Are you suddenly seeing silicones mentioned everywhere? Haircare is certainly moving towards stripped back products without silicones, sulphates and parabens. But if you don't know too much about these ingredients it can feel impossible to understand what your hair needs, without all the marketing spiel.
So, as always, we're here to give you the truthful lowdown.
What are silicones for your hair?
Silicones have historically been added to haircare to smooth strands and eliminate frizz. They're a relatively cheap ingredient which also helps to make products feel smoother and more 'luxurious' when being used.
There are two types of silicones used in shampoo and conditioners: non-soluble and water-soluble. Simply, water-soluble silicones can be removed from hair with water, while non-soluble need to be removed from hair with cleansing agents, such as sulphates.
How To Find Silicones In Ingredients Lists
Product ingredient (INCI) lists can seem overwhelming to understand, as ingredients are listed under their scientific names. But a good rule of thumb is that most ingredients ending in -cone are non-soluble, while ingredients such as stearoxy dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, dimethicone PEG-8 phosphate, and PEG-7 amodimethicone, are water-soluble silicones.
Why Are Silicones Bad For Your Hair?
In short, a build-up of silicones can lead to excessive breakage and coarse, dry hair. It can also lead to build up on the scalp causing red, itchy skin, and blocked follicles leading to thinning hair.
This is, however, more common with non-soluble silicones which leave a stronger film over strands, preventing the shaft of the hair from being moisturised. Typically, shampoos are created with harsh sulphates to remove this build up of non-soluble silicones, creating a cycle of inefficient haircare which it's easy to get stuck in.
Water-soluble silicones, on the other hand, are easier on your locks as they're easier to wash out without drying out your tresses.
There are some hair types that should stay away from silicones altogether, such as curly, kinky or wavy hair, which typically has lower porosity. You should also avoid products with heavy silicones if you have thin, fine hair which gets weighed down easily. Not sure what hair type you have? Check out our handy chart here.
With the rise of movements such as curly girl and natural haircare it's easier than ever before to get your hands on effective haircare without the instant gratification of silicones that can to long-term damage.
What To Look For Instead Of Silicones
As the role of silicones is to create smooth, frizz-free hair you'll want to look for products which moisturise strands from the inside out, such as oils, aloe vera and vitamin E.
Ultimately, everyone's hair is unique and what works best for you, might not work best for everyone.