Silicone Uses in Cosmetics: Everything You Need to Know
Yes, we are discussing silicone uses in cosmetics. The use of silicone in health and skin-care products is a controversial topic because of the many presumed health risks surrounding it. But are these concerns valid? In this article, we are going to discuss (and hopefully shed some light on) what silicone is as well as silicone uses in cosmetics. So let's get right down to it.
What is Silicone?
Before anything, it is important that we all have a mutual fundamental understanding of what exactly silicone is.
Silicone is derived from the element Silicon, the fourteenth on the periodic table. It shares some of the same chemical bondings as Carbon which is located just above it.
There are a lot of different scientific terms that can be thrown about when discussing silicone. Essentially, silianes are converted into chlorosilanes. These can then be converted into things such as Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone, two silicones (among a few others) which are used extensively in cosmetic products.
The Types of Silicones in Cosmetics
There are two main types of silicone which are used the most in cosmetic products: Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone. Both of these are made from a variety of chlorosilanes. Chlorosilanes are mixed with water which then produce silanols, and from those we can extract Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone.
Dimethicone is the general term used to describe silicone polymers. The average molecular weight of these polymers can give the material varying characteristics. For example, a higher molecular weight makes the material harder to spread and stickier, like molasses.
Conversely, a lower molecular weight makes the Dimethicone more fluid and easier to spread. Most suppliers of silicone try to use a blend of silicones in order for them to have properties of both higher and lower molecular weights.
As you might have already figured out by now, Cyclomethicone is a cyclic compound, typically with either 4 or 5 silicon atoms. The chemical make-up of Cyclomethicone makes the substance volatile - it tends to evaporate far more quickly than something like water or ethanol.
Why Use Silicone in Cosmetics?
Silicones are one of the most basic ingredients one can use in any cosmetic product. Not only are they so easily accessible and easy to formulate, but they also have a ton of benefits perfectly suited for the cosmetic market. They make the products softer, which in turn makes for a better, easier spread. They are also soft, fluid and shiny, which in the cosmetic world can only be a good thing.
Silicones have a lower surface-tension than oil and water. The low surface-tension means that the silicone product becomes easy to spread. And I bet you thought nothing could beat water.
The lower surface tension also makes silicone products feel better. They are slippery, gentle, and light on the skin; this is why a lot of skin-care products make use of them. In terms of hair, this can help to smooth the fibers and overall texture of hair products.
Typically, silicones are not water-soluble. They can leave a film or thin membrane on whatever they have been applied to. Hair products benefit greatly from this, as the residue left behind by silicone can make the hair seem shinier. This property is also sometimes incorporated into makeup.
Concerns About Silicone-Use
The use of silicone in cosmetics has long been debated. People often cite the presumed health risks that come with using such a compound as a reason as to why silicone should not be used in this way. And while there are some risks involved in the use of silicone, they are far less surface-level than that.
This is probably one of - if not the - most commonly debated topics when it comes to silicone usage. A lot of people believe that silicone can either cause or aggravate acne in a person’s skin. However, there is little evidence to support this claim as most of the accounts have been anecdotal or hyperbolic in nature. By themselves, silicones are not harmful to the skin.
While silicones cannot harm a person’s skin by themselves, their effect on the environment is significantly worse. These compounds are chemically inert, making them less susceptible to biodegradation. Supposedly, it can take anywhere from 400 to 500 years for a silicone product to fully decompose.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
Clean your skin thoroughly after you have applied a silicone-based product to fully get rid of the residue.
Wash your hair out properly after using a silicone-based product. The residual build-up can make your hair heavier, leading to a lack of volume.
Alternate the products you use; try some silicone ones and ones without silicone. Do not overuse either of them, however.
Hopefully, you can walk away from reading this just a little bit more enlightened to the use of silicone in cosmetics. Keep all this information in mind, and never forget to read the labels of any care product you purchase.