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What Exactly Are Silicones?

August 6, 2021

7 Min read

Silicones are a family of specialty, high-performance materials. Silicones are often synonymous with products that are fake and plastic. They can be found in a wide range of consumer and industrial goods. 

After all, the polymers have been used in everything from breast implants to rubber-like products (think: those soft, non-stick baking sheets). Health care, aerospace, personal care, electronics, transportation, and construction are just a few of the industries that profit from these materials. 

So, what are silicones doing in your hair products? Here’s the real deal about this common, yet sometimes controversial, hair care ingredient.

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The nitty gritty on silicones

As we mentioned, silicones are polymers. Polymers are large molecules formed by chemically connecting a succession of building units together. 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 help make strands easier to detangle and to stylen. Who wouldn’t want to achieve shiny and easier-to-style hair? Silicones can also prevent hair strands from snagging and tangling when brushing or styling. 

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.

Do you look for non-silicone products?

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Sounds great, right? So, what’s the controversy?

With all of the good that silicones can do for your hair, you might be asking yourself: what’s the big problem? 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. You may feel the urge to stop using silicones because the topic has become so popular. 

So, 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. Since silicone is synthetic, it just doesn’t meet the requirements for a completely natural ingredient. But here’s the thing. Just because silicone is a synthetic ingredient, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used on your hair. 

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 the 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. This could harm all of your hard work to try to keep your hair hydrated and full of shine. At first, silicones may seem helpful in supporting shine or helping to style hair, but using the wrong kind of silicone can have unwanted long term effects.

Should we stop using them?

Not necessarily. Not all silicones are the same. Notice how we said certain types of silicones can cause this moisture-blocking buildup. That’s because not all silicones are created equal. Some silicones may act entirely differently than others. 

There are plenty of silicones that are known to leave a residue. On the other hand, there are silicones that are water-soluble, which means they wash away clean. Prose chemists have worked to formulate our silicone-based products with PEG-7 dimethicone, a water-soluble version. 

RELATED: Read more about our silicones here

Since these silicones are water-soluble, they are much lighter and have fewer effects on your hair. Because PEG-7 dimethicone is water-soluble, it is considered a lightweight silicone that promotes shine and manageability. 

Most importantly, it’s less likely to build up and block moisture from getting through to your strands. You get all of the benefits of silicones (less heavy, more lightweight product, more moisture to your hair), minus the drawbacks (buildup, dehydrated hair).

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 hair or unwanted frizz. Fortunately, you’ve got some other options. You can still find shine and moisture without silicones. Prose offers a few plant-based, silicone-free alternatives. We refer to them as vegetable oils—not to be confused with the kind you use to bake!

In our silicone-free hair care products, we use capryloyl glycerin and sebacic acid copolymer. Capryloyl glycerin and sebacic acid copolymer can help with softness in your hair. Despite the chemical-y sounding names, both come from natural sources: coconut and castor oils. 

Another one is diheptyl succinate, which is derived from sugars and castor oil. Diheptyl succinate can enhance the shine and texture of hair. 

Another ingredient that can be found in our shampoo is hydrogenated palm glycerides citrate, which can support hydration in your hair. Some other ingredients that we feature are tomato oil and sweet almond oil, which are also natural and can support hydration in your hair.

 Why Prose?

We believe in natural, ethical beauty. We create products with you in mind and want hair care to be more about you as an individual. Your hair is unique, so your hair care products should be unique as well. All of the products we create are cruelty-free and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes, mineral oils, and GMOs. 

We can make your formula vegan, silicone-free, or fragrance-free according to your preferences. The benefit of custom hair care is that you are able to choose the type of ingredients that are included in your products. 

Since our custom hair care is designed for you individually, you don’t have to worry about running into the same ingredients and products that have let you down in the past. We offer simple hair care with trustworthy, genuine ingredients. We are open and straightforward about our ingredients, and you can find more in-depth information about each one here

Many of our ingredients have low EWG scores. EWG is the Environmental Working Group’s score for ingredients in products. The lower scores, the better. Safe and sustainable ingredients are worth investing in. Silicones or not, your hair products can be just the way you want them

 Helpful products to try

Prose products can support your journey to less abrasive product build-up and can help to maintain moisture in your hair. Our Pre-Shampoo Hair Mask restores moisture and smoothness in your hair from root to end. Our Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask helps bring back balance to your scalp, whether you would like to soothe or simply cleanse your scalp. 

For your normal wash routines, our shampoo and conditioner formulas are deeply cleansing without being too harsh for daily use. Another moisturizing product is our hair oil, which can help to preserve strands and smooth away frizz. 

