Silicone Safety in Cosmetics – Should You Be Concerned?

Silicone Safety

You may have read negative reviews about silicone safety when it comes to your cosmetics. Synthetic ingredients that are a combination of silicon (a hard, brittle solid), oxygen and other elements including carbon and hydrogen, silicones are widely used in the skin care world for the many benefits they bring to formulations. In this blog post, we take a closer look at this ingredient to help you determine if silicone safety is something that should be on your radar.

Why Use Silicones in Skin Care?

You can recognize silicones in an ingredient list by their name ending – most end in -cone or -siloxane; for example, dimethicone, cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane. Silicones have unique fluid properties and help make formulations much softer and easier to spread. They are often added to improve the feel, appearance and performance of topical skin and hair care products and they can also help to improve the delivery of other ingredients. Silicones are ideal in make-up primers, BB creams and foundations giving fluidity, silkiness and smoothness. They can help to condition, give emollience and help to prevent water loss. Skin can appear smoother and more radiant because they also reflect light and can help to fill in lines and pores. They are also used in shampoos and conditioners to give hair a smooth, shiny and finished look.

When it comes to silicone safety, they are generally considered safe with topical application. However,  you’ll still come across claims that they are problematic or dangerous despite the lack of scientific research to substantiate this. Silicone is considered hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic and not known to sensitize the skin. Because it can increase the penetration of other ingredients, it is possible to experience issues if those other ingredients are not compatible with your skin type. For example, silicone may increase the penetration of potentially pore-clogging ingredients, thereby leading to the development of acne. It is also possible to have a silicone allergy, especially if you have sensitive skin, including acne-prone or rosacea.

Silicone Safety – A Concern?

The drawbacks of silicones tend to be associated with their semi-occlusive effect. While this effect helps to deliver a smoother skin and scalp plus protection from harmful external influences (i.e. pollution) it may lead to the following negative consequences:

  1. Occlude pores and make breakouts worse.
  2. Build up on the skin leading to a dull appearance. One more reason to ensure a good cleansing every night!
  3. When it comes to hair, the accumulation may lead to reduced volume, hair that retains fats, a quicker secretion of oils – leading to an increased need for washing.
  4. Pilling. Topical application that can result in little balls when rubbing the skin is known as pilling.

While silicone may be safe for the skin, their use does come with some environmental impact, which is potentially more troubling. Silicone molecules are highly stable and not very biodegradable, taking between 400-500 years to decompose. Many government bodies have found detectable levels in aquatic life, leading to the potential for disruption of the ecosystem and human consumption. We’re not sure about the long term consequences when it comes to this area so more guidance and research are welcome.

In general terms, when it comes to silicone safety, they are harmless. However, if you’re concerned about their occlusive effect, build up on your skin and/or hair or their environmental impact, you may wish to avoid using them in your personal care products. If you feel that the positives of using silicones is greater than any potential negatives, the following will help you to better incorporate them into your routine:

  • Cleanse thoroughly at night to remove any silicone build-up from the day. Avoid silicone formulations at bedtime. This will help to protect your skin during the day but allow it to breathe at night.
  • If pilling is problematic, avoid silicone creams and foundations.
  • Hair care products with silicones (often dimethicone) can accumulate, making your hair heavier and low in volume. Consider alternating with a silicone-free formulation or eliminating them altogether.

In my case, I’ve chosen to avoid the use of silicones in my personal care routine. My hair looks and feels shinier and smoother (which seems counter intuitive, but it’s true), I don’t have to worry about build up on my skin, leaving it looking it looking more radiant and glowing. Whether or not to avoid silicones in your regimen, is really a matter of personal preference and I hope that this post has given you the information to make an informed decision.

If you’re still concerned about silicone safety, you’ll be happy to know that Apothekari is formulated without the use of silicones. Additionally, our line is also Paraben-free, Phthalate-free, Formaldehyde-free, SLS/SLES-free, Synthetic colourant and fragrance-free, Cruelty-free. Read more about our skin care philosophy here.