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Does Silicone Suffocate Hair?

Posted Feb 26 2011 8:17am

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Carly’s question…There has been a lot of controversy lately about silicones in hair products. I am a member of a naturally curly hair website and many of the members are anti-silicone because of the claims that silicones bond to the hair and do not allow moisture into the hair shaft. Supposedly once the silicone is on the hair it acts as a barrier between your hair shaft and any moisture. Is all of this true, or is it just a myth? I will sometimes use a silicone product, but then later feel guilty that I am suffocating my hair, and wash it all off. I think it would be great if you can let everyone know the truth behind silicones.

The Right Brain’s Response:
Questions about silicones being bad for your hair come up a lot. But you can just call us the cosmetic mythbusters, Carly, because silicones do not really cause the problem you described. Shampoos and conditioners that contain a high level of high molecular weight, water insoluble silicones can build up on hair, that much is true. And if you over-use products like this everyday, it is possible to end up with hair that feels weighed down and limp. But even this does happen, you’re not really suffocating your hair.

  1. Even if you didn’t wash all the silicone out, we’ve never seen any data that indicates that a small amount of silicone residue acts as a “barrier” between hair shaft and moisture. On average, your hair contains about 8 to 14% water by weight but it will equilibrate to the ambient humidity. In other words, it will pick up moisture when it’s very humid and it will lose moisture when it’s very dry. Slight silicone residue won’t substantially change that. Now, if you slather on a heavy layer of a silicone hair treatment product, that’s a different story!
  2. Even though your hair absorbs moisture from the environment, its state of dryness isn’t completely controlled by this external water. Dryness is more a function of how damaged your hair is and how much natural lipids it contains.
  3. Even if you did block your hair from absorbing moisture, the silicone would act like a moisturizing agent because it would plasticize and lubricate your hair. It would essentially fight the effects of dryness.

If you use a silicone containing product and you like the way it makes your hair look and feel, DONT WORRY ABOUT IT! Don’t feel guilty because some people tell you that it’s bad for your hair.  Oil products like Ojon can work too if you don’t want to use silicone.

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