Does Dimethicone actually clog pores, cause breakouts, and ruin your hair? Let’s find out.
We all want that silky-smooth and healthy looking skin that we can enjoy carefree all day long. To help us achieve this, smoothing agent dimethicone has become the star ingredient many cosmetic product manufacturers use in our skincare, haircare, and makeup products for that Insta-grammable look.
Mind you, in spite of its rising popularity, silicone ingredient dimethicone has also garnered a bad reputation along the way for clogging up pores, causing breakouts, and destroying hair.
To decipher myths from reality and help us understand whether some concerns about dimethicone are legitimate, let’s first look at the science behind this silicone ingredient. What are dimethicone actual benefits for your skin and hair? Are there some drawbacks in having silicone in your beauty product formulas? keep reading to find out more.
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What is Dimethicone?
Dimethicone, also known as polydimethylsiloxane, is a silicone-based polymer used as a lubricant and conditioning agent in skin, hair and makeup products.
It is designed to give beauty products a smooth, silky, and slippery finish. The silicone oil helps lock in moisture to improve skin softness, elasticity, and texture.
As an occlusive agent, dimethicone helps prevent water loss and protect your skin by creating a barrier or a seal on your skin against environmental pollutants.
For people with ageing skin, dimethicone is a welcome addition to their skincare routine, as it helps blur the look of fine lines and wrinkles, whilst smoothing and plumping the skin for a more youthful and healthier looking appearance.
If you have bumpy, rough or uneven skin texture, dimethicone can be a godsend for your makeup product applications. Makeup products formulated with dimethicone tend to better hide skin imperfections, giving you a smoother skin surface for a flawless makeup look.
These silicone-based makeup products will give you an airbrushed skin finish
Effectively, dimethicone and related silicone ingredients are more commonly used than you may think even in certified vegan products. Unless a beauty product label specifically states “silicone free”, do not discount the fact that your product may possibly contain dimethicone or its close relatives, including:
- Phenyl trimethicone
- Dimethicone copolyol
If unsure, check the ingredients list of your beauty product label or product packaging.
Benefits of Dimethicone for Skin
Contrary to popular beliefs, there are many benefits your skin can derive from using a dimethicone-containing product. As a silicone oil ingredient, dimethicone:
- Delivers a silky-smooth, lightweight, and fast-absorbing finish on the skin
- Improves skin texture by smoothing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores
- Helps makeup look flawless, more natural, and long-lasting
- Locks in moisture by creating a protective barrier over your skin to support water retention
- Matiffies oily skin by reducing skin shine and temporary blurring the appearance of enlarged pores
- Supports skin healing process by forming a lightweight film over the skin to protect against environmental pollutants
Here are 4 silicone-based skincare products for silky-smooth skin
What Skin Types Should Use Dimethicone?
As a non-comedogenic moisturising and smoothing ingredient, dimethicone does not clog pores and is effective at preventing water loss by locking in moisture.
It can be particularly beneficial for people with dry, ageing, acne-prone and sensitive skin, who need additional moisture to maintain skin smoothness, elasticity, and youthfulness.
Is it Safe to Use Dimethicone for my Skin?
Yes, according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Based on its 2019 review, the Panel concluded that it is safe to use most over-the-counter cosmetic products containing less than 15% dimethicone. The Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep Database has also granted dimethicone a low hazard score.
Although there are some concerns about the use of dimethicone in beauty product formulas, to date there is no scientific evidence to substantiate them.
Moreover, dimethicone has a large molecular weight, making it very difficult to penetrate the skin and be absorbed into your bloodstream in any meaningful way.
As pure synthetic ingredients, silicones are formulated to be non-comedogenic and non-sensitising. But, before using any product containing dimethicone, it is recommended to always do a 48-hour patch test to find out whether a product formula works for you.
As with any ingredient, possible side effects or allergic reactions may occur such as burning, irritation, swelling, hives, redness, and itching.
If you experience any of the above side effects, gently wash the product off with water and a gentle cleanser, and stop using the product immediately. If the reaction persists within the next 48 hours, do visit your doctor or dermatologist for further advice.
Does Dimethicone Cause Breakouts?
Whilst dimethicone protects your skin from environmental aggressors through a barely-there film barrier on your skin, this may lead you to assume that your face is coated in some form of greasy mask causing breakouts.
