Silicone is a synthetic compound that exists in large, diverse forms. It is derived from the main component of sand (silica) but it is not entirely natural. It has to undergo a chemical procedure to exist. Discovered in 1901 by British chemist F.S. Kipping, it was not commercially developed for around three decades. It was popular for mechanical uses earlier. The use of silicones in skincare is not a new concept. Its commercial development initiated during the Second World War where it was required to eliminate arcing in aeroplanes at high altitudes.
With its advent in the skincare industry, silicone became a standard ingredient. However, over time, with increased awareness and demand for cleaner beauty products, the use of silicone has raised a few questions. It is not completely natural and contains different chemicals. Is silicone safe for skin? This article provides answers to this most asked question, and go deeper into the topic.
Is silicone safe for skin?
Silicones in skincare have become a debate in the industry. Several myths revolve around the usage of this compound in skincare ingredients. Because of the controversy, many companies are introducing silicone-free products. However, not all forms of the silicone family are bad. Certain silicones like dimethicone are safe to use and offer certain benefits for the skin. The dermatologists maintain that there is no necessity to remove silicone from skincare products. The claims that the topical application of silicones on the skin can be problematic or dangerous have not shown scientific proof.
A semi-liquid substance, silicone contains silicon (a natural element), hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. It might contain more atoms, but these are the generic ones present in all the silicones. The compound is chemically stable and is deemed non-toxic and non-irritant. In fact, several thorough safety evaluations have taken place to assess if silicone is fit to be a part of the skincare industry. These evaluations prove that no form of silicone used in skincare products has a toxic effect on organs, and hence, silicone-based skincare products are commonly found in the market.
Why are silicone used in skincare?
The use of silicones in skincare is a standard phenomenon. These compounds offer numerous benefits for the skin. Here are a few of those:
Silicone has occlusive properties, which means it produces a coating on the skin’s surface. The coating forms a skin barrier resistant to both air and water, like a breathable film. Because of its occlusive nature, the compound prevents the wounds from interacting with the external environment—enclosing the wound in its ‘healing bubble’.
They improve the scars while letting them breathe. That is why they are used as a popular treatment option in scar management. Without silicone, the skin’s surface of the scar area undergoes abnormal water loss. This phenomenon is responsible for scar marks and other unwanted effects.
This impact of scarring becomes minimal when silicone is applied to the scarred area. It normalizes the hydration of the scar area similar to the healthy skin sites.
Having a unique semi-liquid texture, silicones improve the texture of skincare products. That is why they are used in beauty products like makeup, hair masks, moisturizers, and serums. Used as skincare ingredients, these compounds make the product easy to apply and make skin look soft and supple. Their ability to improve texture also makes them an ideal choice for hair products. Silicones remove the residue on the skin’s surface, which also lightens the complexion.
Silicone-based anti aging products have become popular in the last ten years. They reduce the perceived skin residue when applied, which means they can reduce the appearance of wrinkles or fine lines (also known as optical blurring).
Moreover, they ensure proper hydration in the skin cells, thus preventing dryness, which is a known cause of wrinkle formation. That is why many cosmetic brands use silicones in their anti aging products.
Silicones are a crucial ingredient in sunscreens and anti aging products with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) providing sun protection. As an ingredient, it helps these products in improving UV protection and ensuring water resistance. The compound also decreases the oiliness in the sunscreens and provides a light, silky feel to the application.
This function is crucial because the sunscreens need to be applied in a sufficient amount to provide the labelled SPF. If the application has an unpleasant feeling, people are inclined to use it less in both quantity and frequency.
How are silicones used in skincare?
Silicones come from the 14th element on the periodic table, Silicon. They share some of the chemical bonding characteristics of carbon. They have four positions to form bonds. Most of the silicones present in cosmetic products are formulated by converting quartz into silicon. Then another reaction takes place with methyl chloride, which is further reacted with water, and silanols are produced. They are converted into different forms of silicones like Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone and included in skincare products.
Types of silicone in skincare
Silicones come in different types: water-soluble and insoluble in water. Similarly, some forms are volatile and some are non-volatile. Both forms are used in skincare and are not irritating or toxic to the skin. The volatile forms of silicone evaporate instantly when applied to the skin and impart silk-like smoothness on the skin. That is why they are an ingredient in the face serums as well as makeup primers.
The non-volatile silicones include dimethicone and other forms that can act as a skin protectant. These silicones augment the skin barrier function, prevent water loss, and lock in moisture. Some forms of silicones are bad too. They are insoluble in water and can leave a layer on the skin or hair. Over time, the accumulation of this silicone can cause issues for both skin and the strands. However, even some of these bad silicones offer benefits. The layer left by silicone offers protection against abrasion and other harmful external stimuli.
Mentioned below are 5 major forms of silicones used in the skincare industry.
Dimethicone is the oldest and simplest silicone called silicone oils or silicone fluids. It is a non-volatile silicone, which means it does not evaporate and remains on the skin for a while. It plays the role of a carrier for insoluble pigments and thus is used in complexion products to provide coverage and colour. Its application leaves a permeable film that prevents the pigments from absorbing into the skin.
