The Story of Silicone, and Why Silicone-Free Skin Care Matters
Picture every beauty product advertisement you see on television: a woman with flowing, shiny hair and vibrant, glowing skin, in an ad for your favorite hair, skin, or makeup product. We all love silky, shiny hair, silky creams, and makeup that will stay put even when we work a full day, but did you know what ingredient is responsible for most of these? It is silicone.
Let’s delve into the many varieties of silicone that exist, and learn how these ingredients entered the beauty market, what they are used for, and what the pros and cons are of having them in your skin care products. We’ll also share our tips on how to shop for products and moisturizers without silicone.
What are Silicones in Skincare?
Prior to the 1950s, most skin preparations used mineral oil or petroleum products to give glide to products. If you look at the earliest creams in America (some are still on the market!), you will see a list including petrolatum, lanolin, paraffin and other petroleum based ingredients. We’ve talked about petrolatum before, and it is still used as a primary ingredient in many skin care lines. It is inexpensive and widely used.
What happened next though, revolutionized the skin care and cosmetic world: silicones.
After silicone came onto the market, almost all skin care formulators began using it in many forms, combining them with the petrochemicals or using silicones to replace the petrochemicals entirely. Adding silicone reduces the effect called “whitening” or “soaping”, which can happen when applying cream to your face or hands. Silicones also created a stability for products that both customers and skin care chemists loved. It’s not surprising that silicones became an addiction for skin care formulators!
If you ever played with a rock tumbler as a child, you are familiar with the process of making silicone. You started off by rumbling rough rocks with sand and water. By the end of the cycle the sand had been tumbled so much that the edges were smooth on the rocks, but the sand itself also became much finer and softer. If you take that example, add a bunch of chemicals to it and make it more complex, and that refined product is silicone. Silicones are created by using silica, which is naturally occurring in sand, and processing it with chemicals until the tiny particles are very smooth.
There is a big, wide world of silicones in skin care products. Take a look under your sink or in your makeup area, and you may be hard-pressed to find skin care products free of silicone-derivatives in almost everything that is there.
You may discover common ingredients in product ingredient labels that can be spotted as being silicone by how the ingredient word ends.
Here are some tips on how to shop more mindfully the next time you’re in the beauty aisle:
Words that end in Cone: Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone amodimethicone, Methicone, Trimethicone, Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
Words that contain Silane: Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Triethoxycaprylylsilane crosspolymer
Words that contain Siloxane: Cyclopentasiloxane, Polydimethylsiloxane, Siloxane, cyclohexasiloxane
Words that contain Conol: Dimethiconol and others
Once you know the silicone derivatives listed above and how to spot them, knowing what quantifies a silicone-free moisturizer will be easier!
But What Does Silicone Do?
By that small example above, you will see that there are literally dozens of varieties of silicone on the skin care market. Brands are combining and refining these products all of the time, which is why many of the names that you might see on your labels are confusing or new to you. New silicone-based products arrive on the market on a regular basis.
Silicones are used to replace the oil phase in formulas, or may be combined with oils. They do the same thing as oils in as much as they bring moisture and glide to a product, and help form a protective coating on the skin which minimized TEWL (transepidermal water loss), keeping moisture near the skin.
Dimethicone is the most widely used silicone in skin care and makeup products and is added to formulas to make them silky smooth. People are very sensory, which is why the beauty industry uses things that make products soft and silky.
Makeup that combines silicones and colored pigments are smoother and easier to apply, and help foundation last longer on the skin. Colored pigment adheres to the silicones well, allowing them to be mixed easily into products like self tanners and foundation. This process also gives deodorants a soft glide texture, allowing easy application without tugging the skin.
Silicones in makeup create a film on the skin, promising to keep foundation on all day long. Some have the added benefit of giving products a shine or glow, which is very popular in hair conditioners and styling products. Other silicones and polymers fill in crevices on the skin making you think that your product has solved the problem of rough skin or large pores. It becomes very smooth, but the effects are temporary. Products like this have a longer shelf life than most oils which makes them very cost effective as an ingredient. You can see why skin care formulators love this!
But, as you’ll discover, silicones used in skin care only offer a temporary fix, like running a coating of plastic vinyl over a surface.
What are the Negatives About Silicone Use?
In the skin care world there are two schools of thought: Traditional skin care (using mineral oils, silicone, and parabens), and the newer “greener” method of making skin care that is silicone-free. Those of us that are from the more natural school of formulation see the appeal of some of these older ingredients, but we are anxious to get the same results with plant based ingredients instead. Here are some of the reasons why we choose to use not to use silicone ingredients in our facial products:
Silicones trap bacteria and dead skin. When we protect the skin from the environment with a barrier, we generally do it by using ingredients like butters or oils. They moisturize, and they create a barrier to keep the environment out and the moisture in near the skin. At the end of the day, we wash off our moisturizer and the dirt from the day.
Now, while some butters and oils can block pores if not properly cleaned afterwards, most are easier to clean off than silicone. Because of the unique thickness and resistance to removal, silicones do not wash away as easily as other barrier ingredients. If you use a day cream, primer or foundation that is silicone-based, and then apply silicone-based night cream, your skin may not have properly cleansed off all of the silicone from the day cream, and bacteria may remain trapped on the skin for 24 hours or longer.
Dirt and bacteria can become trapped under the silicone layer and result in blackheads and acne. While some people may be ok with this, others have a severe reaction to silicone-trapped bacteria. Those of us with sensitive skin, especially with rosacea or acne prone skin, are more likely to see benefits in silicone-free skin care instead.
