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Will silicones dry out hair?

Summer says about silicones… I am an esthetician and an absolute ingredient crazy beauty product junkie. My question for you is whether or not silicone in any of its forms is drying and therefore damaging to the hair. My hair stylist told me that it dries hair out, resulting in the breakage I have always experienced. As a curly haired woman living in humidity, silicones have saved me from much unnecessary frizz. Please clarify what effect silicones have on hair, and also skin if you could, as I was taught that they formed a protective layer over the skin holding in the skin’s natural moisture (as well as imparting a silky feel to the surface).

The Right Brain’s silky smooth reply:

Good for your Summer! You’re not blindly following the advice of your hair stylist!

Savvy about silicone

The truth is, silicone (the molecule pictured above) is one of the MOST effective ingredients for conditioning hair or skin. In both cases it serves as a protective barrier. In fact, in skin lotions dimethicone (a form of silicone) is so good it’s approved as an over the counter drug ingredient.

In hair care products you’ll see a mixture of dimethicone and cyclomethicone typically used. Again, dimethicone is heavier and coats the hair; cyclomethicone is very thin and helps to spread the dimethicone, it also evaporates so it’s good for use in lightweight products like leave in conditioners or volumizing products.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Silicones are good moisturizers for hair and skin and are commonly used in many, many products. We’ve never seen any data that shows they dry out or damage hair.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Teresa September 25, 2015, 6:08 pm

    I heard that too much protein for your hair (when trying to repair it after “professional” chemical damage through bleach) can make your hair dry and brittle. True or false? Is the Nexxus or other products you suggested for hair repair have protein in them? I can’t tell if my damaged hair needs moisture or protein at this point? How do you tell? I also heard that coconut oil can actually add too much protein and cause breakage?

    • Randy Schueller September 26, 2015, 7:49 am

      No, the idea of too much protein is just a myth. Coconut oil doesn’t add protein at all!

  • Alison November 2, 2015, 5:35 pm

    Great information here! Thank you for this. In the world of curly hair, we have been told (mainly from “The Curly Girl Handbook” by Lorraine Massey) that silicones coat each strand of hair, and that that same sealing action can prevent much-needed moisture from penetrating the hair shaft, leading to drier, frizzier hair overall. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this. Thanks!

    • Randy Schueller November 4, 2015, 8:56 am

      Silicones (especially dimethicone) do coat hair. However, in all the thousands of hair tests we’ve done we’ve NEVER seen silicone make hair more dry/frizzy. I think that’s the case for two reasons: 1) while silicones do form a barrier that can keep our moisture, it doesn’t form a perfect seal and water vapor is still able to penetrate. 2) The amount of moisture in the hair is a relatively small factor when it comes to determining how dry/frizzy hair is. The effects of oils and physical condition of the hair play a bigger role.

  • Julia February 28, 2017, 11:18 am

    Thank you for your information. I would still like to know if you tested someone who was using silicone for a longer time and then washed it all away (with cleansing shampoo or something similar), because I was often told that people who were using silicone a lot and started using silicone- free products started to have hair that breaks more often etc.. I personally didn’t experience this because I coloured my hair with henna but I experienced the same thing with henna: It is told that henna only seals your hair and does not destroy ot but when I stopped to colour my hair and a lot of my henna was washed away my hair started breaking a lot. Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Randy Schueller February 28, 2017, 2:09 pm

      If you’re asking if long term use of silicones causes increased hair breakage, then I say the answer is no. At least I’ve never seen any evidence of this and I’ve been in the business 30 years.

      • Julia February 28, 2017, 5:55 pm

        I get this. The problem is that it seems like people pro silicone and people against it tend to talk past each other. I don’t think that any of the people against it is convinced by the statement that someone using silicone all the time has healthy looking hair, because the myth isn’t that silicone makes your hair look unhealthy but that if you would wash the silicone off, it would look unhealthy . I think what would really show it would be an experiment where people who have formerly not used silicones would be tested, one would see how healthy their hair is, then let them use products with silicones for quite a while whilst having them use what they used before otherwise, then see how healthy their hair is and then let them go back to silicone free products and then see how healthy the hair is when the silicone is washed off.

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