This oil can be used either before washing or as a finishing product to style. Looking to detangle while continuing to enhance moisture in your hair? Try our custom leave-in conditioner.

Rather than simply buying shampoos that don’t always work, try investing in custom formulas that include sustainable and natural ingredients. These products can help to boost your hair’s hydration and balance your scalp. We can help you start to build your custom hair care today, and see which ingredients suit you best.

The wrap up

All in all, silicones can help to provide shine and control to your hair. There are numerous ways that silicones can benefit your hair, but it all depends on the type of silicone that is found in your products. 

Silicones may or may not be the right choice for some, and at Prose, we can make your products without silicones or with natural ones. Just because the topic of silicones can be confusing, does not mean you have to be done with them altogether. 

Thankfully, at Prose, we give you the freedom to tailor your custom haircare, including the option to choose water-soluble silicones. We are consistently striving for more gentle and lightweight options for your hair, and always researching ways to improve hair care products. 

Whether you choose to try our shampoo, conditioner, masks, or hair oil, you can find moisture for your hair in ways that suit you best. We continue to choose the best ingredients in order to support your hair’s best health. You can create hair magic with our help. Take our consultation to find your custom formula.


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The Prose Staff is here to share the best hair tips and tricks to help you achieve all your hair goals with custom hair care, breakthrough innovation and more

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  1. I needed to write you one very little observation in order to say thanks a lot again on the incredible information you have shared here. It has been so incredibly open-handed of you to offer freely what many individuals could possibly have made available as an ebook to help make some money for themselves, specifically considering that you could have tried it if you considered necessary. Those advice likewise served as a fantastic way to understand that other individuals have the same zeal much like my personal own to see a great deal more in terms of this matter. I am certain there are several more enjoyable situations in the future for folks who take a look at your website.

  2. Unfortunatèly you are incorrect regarding Dimethicone
    It is not vwater soluble there are tons of references regarding how damaging this silicone is to hair. AND IT HAS TO BE REMOVED WITH CLARIFYING SHAMPOO HAIR PRODUCTS.
    Bad” silicones (including dimethicone, cetyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, dimethiconol, stearyl dimethicone, cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone, and cyclopentasiloxane) are the ones that are not water-soluble—meaning that no matter how much you rinse, they’ll stubbornly coat your locks …
    One type of silicone in particular makes the list of dangerous hair ingredients: dimethicone. According to the hair experts. , “Dimethicone is a type of silicone that is used in a ton of hair products and contributes to product buildup that makes your hair feel greasy.”

    “Since it acts as a protecting cover on the surface of the hair, it stops moisture and nutrients from coming in and instead collects dirt and residue and causes major hair breakage. It can clog the pores on the scalp and cause skin irritation,”
    Please do your homework.

    1. Hi! There are many reasons why gray hair can turn yellow. Gray hair has little to no pigment which means it can take on pigments from its environment. Things like chlorine, colored hair products, sun, and other factors can all attribute to yellowing hair 🙂

      -Keely, Prose Community Manager

  3. I just got my Prose box with the shampoo/conditioner and the hair mask! I am IN LOVE! I just tried it for the first time, and i chose Silicone Free, and let me tell you, I have long, course hair in need of hydration. Well, I found all the Hydration i need! I am absolutely in awe of the way my hair feels drying on its own, without a hair dryer. Usually, it dries frizzy and unmanageable, but it is drying right now without a dryer and my waves are more defined, it is smooth, soft and my coarseness has become softness. While this is my first silicone free, I may try it with the silicone next time just to see if I can tell the difference BUT I must say, i am so happy right now that I am letting it air dry and not worrying about FRIZZ! Thank you, Prose, for my custom shampoo and conditioner! I live in humid Texas, where the weather has its own mind and you never know what it will be. Well, now i don’t care what the humidity is because this Prose shampoo and conditioner will definitely keep my hair under control! Thanks, Prose! I’m hooked

  4. I did not see dimethicone on the label. That is a silicone. Silicone with heat turns the hair yellow if you happen to be gray. I’m very sad, because I loved the mousse. I don’t want yellow hair. And I had no yellow in my hair prior to using this, as I have been avoiding silicone for three years now. I know other things can make your hair yellow, but silicones definitely do for me. And I’m not fond of purple shampoos, which everyone seems to think you should use if you’re gray. Stop listing silicone free products when they have silicones in them PLEASE! And, other than that, this is a great product.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for this feedback. Could you be thinking of another brand? We do not sell a mousse and we always offer the option to make your custom products silicone-free if you prefer 🙂

      -Keely, Prose SEO & Community Manager