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, but the truth is that silicone itself isn’t scary; but at the end of the day, it may lead to silicone buildup which can cause weighed-down, oily hair. The bottom line: silicone-free shampoo is probably the better option. Let’s take a look at 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 typically carbon and hydrogen. Its unique structure allows it to be flexible and easily spreadable, and very “breathable.” It is notable for its lightness of weight, silky feel, and the ability to reflect light reflect off a surface to make 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 (aka frizz). They coat the surface to reduce moisture loss from the inside-out, reduce friction when styling for smoother combing and styling, reduce static between strands to minimize frizz, add gloss, and soften the sometimes brittle polymers used in products that hold styles. Some forms have been found to aid in color retention for color treated hair, to boost foaming of shampoos, and to enhance retention of curls. From the outside, silicone appears to be an ingredient for healthy hair.
Silicones were introduced as lightweight, non-greasy substitutes for oils that provide slip and moisture – but not heat protection.
Silicones were introduced to hair care as lightweight, non-greasy substitutes for oils that 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 ingredients in ways that affect hair fibers and proteins and hinder treatments such as coloring and perming.
Silicone Hair Products
For every detergent-based shampoo, there exists a creamy companion. Conditioner, originally known as “brilliantine” was created by Frenchman Edouard Pinaud and introduced at the World Fair in 1900 to soften mustaches and beards.
The only reason conditioners are necessary is the fact that shampoo strips hair of sebum, its natural oil. A conditioner's moisturizing ingredients help replace these oils by coating hair with polymers or silicones to also fill in the cracks and ruts where hair is damaged.
In the 1960s, chemists discovered ways to suspend polymers in shampoos and conditioners, and then silicones in the 1980s, resulting in “2-in-1” formulations and a flurry of patents. When rinsed, silicones are “triggered” by water to bind to hair, which can be hit-or-miss; large amounts are needed to ensure that enough is left behind to make a difference. (Interested in shampoo history? Read more here.)
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?
Why use Silicone-Free hair care?
Our perspective? First of all, at Hairstory we have taken an aggressive stand against traditional shampoo in general. Our company is based on our invention of New Wash, a revolutionary product in hair cleansing based on oils rather than detergent. It doesn’t damage hair and skin, or strip natural oil, 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 (i.e. oil, dirt, build-up from styling products). So why would you want to wash and/or condition with a hair product that aims to coat when you’re aiming to un-coat?
The fact of the matter is that you don’t want – or need – silicone in your shampoo or your conditioner, regardless of your hair type. In fact, we recommend ditching the shampoo and conditioner altogether. You get healthy hair by allowing your scalp and strands to absorb, not repel, beneficial ingredients.
Silicone is fine in your leave-in products when you need tools to glide, not snag, to lock in moisture that keeps hair internally hydrated – and lock out moisture in the atmosphere that affects your style. When styling, always remember to use a hair care product with heat protectant properties. Hairstory Dressed Up is designed to help with heat styling and contains some Amodimethicone for manageability, shine, and a smooth feel.
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Don’t feel silly to suspect silicone. But there’s no sense in being scared of it, 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.