This is far from it, because the lightweight, non-greasy and non-comedogenic nature of this silicone oil ingredient compounded by its heavy molecular weight actually make it ideal for oily and acne-prone skin.
Dimethicone smoothing and mattifying effects help minimise sebum production and temporarily reduce the appearance of enlarged pores common in oily skin.
As for acne-prone skin, dimethicone acts as a calming and moisturising ingredient to irritated skin and support the skin healing process.
Is Dimethicone Bad for Hair?
The biggest warning against dimethicone or any silicone ingredient comes from the hair care community. Many purists consider it a kiss of death to your hair strands if you dare using anything other than a silicone-free shampoo and hair care routine. And, to their credit there is some truth in there.
Although helpful in some hair regimens, dimethicone and silicones are not ideal for certain hair types such as dry, damaged, colour-treated, fine, thin, coily, and curly hair.
But, you will want to know first why hair care product manufacturers have fallen in love with dimethicone and silicones.
The truth is that dimethicone and its silicone cousins help to easily detangle your hair by creating a slippery and sleek finish to your thick, coarse and long hair strands, giving them the appearance of healthy and well conditioned shiny hair.
This is the reason why you will find dimethicone and other silicones as key ingredients in many hair conditioners, frizz and split-end taming styling products, including in the worldwide-acclaimed Olaplex Styling No.7 Bonding Oil 30ml. They help coat your hair cuticles to reduce your hair porosity, encourage the retention of moisture, and minimise hair breakage.
In 2008, a study revealed that dimethicone and methicone as conditioning agents helped reduce protein loss, thereby protecting the hair strands and improving resistance to breakage during the chemical straightening of Afro-hair.
Furthermore, a 2018 clinical study found out that adding dimethicone as a conditioning agent in a hair dye decreased the damage caused by the colouring process.
However, over time coating your hair strands with dimethicone and other silicone containing hair products leads to buildup, making it more difficult for water to penetrate your hair cuticle. This in the end leads to dull, dry and damaged hair, as your hair is no longer able to absorb water and good nutrients it needs to remain healthy.
Although dimethicone is a lot easier to wash off of your skin daily, it takes a lot more work to be removed from your hair. To get rid of product buildup, you will need to use either a silicone-free, sulphate-based, or a clarifying shampoo once or twice per month, depending on how many products you apply on your hair during the week.
Use a clarifying shampoo occasionally to avoid damaging your hair in light of the stripping nature of some of its deep cleansing ingredients.
Can Dimethicone Cause Hair Loss?
Dimethicone product buildup does not lead to hair loss. However, it can negatively affect your hair health by preventing your hair from achieving the adequate level of moisture it needs to thrive and support your natural hair growth. This in turn can result in dry, brittle hair with split ends that is more prone to breakage.
Hence the reason why not all hair types and textures should opt for silicone based hair products on a regular basis. People with thin and fine hair using silicone-based hair products daily might end up with oily and lifeless hair.
Those with coily and curly hair that are naturally dry and prone to breakage should consider avoiding or minimising their use of silicone-containing hair products, because these can exacerbate hair dryness and brittleness, leading to hair breakage.
The Bottom Line
Dimethicone is an ingredient that you can use safely as part of your regular skincare routine unless you prefer to opt for all-natural or silicone-free beauty products for allergic or environmental concerns.
To date, there are no major side effects scientifically known to derive from the regular use of dimethicone in skincare.
As for hair care, although dimethicone is helpful in supporting hair detangling and retaining hair moisture, regular use of dimethicone and silicone-based hair products quickly lead to buildup that requires a clarifying shampoo once in a while to clear from your hair strands.
That being said, dimethicone is not ideal for daily use for all hair types and textures.
If for whatever reason, you don’t fancy using dimethicone in your skincare and hair care regimens, you are free to use silicone-free alternative products. Just make sure to check the product labels first.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. (2019). Safety assessment of dimethicone, methicone, and substitutedmethicone polymers, as used in cosmetics.
Catherine Mack Correa M. C.M et al (2012). Management of Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: The Role of Emollient Therapy https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2012/836931/
Chularojanamontri L et al (2014). Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24847408/
da Gama R.M. et al (2018).Protective effect of conditioner agents on hair treated with oxidative hair dye https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29316174/
de Sá Dias T.C. et al (2008). Protective effect of conditioning agents on Afro-ethnic hair chemically treated with thioglycolate-based straightening emulsion https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18482015/