In recent years, makeup primers have become one of the worst offenders in blocking pores. Some of the primers are mostly silicone, and are designed to last all day long. Use of these “24 hour” primers may lead to dry, damaged or dull skin in the long term.
If you are older, or have the type of skin that does not break out easily, silicone skin care products could also be clogging your pores, but manifesting as dryness and dullness instead of acne. Over time some people see a decrease in moisture near the skin and some increase in dehydration when using silicone and plastic/polymer in their skin care routines. Skin may become less able to release the dead skin cells, and the silicone may work as a“glue” keeping them trapped on top of the skin, disturbing the normal cycle of the cells.
There are ongoing studies as to whether use of silicone can also result in skin that does not allow the active ingredients to penetrate at deeper levels. It may take time for studies to catch up with the market trends of more natural skin care ingredients.
Helpful tips for removing silicones. Everyone needs to exfoliate at least two times a week, but if you use silicones you may need to adjust this to three times. It will depend upon your skin. Just make sure that you are able to cleanse your pores thoroughly without over-scrubbing. If you do decide to use skin care that contains silicones, please make sure to double cleanse with oils first, then a general cleanser. A single wash with a mild cleanser may not really clean off the silicones. You may wish to also vary your routine and give your skin a night off, using a night treatment that is silicone free.
Remember your hair! Even though we are addressing facial skin primarily, don’t forget about the silicones in your hair products. Most hair conditioners are designed to be detanglers, so they are full of silicones.
As we rinse off conditioner in the shower, it runs down our backs. This may cause acne to break out on your back. If you notice acne on your back, it could be from perspiration and bacteria being trapped, or it might be your hair conditioner.
Hair care Hack: If you wish to use silicone conditioners - After washing and rinsing your hair, take a gentle cleansing bar, like our Calm Facial Bar. Apply a lather to a sponge or scrubby on a stick. Scrub your back, and then rinse. Washing your back after you have rinsed products off of your hair will help keep back acne at bay.
Feed your skin, don’t just cover it. Why do we use skin care products on our faces? We use them to remove dirt, to moisturize, feed and protect. We may have masques or exfoliators that we use a couple of times a week to nourish or remove dead skin, but most importantly is the removal of dirt, moisturizing, and protecting our skin.
Although silicones can feel soft and form a solid skin barrier, they do nothing to feed, moisturize or nourish the skin. Silicones give a short term feel, but do nothing to help with keeping our skin looking younger and healthier longer.
There are many wonderful modern ingredients on the market. Most people have heard of the benefits of oils like green tea oil, or butters like raw shea butter, which all have moisturizing and nourishing benefits for your skin. In civilizations all over the world, there have been moisturizers made for thousands of years without silicones, using shea, macadamia nuts, jojoba, and other nuts and seeds. Full of vitamins like E, these are moisture-giving, make the skin soft, and some, like coconut, have even some slight sun protection. These ingredients predate petrolatum or silicones. At Ayr, we’re thrilled to see and be part of the movement to return to natural, silicone-free skincare.
Although there is no health risk to using silicones, their history of clogging pores and dehydrating the skin over time do not make them the wisest choice.
By the way, silicones are prevalent in both the most inexpensive and the most expensive skin care formulas. Customers may assume that because a product is over $200 an ounce that it must be better for the skin, but that is not always the case.
Ayr Skin Care Creates Silicone-Free Skin Care Products
One of the most wonderful things about Ayr Skin Care’s facial creams is that they have this wonderful soft, silky texture as they are applied, but they contain absolutely zero silicones! How can this be?
We developed our day and night creams using a proprietary mixture of natural oils, natural plant silica and butters to create something new! Now, you can apply a luxurious feeling cream, that glides on smoothly, leaves a silky finish that dries quickly to matte so that makeup can be applied right away, and feels wonderful.
Gone are the days of having to choose between a silky texture and glide and a “natural” skin cream that doesn’t walk its talk. With Pure Moisture and Restore Night Cream, you can have day and night moisture, and nourish the skin at the same time. Each of the products contains a well of moisture created with vegan ingredients to hydrate, blended with peptides and other vitamins to feed, nourish, and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Have you ever wondered why large skin care companies will spend an arm and a leg with a two page magazine ad, spend hundreds of dollars in spokesmodel actresses and TV commercials, all to talk about something like hyaluronic acid?
Formulators have been using hyaluronic acid for years, but suddenly, a new cream comes out that contains more hyaluronic acid, and millions are spent to advertise it. What is that all about? Marketing. If you have something that looks the same as every other cream that you are selling, no one will buy it. But, if you get a Hollywood actress to talk about it, or take pictures with it, then suddenly everyone knows about the cream. The only problem is that most of the time the cream is exactly the same-old-same-old mineral and silicone-based skin care cream, only it has 1% more of one particular “trending” ingredient, so that is what they talk about on the commercials… It is the ultimate advertising game. It is all the same product, with few exceptions, and the main ingredient is still silicones, petrochemicals, and plastic fillers.
Why not stop the cycle and try something revolutionary? You can have the wonderful silky feel of a silicone, without possible congestion, breakouts, and dull skin. Try Ayr Skin Care creams today, and see how it is possible to have ground-breaking formulas with natural vegan ingredients that gives results — beauty without compromise. Find out why we say, “Healthy skin, beautiful you.”