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Substance derived from silica (sand is a silica). The unique fluid properties of silicone give it a great deal of slip, and in its various forms it can feel like silk on skin, impart emollience, and be a water-binding agent that holds up well, even when skin becomes wet. The research about silicones have proven them to be superior scar-healing ingredients, soothing agents, non-irritating, and uniquely effective delivery and suspending agents for a wide range of cosmetic ingredients.
There are numerous forms of silicones used in cosmetic products, particularly leave-on skincare products and all manner of hair-care products. Common forms of silicone are cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane; other forms include various types of dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone.
Claims that silicones in any form cause or worsen skin concerns have not been substantiated in any published research, nor have reports that silicones are sensitizing to or somehow “suffocate” skin. In fact, just the opposite is true which makes the misinformation difficult to understand. Almost all of the claims about silicones being problematic for skin are apparently myths or based on anecdotal evidence.
Because of silicone’s unique molecular properties, they are at the same time porous and resistant though not impermeable to air. Think of silicones in a skincare formula like the covering of a tea bag. When you steep the tea bag in water the tea and all of its antioxidant properties are released into the water. Silicones remain on the surface of your skin and the other ingredients it’s mixed with “steep” through. All ingredients must be suspended in some base formula; some of the ingredients remain on the surface, some are absorbed. The intent is for the “actives” to get through. The special molecular structure of silicones (large molecules with wide spaces between each molecule) allows them to form a permeable barrier and also explains why silicones rarely feel heavy or occlusive, although they still offer protection against moisture loss.
Interestingly, silicone has been shown to be helpful for offsetting dryness and flaking from common ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide.
Bottom line: The types of silicones used in cosmetic products are supported by scientific research and are considered safe for consumer use. These types of cosmetic silicones are effective, inert, and versatile ingredients that benefit skin and hair in numerous ways.
References for this information:
International Journal of Pharmaceuticals, March 2017, pages 158-162
Molecular Therapy, June 2017, pages 1342-1352
Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global, December 2016, e1183
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, December 2016, pages 13-20
Frontiers in Pharmacology, May 2015, ePublication
International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding, May-June 2015, pages 223-230
International Journal of Toxicology, May-June 2013, pages 5S-24S
Dermatology Research and Practice, October 2010, ePublication Cutis, October 2008, pages 218-284
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!