Benefits of Dimethicone on skin
Dimethicone offers several benefits for the skin. Here are a few of those:
- This compound helps retain more moisture by serving as an external barrier and prevents water loss. It is an effective skin protectant because of this property. It is also used in skin-protecting lotions and those used to treat impaired skin and dermatitis.
- It is water-resistant, due to which it helps the products stay longer on the skin. That is why it is an ideal choice for sunscreens, makeup, and other facial products.
- It is UV-resistant, which makes it an ideal choice for sunscreens.
- Makeup applications for a longtime can clog pores and cause breakouts. Dimethicone prevents the makeup from permeating and accumulating with the dead skin cells by forming a layer.
How To Use Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is used in many makeups and skincare products because of its benefits. For instance, BLACK PAINT’s Water Cream, a dual-function moisturizer and makeup primer contains dimethicone and 12 organic oils. The water cream locks in moisture and nutrition while providing a shield against external stimuli.
As a primer, this cream prevents the pigments from absorbing into the skin and causing pigmentation and clogged pores. It also gives good adhesion and renders the makeup to stay intact longer. You can apply it as the last ritual of both your makeup and skincare regime.
Apply one layer after applying the lotions and serums as part of your skincare regime. And as a makeup base, it needs to be applied twice.
Another product of BLACK PAINT, Water UV cream—a sunscreen—also includes dimethicone. It imparts a velvety texture to the skin and provides the protection level of SPF23. You can apply it daily when going outdoors.
Apply the formulation in the form of small dots on the five facial regions. Spread evenly, but do not rub it or overdo it. You can also apply this cream to your body.
Cyclomethicone is a clear, odourless, non-greasy liquid that improves the skin’s texture on application. It also enhances the products’ ease of spreading and ability to lubricate. It evaporates once applied and leaves a film that prevents smearing.
Benefits of Cyclomethicone on skin
Cyclomethicone offers several benefits for the skin. They are as follow:
- It gives a silky, soft feel to the skin and has an effective spreading ability.
- It does not leave any oily buildup or residue, preventing pore-clogging.
- It is an effective lubricant and keeps the skin hydrated.
Cyclohexasiloxane locks in moisture and prevents water loss. It enhances the performance of the skin’s natural barrier, which makes it a suitable choice for sensitive skin. Skin issues like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema originate from a malfunctioning skin barrier. With this compound, the barrier’s function improves and the symptoms of these conditions alleviate.
However, one needs to be mindful of the other ingredients in the formulation, especially for people with sensitive skin type. Cyclohexasiloxane locks in the other ingredients as well, so these other ingredients must not be irritants.
Benefits of Cyclohexasiloxane on skin
Here are the benefits of Cyclohexasiloxane in skincare products:
- It is non-comedogenic (products that do not clog pores) and enables the skin to breathe. It is too big to enter the pores.
- It improves the texture of the skin and evens the skin tone by delivering the formulation smoothly to fine lines and pores.
- It is volatile and evaporates from the skin. It alleviates the heaviness of other ingredients.
Cetearyl methicone and its benefits as skincare ingredient
This is a water-soluble silicone and an efficient skin-conditioning agent.
- It is an effective skin protectant and enhances the barrier function of the skin.
- It improves the spreadability of the formulations.
- It provides effective lubricity and keeps the skin hydrated.
This is a commonly used form of cyclomethicone. It is similar to dimethicones in properties but odourless and volatile. It does not produce any cooling effect on the skin and is used in antiperspirants mostly.
Cyclopentasiloxane and its benefits as skincare ingredient
This compound has limited benefits specifically for the skin. But because of its sensory properties, it enhances the products’ functions.
- It evaporates quickly thus enabling the product to dry fast.
- It is lightweight and reduces the heaviness of the formulations.
- It locks in moisture and prevents water loss, thus keeping the skin hydrated.
What are some common misconceptions about silicone?
There are many misconceptions about silicones due to which people now prefer silicone-free products. Here are a few of these misconceptions:
Silicones clog pores
Silicones have a large molecule size and they cannot enter the pores themselves. While silicon doesn’t clog the pores on its own, but specifically in the case of acne-prone skin, silicon may trap some not-so-wanted substances in the pores. People who do not have acne-prone skin shouldn’t have an issue using silicon-based products.
Silicones suffocate Skin
Silicones form a permeable/breathable layer on the skin’s surface and allow the air and water to pass. Hence, they cannot suffocate the skin.
Silicones cause irritation
Silicones are hypoallergenic and non-toxic. They do not irritate, as proven by several studies. If they were prone to irritating, they would not have been a crucial ingredient for formulations used to treat dry and sensitive skin.
Silicones are toxic to the skin
Silicones are safe for topical application. They have been in use for wound healing and scar management for a long time. Moreover, they are approved by the FDA for topical application.
Silicone-based products are not harmful or bad for the skin. In fact, they offer several benefits and improve the performance of the formulations they are used in. However, it is best to consult your dermatologist to make sure there are no specific contraindications regarding your skin type.