What's the deal with silicone? It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is blaming it for their acne or lackluster skin, but it's in almost every skincare product on the market.
Do these people know something we don't? Should we be scouring labels and avoiding it just to be safe?
Well, don't toss your favorite beauty product in the trash just yet. Let's take a deeper look at what silicone is and what it isn't.
Silicone (a.k.a Silica) is Already in Your Body
Silicone is a derivative of silica, also known as silicon dioxide. It's composed of silicon and oxygen; two of the most abundant elements on earth.
It makes up more than half of the earth's crust and is found in almost everything including your bones, tendons, heart, liver, and kidneys.
In fact, research indicates it is essential for overall health, though scientists haven't established how much people need in order to be healthy, yet. It's also found in food, drinks, and medications.
Plus, there are industrial uses for it, too. You've probably seen silica packets tucked in with the shoes and purses you buy. These packets draw out moisture, so your items stay fresh.
What do you think it's doing for your skin?
Skincare Products Use Specific Types of Silicones
It's fairly rare to see the word "silicone" on your ingredient list. Instead, you might see Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclopentasiloxane, or variants of dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone.
While some forms of silicone are used to make things like concrete and mortar, it's different from the silicone used in cosmetics.
Cosmetic-grade silicone has a slippery feel to it, but it retains other properties, particularly those that relate to moisture.
Because of this, it is used as an emollient; a substance in moisturizes that softens and smooths skin. It's also used as a conditioner because of its ability to soften and hydrate, or as an occlusive, which means it blocks the evaporation of water.
In short, it glides onto skin, making it more supple and flexible while attracting and locking in moisture.
How did Silicone Get a Bad Rap?
So, if silicone is a natural compound our bodies need and it has such awesome properties, how did it get a bad reputation?
The reality is, we may never know where silicone myths emerged from. It could be ignorance or a simple misunderstanding of the difference between cosmetic-grade silicone and other forms of silicone, such as the silica used for construction.
There are also some studies that offer anecdotal (unsubstantiated) evidence that silicone skincare products could cause issues, but no research has ever definitively linked its use to any of the issues which routinely get associated with it.
That said, we're all about no B.S. here, so let's address the elephant in the room.
Goodbye Silicone Myths
1. “Silicone Clogs Pores and Causes Acne”
In an abstract way, this kind of makes sense. Silicone glides over your skin creating a barrier that resists the loss of moisture. Many people liken this process to layering plastic wrap over leftovers.
Operating on that premise, the silicone layer would cover up pores, which would prevent them from breathing to lock the nastiness in. IF (operative word if) silicone worked that way, it probably would result in acne, but it doesn't.
The molecules which make up silicone are quite large, as far as molecules go, so they actually create something more like a web, which means it neither permeates pores or blocks them.
The web bathes the skin in a temporary layer, which attracts moisture and keeps it in, but due to its very nature, the molecules are spread out, which gives the skin room to breathe. The additional benefit here is that, when silicone is used with other compounds that are good for your skin, your skin absorbs them.
For this reason, it's a great carrier material when healthful ingredients need to be delivered over a period of time. The silicone will hold onto them and keep them close, so your skin can absorb them throughout the day or night.
This lends itself to yet another unsung benefit of silicone. It works really well as a carrier in cosmetics when sweat or moisture may be present. For example, people who wear makeup at the gym, despite knowing it's not good for their skin. You know who you are.
Unlike oil-based makeups that soak into the skin, silicone-based makeups form a layer over the top and allow the skin to breathe. That means you'll finish your workout with your makeup intact rather than having it turn into a gross dripping mess as you sweat.
All that said, you absolutely should follow a skincare regimen that includes cleaning your face at night from the daily build up. Don't leave makeup on overnight. Ever. It will lead to clogged pores and acne.
The bottom line: silicone is non-comedogenic (it doesn't block pores.)
2. “Silicone is a Skin Irritant”
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says silicone is beneficial for people with rosacea, a condition characterized by irritated and inflamed skin.
Exposure to a multitude of products can result in uncomfortable flareups for those with rosacea; however, the agency concludes using silicone-based products not only protects the skin but can minimize redness and stinging, too.
This is important to note because living with rosacea can be a bit like trying to navigate a minefield and if silicone is promoted for people in this situation, it's going to be safe for just about anyone.
Furthermore, the AAD has been promoting silicone as a scar treatment since the 1980s. It can help prevent scars from forming and reduce the appearance of scars after they've developed. Additional research indicates it's a useful ingredient when treating dry skin, too.
The bottom line: silicone is so beneficial and possesses such little risk that it's promoted as the ideal solution for those with sensitivities.
3. “Silicone is Dangerous for Your Lungs”
This is a half-truth. You wouldn't want to inhale industrial silica. It would be kind of like inhaling tiny grains of sand, which obviously would damage the lungs. People who work with these types of materials are advised to wear protective gear as a result.
When we're talking about cosmetic-grade silicone, it's delivered in a moisture-rich base and can't really be inhaled; however, if we were to take this a step further and look into the silicone included in airbrushed makeup, there's still no scientific studies indicating a causal issue.
The bottom line: Don't snort your cosmetics and skincare products. It's wasteful.
To Recap, Silicone is…
- Non-comedogenic. It won't clog your pores.
- Non-irritating. It can actually soothe dry and irritated skin.
- A beneficial carrier. It may help your skin absorb nutrients.
- A moisture magnet. It draws out moisture from your skin and helps you retain it.
- A softener. It can improve flexibility and suppleness.
- A scar vanquisher. It prevents the formation of scars when used during the healing process and can diminish the appearance of scars after they've formed.
- Safe. Myths debunked.
Say Hello to Amazing Skin
We can't stand B.S. — not in the form of misinformation and certainly not on our skin. That's why the ingredients we use are mindfully chosen to include only the good stuff your skin needs to look and feel its very best, and none of the junk it doesn't.
It's because of this dedication that we lovingly include certain silicone derivatives in our products — backed by Mother Nature, dermatologists, and the American Academy of Dermatology.
We've even gone as far as banning 1,500 ingredients from our products while the FDA has only banned 11. Yeah. We take it that seriously!
If you want to experience amazingly healthy skin, check out our skincare guides to find the right regimen for your skin type.