo July 15, 2011 at 9:22 am

how can i can bad silicon out my body?i been very very sick in 13 mths and the doctors can not do nothing. What can you tell me to do

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angel February 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm

thanks for sharing!!

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Sal March 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

I am terribly alergic to Dimethacone. :( it’s in so many products!

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Karen April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Thank you for this great and informative article, discussing the uses and different sides of the arguments of silicone! It’s more helpful than the websites that simply say SILICONE IS EVIL, DON’T USE IT and freak everyone out unnecessarily!

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glittergirl September 1, 2012 at 9:09 am

Do silicone primers get absorbed in the skin or do they just sit on the surface?

Anyone here used Bella pierre primer?

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maya December 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm

one of the creams you like contains silicone, clinique moisture surge. that is why it leaves a sticky layer on the skin and you feel your fingers a little slippery after applying the cream. and it’s written on the box, of course.

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martha February 14, 2013 at 4:35 am

well, one more reason to stick to organic products. And take it from me, I grew up using L’oreal moisturisers which I’ve never liked very much, and now I can’t use anything other than organic, because guess what ? THEY REALLY WORK !
martha recently blogged…Melancholy in a bottleMy Profile

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Natalie February 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

It’s not the silicons in the product 9x’s of 10 it’s the oils in the product you are using. Natural oils in any product can cause breakout until you skin adapts to the product. Look at all the ingredients in a product don’t just single out 1 when there is like 10-20 listed? It could be how they manufactured the product; they probably didn’t use the correct methods to clean equip…….I’ve worked in manufacturing for year & have seen plenty mistake that ppl make…….don’t just pick one ingredient.

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LYNND October 22, 2013 at 1:33 am

Silicones, Dimethicone and other “cones” would appear to work by sealing in moisture to create a “protective barrier”. However, doesn’t a barrier also imply that antioxidants and other more desirable ingredients are themselves trapped in a silicone base, unable to penetrate pores? I’ve heard it said before that silicone in products might negate the usefulness of other ingredients that are listed after the dimethicone or the like appears on the label. Is this true?

I only know of a handful of “old school” products that don’t have dimethicone (yet)!: Ponds original dry skin cream doesn’t have it. I also found that U-Lactin body lotion, which is the best body lotion I’ve ever used but near impossible to locate except online, is one of those pre-silicone formulas that works exceptionally well. Similarly, the only widely available peptide (anti-aging) formula I’ve located is by Freeman (Vita-K Professional line). In contrast, Olay anti-aging products are loaded with silicones, as indicated by the fact that they rank high in the ingredient list (Olay Regenerist, etc.). Formulations predominated by dimethicone doesn’t seem to stop the Cosmetic Cop, among others, from recommending Olay anti-aging products, however!

I would like to see subsequent comments to this topic name skin and hair products that do NOT contain silicone, dimethicone or trimethicone. I have managed to find a face cream, a body lotion and an anti-wrinkle formula that doesn’t have these ubiquitous ingredients, but I’ve had no such luck finding a sunscreen without it. Even Trader Joe’s, which is known for selling health-conscious products without parabens, makes liberal use of silicone and its derivatives in their products! I would really appreciate it if those who are concerned about this issue can report their own experience locating silicone-free alternatives. Perhaps we can help each other out by naming names.

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