What exactly are silicones?
As we mentioned, silicones are polymers. They’re similar to plastic in that they’re an extremely flexible material that can be molded into just about anything. They are naturally-derived, coming from things like sand and quartz, But then are tinkered with in a lab, so the end product is actually a synthetic ingredient. In hair care products, silicones are ingredients that give hair slip and shine while also making strands softer and more manageable. If you have coarse, curly, or frizz-prone hair, silicones can tame unruly strands into smooth submission. Silicones can also prevent hair strands from snagging and tangling. And because they’re heat-resistant, silicones also form a protective barrier around your strands when applied before heat styling. You can find them in everything from shampoos and conditioners, to styling products such as frizz serums.
Sounds great, right? So, what’s the controversy?
You’ve probably seen “silicone-free” called out on many hair care products, a labeling move that implies that, perhaps, silicones aren’t so good for us. What’s the deal? Well, for some, going silicone-free is just a matter of not wanting to use synthetic ingredients on their hair and scalp. Silicones are not considered toxic, but those who go the all-natural beauty route may not want them in their products at all. Experts say the real issue with silicones is that certain types can build up on hair, leaving a residue that blocks moisture from getting into the hair shaft. They act almost like waterproofing agents. Over time, hair not only appears dull, but it gets dehydrated and weak from lack of moisture.
Do you look for non-silicone products?
Should we stop using them?
Not necessarily. Notice how we said certain types of silicones can cause this moisture-blocking buildup. That’s because not all silicones are created equal. There are those that are known to leave a residue and then there are silicones that are water-soluble, which means they wash away clean. Prose chemists formulate our silicone-based products with PEG-7 dimethicone, a water-soluble version. It’s considered a lightweight silicone that promotes shine and manageability, and most importantly, it’s less likely to build up and block moisture from getting through to your strands.
But what if I still don’t want to use silicones?
If you want to opt out of silicones altogether, don’t worry, you’re not destined to have dull, frizzy hair. Fortunately, you’ve got some other options. Prose offers a few plant-based, silicone-free alternatives. We refer to them as vegetable oils—not to be confused with the kind you bake with. In our silicone-free hair care products, we use capryloyl glycerin and sebacic acid copolymer. Despite the chemical-y sounding names, they come from natural sources: coconut and castor oils. Another one is diheptyl succinate, which is derived from sugars and castor oil.