Forget Everything You’ve Ever Heard About Silicones

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Forget Everything You’ve Ever Heard About Silicones

If there’s one class of ingredients that could benefit from working with an image consultant, it’d be silicones. In the past few years, the polarizing polymers have had the beauty industry abuzz with questions of safety, sustainability, and performance. Somewhere along the line, “silicones” became a dirty word — and the reputation stuck.

Naturally, the inquisitive minds behind Allure’s The Science of Beauty podcast couldn’t help but wonder: Are silicones really all that bad? On the latest episode, hosts Jenny Bailly, executive beauty director, and Dianna Mazzone, senior beauty editor (and yours truly), get to the bottom of it with help from cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.

We learned far more about these misunderstood ingredients than can be summarized here, but we couldn’t resist sharing a few fun facts to whet your whistle before you listen to the full episode. Behold, three truths that just may change the way you think about silicones.

Silicones don’t clog your pores or follicles. 

During the episode, Romanowski tells us that silicones work by creating a superficial film, thereby leaving your skin or strands smoother and shinier. However, this film is just that — a film — and not an occlusive sheath. “That’s a huge exaggeration,” says Romanowski.

If you use hair oil, you’re probably benefitting from silicone. 

Flip over a bottle of hair oil and you’ll likely notice that the first few ingredients are actually types of silicones — and that the oil the product is marketed as (e.g., argan) is actually much further down the list. “Most natural oils have the consistency of olive oil,” says Romanowski, explaining that it’s the addition of silicones that give these blends both the physical texture and styling capabilities we’ve all come to expect from hair oils.

Silicones do not cause lasting buildup on your strands. 

“When you wash your hair, you’re also washing out your silicone,” says Romanowski. That said, he believes the silicone scrape test videos popping up on TikTok are completely misguided. “You’re actually physically removing pieces of [your hair’s] keratin; you’re not removing plastic or silicone or any of your hair-care ingredients,” he says. Also important to note: Performing this test can seriously damage your hair.

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