Silicones are frequently found in skincare and makeup products due to their ability to aid in protecting and moisturizing the skin as well as improving overall feel, texture, and slip of the product. They are used to smooth wrinkles, blur imperfections, and even allow for other useful ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin layers. Dermatologists prefer to use silicones because they have been found to have very few side effects, are non-comedogenic, and a non-irritant. Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions out there regarding the use of silicones.
Silicones are derived from silica which is a substance naturally found in sand, quartz, granite, and sandstone. They are not considered “natural,” but they are derived from natural sources. The silicones most commonly found in skincare and makeup products include dimethicone, cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and cetearyl methicone. The easiest way to identify silicones on a product label is to look for words that end in -cone, -conol, -silane, or -siloxane.
Misconception – silicones suffocate the skin.
While it is true that silicones do act as an occlusive (form a layer on top of the skin), that occlusive is breathable, meaning it does not actually suffocate the skin [source]. In fact because of this layer, silicones can actually play a significant role in wound healing and scar reduction [source].
Misconception – silicones clog pores and cause acne breakouts.
Silicones are non-comedogenic (meaning that they do not clog pores). This is because the molecule size is too large. However, if the skin is not cleansed properly prior to applying the silicone product, oil and dirt already on the skin can be trapped and cause harmful effects. That being said, dimethicone especially can be found in many moisturizers formulated and marketed specifically for acne sufferers due to the ability to heal and moisturize the skin [source].
Misconception – silicones are toxic.
A safety report done in 2021 shows that there is very little absorption through the skin (notably dimethicone) and instead it sits on top of the skin where it acts as a breathable occlusive. This safety report has deemed silicones to be a safe skin care ingredient which reduces irritation and also helps to protect the skin [source].
So what’s the takeaway here? Silicones are a very useful ingredient in skincare and makeup products. They can be used in formulas that claim to be non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, vegan friendly, palm free, sustainable, and degradable. All that being said, do I personally use products containing silicones? I do. Sometimes. I am constantly searching for new ingredients to use in my products that are “more natural.”
Dr. Bethany Meyer
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. Before taking any action based on this information you should first consult with your physician or health care provider. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition, your health, or wellness.