I saved my ‘Beauty Myths’ to my highlights section of my Instagram the other day and realised that the last time I actually posted one was over 18 months ago! I thought what better way to get back into them than to tackle one of the most misunderstood ingredients on the market at the moment: silicones. I asked my readers on Instagram if they had any questions and WOWZERS, did you have questions. I’m not surprised. In today’s beauty world, transparency and education regarding beauty products has become the standard expectation among consumers.

Surely it is the responsibility of the industry as a whole, from brands, marketers, manufacturers, retailers, and writers across all channels to discuss ingredients with a scientific mind, not an opinion-based, fear-mongering one. With that in mind, here are just some of your questions, I went for the most frequently asked.

What are they/What do they actually do?

Silicones in beauty products are organosiloxanes. Different types of silicones are used across different product categories, all with varying uses. In an inci list, you are looking for ingredients that end in ‘siloxane, conol or cone’. Silicones are inert, non-reactive materials that are proven to be extremely safe for topical use. They are genuinely hypo-allergenic (meaning they’ve been tested under clinical conditions, it’s not just a buzzword in this case), non-comedogenic and are used for irritation relief from skin issues such as atopic dermatitis. Dimethicone is specifically FDA-approved as a skin protectant to help prevent skin sensitization to allergens. In acne products, silicone elastomers and powders specifically act to absorb sebum and excess oil off the T-Zone and facial areas (for example in primers).

Silicones have a multitude of uses:

In skincare they generally act as a carrier agent, suspending active ingredients in them so that they are absorbed into the skin before they degrade. They’re good moisturisers, and give products slip, so they spread easily on the skin. They are used across mineral and chemical sunscreens to both waterproof them and prevent them clumping.

In makeup they give foundations and lipsticks long-wear status and prevent them from drying out. Mattifying silicones are frequently used in primers, for both oily skins and skins that want to blur out fine lines (or big ones).

In haircare they protect the hair follicle from further damage. They detangle, add shine and are frequently used in ‘protective’ products such as heat protector sprays, defrizz products and colour-protectors.

Why the bad rap? All I hear is that silicones are ‘bad’.

We can point to the ‘green’ brigade for this one. Lack of understanding/wilful ignorance about actual scientific facts and marketing them as ‘bad’ has literally given people the impression that they are either dangerous, to both us and the environment, occlusive and/or pointless. This issue was originally traced to complaints of silicones weighing down long hair in online forums, which was in turn traced to the overuse of 2-in-1 type shampoos that contain very high molecular weight silicone gums. Somehow, this has snowballed into ‘all silicones are harmful’, when in reality, the opposite is true.

Are they toxic?

Absolutely not. Scare-mongering at its finest. (And I’ll do ‘toxic’ next.)

Are they animal-derived?

No. Silicones are vegan and cruelty-free by default. They have no relation to palm oil and are GMO free.

Are they sustainable?

Yes. Silicones are derived from quartz (sand), the second most abundant mineral on Earth. Silicones evaporate rapidly in the environment and degrade in air under the influence of sunlight. The small amounts that do find their way into water are insoluble, and complete their life cycle by partitioning over to soil where they degrade by reversion back to sand. Silicones simply do not ‘build up’ in the environment. Ultimately, they return to silica (sand), carbon dioxide and water. As a matter of interest, Sephora’s recent ‘Clean at Sephora’ marketing campaign, which outlawed (currently) 54 ingredients that they consider to be 'problematic', does not include one silicone.

Do they clog the pores?

Silicones are proven to be non-comedogenic. Silicones have low comedogenicity - cyclomethicone has a rating of 0, while dimethicone, the most common silicone used in skincare, has a rating of 1. (The scale is 0-4)

Will they make me spotty/aggravate my acne?


Will silicones hurt my sensitive skin?

No. Silicones are some of the gentlest ingredients known in the scientific world, backed up by nearly 70 years of research and consumer use history. Due to their incredibly low incidence of allergies, hospitals rely on silicone-based dressings for wound care. In the consumer market, over-the-counter skin protectants and silicone scar sheets are FDA-approved to prevent scarring. They have a proven track record of skin safety. Most of the alternatives, both natural and synthetic, do not.

‘Anything you put on afterwards won’t be absorbed.’ True or False?

100% false.

Do they prevent product from penetrating?

No. The opposite. Silicones are not occlusive materials. They are breathable film-forming materials which allow other ingredients, such as actives, to penetrate the skin more effectively. Silicone elastomers are actually used in skincare products to enhance skin delivery.

Do they coat the skin?


Do silicones fit into 'Clean' beauty?

Yes. Because ultimately, the real ‘Clean’ beauty arena is about safety, sustainability, ethics and transparency. Silicones are proven to be safe, sustainable, ethical and the scientists behind them, the sourcing and processing systems are very open for public consumption.

For more info you can read here: Grant Industries sponsored this post - more of their info is in the link above..

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