Like many women with wavy or curly hair, I have a love/hate relationship with silicones. I’ve been warned for years to stay away from this magic ingredient that is often the topic of many hair debates, but for some reason, I just can’t leave the ‘cones alone.
Let’s face it, silicones are extremely hard to escape. Not only are they the main ingredient in most conditioners, they’re also found in many of the styling products that you buy. So what’s the big deal, you ask? The deal with silicones is that they truly are a gift and a curse.
The Gift: Silicones coat the surface of hair strands to leave your hair smooth, shiny and frizz-free. When used in conditioners, silicones protect your ends, moisturize your hair, and give your waves and curls the slip needed for easy detangling. Silicones also provide protection from heat styling damage when used in styling products.
The Curse: Because silicones do coat hair strands, they make it impossible for water and other moisturizers to penetrate the cortex. So even though silicones initially leave your hair looking shiny and moisturized, over time, they actually cause extreme product buildup, dry your hair out and weigh it down. For wavy and curly girls, ‘cones can also disrupt your natural hair pattern and leave your hair frizzy and brittle.
So, should you ditch the ‘cones or keep on using them? The truth is, silicones affect everyone differently. Many women, however, find that the benefits outweigh the risks. Besides, if you wash your hair more than once weekly, you’re less likely to experience any of the negative effects of silicones. You also have an option of using ‘gentler’ silicones. Yes, there is such a thing. You see, typical silicones like dimethicone, cetearyl methicone and dimethiconol negatively affect your hair because they leave behind deposits that can’t be dissolved in water, thereby causing product buildup. That’s why silicone products are hard to rinse out with regular shampoos. However, ‘gentler’ and water soluble silicones like amodimethicone, cyclomethicone and behenoxy dimethicone repel these deposits, resulting in less product buildup; at least right away.
If silicones are working for you, keep using them. The fact is, most styling products — including those without silicones — cause some kind of product buildup if you don’t wash your hair frequently. Your best bet for dealing with product buildup is to use a clarifying shampoo or apple cider vinegar rinse a few times monthly.