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Silicone for hair: everything you need to know

Looking after your hair is about more than washing and trimming it regularly. To better understand the ingredients in hair care products, we take a closer look at silicone.

Silicone for hair: everything you need to know

What is silicone?

Silicones are popular ingredients in skin and hair care products, yet have become a contentious subject because of their presence in shampoos and conditioners. In hair care specifically, they are a group of ingredients that are hydrophobic (waterproof) which act like a raincoat for hair, locking in humidity and leaving it feeling slick, smooth and shiny. There are many types of silicones, and they differ in application, adherence and wash out capacity(1). Silicones can seal the cuticle (hair’s outer layer) and make hair less porous, while helping to protect it from heat and static electricity

80%of women want to know
what is in their cosmetics

What are the most common silicones?

There are 2 main types of silicones, namely:
- Dimethicone
- Amodimethicone

Dimethicone makes hair shiny, soft and smooth. It also helps hair to reflect light and reduces frizz. Amodimethicone refers to a type of smart silicone that sticks to your locks and helps repair the damaged parts of the hair. It works like this: when the hair strands are negatively charged, they repel, creating frizz. As amino-groups are positive, the two compounds attract one another, resulting in smooth, beautiful hair. This type of silicone also helps with hair detangling and is also very useful when included in conditioner.

Why are silicones used?

Silicones are commonly used because they don’t interfere with other formula ingredients. This means that they can be mixed with other conditioners or surfactants easily. In addition, they do not disrupt or affect hair fibers and proteins (known as the keratin), as their action is very mild. Another reason they are used is because they don’t interfere with other treatments that you might do to your hair (like coloring). Instead they protect and repair everyday hair damage by keeping hair soft, nourished and manageable.

Some consumers prefer silicone-free products, as they offer a different final result. Silicone-free hair care like Dercos Detox range leaves hair feeling less coated, and in fact is ideal for those who prefer products with less ingredients. Another scenario where silicone-free products can come in handy is before having a hair treatment, as some colorists prefer a fibre that is less coated before applying color.

What role do silicones play in hair care products?

Silicones are incorporated in hair care products because of their unique ability to bring shine, smoothness and softness to hair. In shampoos, they supply shine and softness without adding weight to your locks. In addition to this, they are also water-repellent, helping to create a fine layer that works to coat the hair strand, while sealing out humidity. They also serve important functions in conditioner, keeping your locks smooth and soft.

Silicones present in hair care products aren’t dangerous to the users, and are adapted to the cosmetic needs and expectations of the consumer target.

Why do silicones have a bad reputation?

People believe that there is a build-up effect of silicone coating. However, this is unproven because silicones, when used in formulated products, do not build up on hair fibres. Another misconception is that silicones can have a negative impact on the scalp or hair. There is no known scientific evidence that justifies this hypothesis.

Do silicones affect the environment?

Silicones are safe for the consumers but not easily biodegradable in the environment. Therefore, our laboratories are working to find new types of silicones which can be used in smaller quantities and with greater biodegradability or alternatives to silicones, which still offer similar benefits on hair, and a better effect on the environment.

Do silicones pose any health risks?

L’Oréal offers products that are safe, effective and high quality, and can be used in complete confidence. Nowadays, consumers are smart about what they want, and informed about what ingredients to look out for. In fact, according to studies, 80% of women responded that they want to know what is in their cosmetics(3). For L’Oréal, safety of both the ingredients and formulas is a cosmetic prerequisite. Prior to an ingredient being introduced into a formula, it has to undergo a rigorous safety assessment.


1. Dias, M.F.R.G. 'Hair Cosmetics: An Overview' in International Journal of Trichology (2015) 7.1 pp. 2-15 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/]
2. Draelos, Z.D. 'Essentials of Hair Care often Neglected: Hair Cleansing' in International Journal of Trichology (2010) 2.1 pp. 24-29 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002407/]
3. L’Oreal Research and Innovation, 2017

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