silicones (1): in hair products

The Beauty Brains:

Naturally Curly:

The Long Hair Community:



If you’ll forgive me for recycling my own old pants, here’s what I’ve had to say about silicones: service with a smile (2011-07-31)

The most common silicones used cosmetically (skin, hair, makeup) end in

Useful lists:

Useful further info:

How shampoos and conditioners work (mangled together from The Beauty Brains):

The purposes of shampoo:

1. To clean hair–but also scalp. Without irritating scalp. It’s as important to be skin-compatible as anything else. The stuff I’ve labelled in your formula as moisturising does that for skin.

2. To keep scalp (and its flora) healthy, including stimulating hair growth. Bear in mind that the only part of hair that’s alive is the root: below (and right on) the surface of the skin. Rubbing the scalp does this a little, via increasing blood circulation as much as anything else. Most stimulation for hair growth, though, will be from the inside: what you eat. And–on blood circulation–exercise. So long as the shampoo is fine on your skin, and you massage the scalp, you’ll be ticking this box.

3. The hair shaft will get clean through shampoo running down it, for the most part; it usually doesn’t need any extra work. Sure, a shampoo shouldn’t actively damage hair: hence why washing-up liquid and other stronger household detergents aren’t a good idea. But a shampoo doesn’t need to be overloaded with moisturisers. You’re washing it out! (Same goes for face and body cleansers.)

4. To prepare hair for conditioning.

On conditioning shampoos (initially intended as 2-in-1 combined shampoo+conditioner) and how they work, see:

Quite a lot of “conditioning shampoos” are actually–in formulation–very similar or identical to 2-in-1s; the issue with them is that it’s the silicones that leave a conditioning coating on the hair: great if just doing the one wash (and go), not so good if you try to follow with a conditioner, whose action will be blocked by the coating…

Conditioning is what “is good for” the hair. Hair is, remember, dead; nothing can “feed” it or “make it healthier”–it can only be made to *look* better fed, healthier, plumper, etc.

Shampooing will lift up the cuticles down each hair shaft–they’ll feel a little rough when you rinse the shampoo out. This is normal, and how a properly-formulated shampoo works. At this stage, adding moisturisers c/o conditiioner will slip them in between and on top of cuticles; adding moisture, smoothing them down, filling in “gaps” where there’s breakage, adding fullness, ideally keeping moisture in too. This is why it’s a good idea to keep conditioner on for longer.

Note that breaks, split ends, and other damage can’t be “mended” permanently: they can, however, be patched over–which will reduce the chance of a tear spreading. Think of tights/pantyhose that get a ladder: it’s like applying a blob of clear nail-varnish to stop the rip from continuing all the way up your leg.

Moisturisers that do this: various oils and waxes, synthetic parallels (such as quats), silicones (smoothing down), hydrolyzed protein (note: as opposed to amino acids or proteins–don’t work as well), .

Now: those conditioning agents work on the hair outside. There are a few that have been proven to be beneficial–strengthening, patching over any breaks–on the inside, going to the core of the hair shaft:
coconut oil
olive oil
avocado oil
on these (and other oils, penetrative abilities, etc.) see:
(possibly, data inconclusive) panthenol / provitamin B5

Best two ways to use them, IMO, are:
1. as a pre-wash, like hot oil treatments: massage into scalp and (gently) down length of hair. Some people leave oil on overnight; my hair’s too fine for that, but I find 20 min or so is good, 30-45 great.
2. in your conditioner; and smoothed into hair ends at the end of a wash.

Also: so as to “seal down” cuticles at the end of washing hair, once you’ve conditioned, rinse out with cold water. As cold as you can manage, as long as you can. Seriously, worth the effort (and agony!!!).

More on all this hair business: see The Beauty Brains
how shampoos work: part 1
part 2
part 3
on 2-in-1 (that link in last email=the basic formula)
all shampoo posts:
and similarly (use the site’s search function) on conditioners, and so on…

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