We don’t believe there’s anything sinister about silicone, but we do think that your shampoo and conditioner should be silicone-free (and sulfate-free, of course). Silicone can be fantastic for smoothing and sealing hair, but your shower isn’t the place for it, and you may be rinsing money down the drain.
It’s time for some simple, sensible silicone facts: This staple in cosmetics has also become a no-no in the minds of many consumers. The truth: Silicone isn’t scary. Here are the pros and -cones.
Q: What is silicone?
A: Silicone is a synthetic polymer made up of silicon (the second most abundant element in Earth’s crust), oxygen, and other elements, typically carbon and hydrogen. Its unique structure allows it to be flexible and to spread easily and evenly onto a surface. Its flexibility makes the films it forms very “breathable” and notable for the lightness of weight, silky feel, and high refractivity which makes light reflect off a surface making it appear glossy.
Q: What does silicone do for hair?
A: Quite a lot. Silicones make hair less porous and less likely to absorb humidity. They coat the surface to reduce moisture loss from the inside-out, lubricate to reduce friction when styling for smoother combing, reduce static charge between hair strands to minimize frizzing, impart gloss, and add a softening effect to the sometimes brittle polymers in products used to hold styles. Some forms have been found to aid in color retention, to boost foaming of shampoos, and to enhance curl retention.
Silicones were introduced as a lightweight, non-greasy substitute for oils in formulations, which can provide slip and moisture – but not heat protection.
Silicones were introduced as a lightweight, non-greasy substitute for oils in formulations, which can provide slip and moisture – but not heat protection. Oils are notorious for cooking and burning hair when exposed to high heat, even as they deliver beneficial vitamins, nutrients, and fatty acids.
Another feature of silicones is their inability to interact with other formula ingredients to affect hair fibers and proteins and hinder treatments such as coloring and perming.
Silicone in the Shower
For every detergent-based shampoo, there is a creamy companion. Conditioner originated as “brilliantine” and was created by Frenchman Edouard Pinaud and introduced at the World Fair in 1900 to soften mustaches and beards.
The need for a conditioner is due to the fact that shampoo strips hair of sebum, its natural lubricant. A conditioner replaces these oils by coating the hair with a protective material such as polymers or silicones to also fill in the bumps and ruts where hair is damaged.
In the 1960s, chemists discovered ways to suspend polymers in shampoos and conditioners itself, and silicones in the 1980s, resulting in “2-in-1” formulations and a flurry of patents. In these products, surfactants and silicone remain suspended in them while cleaning and softening. When rinsed, they are “triggered” by water to bind to hair, which can be hit-or-miss; large amounts of silicone are added to ensure that enough is left behind to make a difference. (Interested in shampoo history? Read more here.)
Our perspective? First of all, At Hairstory we’ve taken an aggressive stand against traditional shampoo in general. Our company is based on our invention of New Wash, a cleanser based on oils rather than detergent. It doesn’t damage hair and skin, so conditioner isn’t required at all.
Second of all, silicones provide a thin, waterproof coating on the hair, right? And when you wash your hair you want to remove things that coat it. So why would you want to wash and/or condition hair with a product that aims to coat when you’re aiming to un-coat?
When you wash your hair you want to remove things that coat it. So why would you want to wash and/or condition hair with a product that aims to coat when you’re aiming to un-coat?
The fact of the matter is though that you don’t want – or need – silicone in your shampoo or your conditioner. You want your hair to absorb, not repel beneficial ingredients. Look for silicone in your leave-in products when you need tools to glide and not snag, to lock in moisture to keep hair internally hydrated and lock out moisture from the atmosphere that affects your style. Hairstory Dressed Up is designed to help with heat styling and contains some Amodimethicone for combability, shine, and a smooth feel.
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Don’t feel silly to suspect silicone, but there’s no sense in avoiding it altogether, or to expect shampoo or conditioner to be the best source for its softness, slide, smoothness, and shine. But remember there’s no shine like the natural kind that comes from smooth cuticles and well-hydrated, cared-for hair.