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Are silicones bad for your hair?

Diane’s Undaunted By Silicones For Silkier Hair:

The question of silicone’s usefulness has long being a subject of intense debate, speculation and confusion in Long Hair Community. As a consequence, a lot of members in Long Hair Community are wary of using silicone-heavy products, such as Pantene conditioner. Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and whatnot are allegedly harder to rinse out, therefore build-up occurs faster than a silicone-free hair regimen.

As for me, I love how cones smooth and soften my hair big time – while in shower. Sadly, the miraculous silkiness vanishes as soon as my hair dries. So I use unrefined coconut oil to successfully add shine, softness and protection for my hair.

My questions are these: Are cones really harder to rinse out? How do they work on hair? Do they dry hair out? And why does that wonderful silkiness disappear when my hair dries? How do carrier oils like coconut oil, sweet almond oil compare to silicones?

The Right Brain Comments on ‘Cones for Conditioning:

Diane, you raise some very good questions. In general, silicones work by covering hair with a thin hydrophobic (water-proof) coating. This coating serves several purposes: it helps reduce the porosity of the hair which makes it less likely to absorb humidity; it helps reduce moisture loss from the inside of the hair; and it lubricates the surface of the hair so it feel smoother and combs easier.

The properties vary depending on which particular silicone is in the formula. Some silicones do leave a heavy coating on the hair that can be hard to wash off. Others are very water soluble and don’t buildup at all. Dimethicone, (sometimes called simethicone) for example, is the heaviest of all silicones used for hair care. It provides the most smoothing effect but it is also the hardest to wash out. Cyclomethicone on the other hand, gives great slippery feeling while you’re rinsing your hair, but it quickly evaporates leaving nothing behind. This is probably what you`re experiencing.

What about carrier oils, as you describe them? Some oils are effective conditioners. Take coconut oil, for example. While it doesn`t provide the same surface smoothing as silicones, it has been shown to penetrate hair and plasticize the cortex, making hair stronger. (This isn’t true of all natural oils however.) So oils are useful ingredients but they’re not direct replacements for silicones.

The Brains Bottom Line:

It`s tough to tell simply from reading the label because there are so many types of silicones and they can be used in combination with each other. You can’t simply say: all silicones are bad. Some women will find silicones too heavy for their hair, others will love the soft, conditioned feel they provide. You’ll have to experiment to find what’s right for you. Good luck!

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