Do you look at ingredients on the labels of personal care products? If so, you may have seen the term ‘dimethicone’. This silicone-based polymer is a synthetic ingredient, and a controversial one at that.
After sulfates, parabens, and petrolatum, dimethicone is new on the list of toxic ingredients in the beauty world. Most of the arguments around it are linked to hair damage and loss. However, dimethicone has already been an integral part of our life, in the form of shampoos, hair styling products, skincare products, baby oils, etc.
Read on to learn whether dimethicone can really cause hair loss and all the safe ingredients you should look for in your hair products.
What Is Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer that is non-soluble in water. It is present in a wide range of products related to hair styling, cosmetics and personal care. Used as an emulsifier in styling products, dimethicone also gives a smooth and silky texture to hair and skin products.
Products containing dimethicone create a coating that locks in hydration, keeping skin and hair moisturized. It also helps to keep hair frizz-free. Dimethicone in cosmetics may help the skin to feel or appear more smooth by filling the fine lines and wrinkles. It also gives your makeup a matte finish and helps it look even.
Did You Know?
Dimethicone is a non-comedogenic ingredient, which means it won't clog your pores.
What Does Dimethicone Do To Your Hair?
Multiple research has been done to study the effects of silicone-based products on hair. Some studies suggest using silicone-free hair products to maintain your hair's natural health.
In fact, you can find many evidence warnings about using products with silicones. However, there is a conflict. In general, silicone or dimethicone is not always bad for your hair. They are just not suitable for certain hair types.
Dimethicone helps give a sleek, smooth, and silky look and feel to your hair. It makes detangling easier and also renders a super conditioned and healthy look. Dimethicone is also very common in frizz-smoothing and split-end-minimizing products as it helps 'glue' the cuticles down and creates a smooth and shiny effect. To minimize hair damage, it is also recommended to use a heat protectant product containing dimethicone before using a flat iron.
On the other hand, dimethicone creates a physical barrier on your strands and prevents water from penetrating your hair cuticle. Lack of moisture leaves hair dry and damaged . Compared to the skin, it is harder to remove dimethicone from hair.
You need to apply a silicone-free and sulfate-filled cleanser or shampoo to remove build-ups. Regular users of silicone-containing products must go for clarifying shampoo washes once every two weeks.
When using dimethicone-containing products back-to-back, you can experience a lot of build-up on your strands. To get back your healthy, luscious locks, use a clarifying shampoo, apple cider vinegar, etc. Don't forget to moisturize your hair with a silicone-free moisturizer after washing.
Can Dimethicone Really Affect Hair Loss?
According to a report, dimethicone is not a direct cause of hair fall. But, the build-up of this silicone-based component can lead to hair fall. The basic nature of silicone is to repel water.
Moreover, dimethicone is used to coat cuticles and trap moisture to give hair a smooth, silky appearance. But this coating also prevents moisture from entering and results in dry, brittle ends that are prone to breakage.
Being water-insoluble, dimethicone does not break down or wash away easily as water-soluble molecules do. So, dimethicone build-up may make finer hair feel greasy and create an unhealthy scalp environment, making hair brittle and dull. If you have curly hair, regular use of dimethicone-containing products can result in drier and brittle hair .
Over time, silicone build-ups can weigh hair down, making regular hair styling more difficult and giving your hair a lame look.
Studies On Dimethicone And Hair Loss
A 1992 study on 404 healthy Thai women analyzed their hair shedding patterns. The idea was to find out whether dimethicone influences hair fall. However, results revealed that apart from the ingredients of shampoo, several other factors influenced hair shedding and dimethicone was not a primary culprit causing hair loss.
Another study revealed that using dimethicone in a limited amount is safe for cosmetics and hair care products. A 2019 review by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel showed that most over-the-counter hair care and cosmetic products contain less than 15% of dimethicone. This amount of dimethicone in cosmetic products is safe to use.
It is wise to use a clarifying shampoo at regular intervals to remove dimethicone build-ups. Otherwise, it will not only stop moisture and nutrients from coming in, but also collect dirt and residue. It can even clog pores on the scalp, causing skin irritation.
What Are The Alternatives To Dimethicone?
The EU considers dimethicone a safe ingredient. It can be used without any legal restriction. However, the main issue with its usage is its non-solubility in water and its ability to create a non-penetrable coating. So, a few alternatives to dimethicone  that can replace this component are elaborated below.
A. Silicone-Free Alternatives
1. Butylene glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate
Being a saturated and non-oxidizing neutral oil, it is usually used in hypo-allergenic cosmetics as a non-sensitizing oil component.
It is a medium spreading emollient. It is also suitable to use in different cosmetic products.
These possess properties very similar to silicones. For example, Coconut Alkanes are good replacements for a few types of dimethicone.
4. Other Alternatives
Dimethicone can be switched with other coat-forming elements such as:
- C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate Isopropyl Myristate
- PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate
These two are a bit more expensive alternatives. Natural alternative like Broccoli seed oil has also been identified as a remarkable option. Broccoli oil is the so-called natural dimethicone.
B. Silicone-Based Alternatives
Some silicone derivatives show similar qualities, such as excellent hair conditioning properties and the ability to create a silky-soft feel. Being water-soluble, these silicone derivatives don’t show the same disadvantages as dimethicone. A few such ingredients are:
- Dimethicone copolyols
- Behenyl dimethicone
How To Identify Dimethicone Related Hair Loss?
As mentioned above, it is the build-up of dimethicone that can lead to hair loss. Hair loss may be observed after long-term use of a shampoo, conditioner, or hair styling product with dimethicone.
You may experience rough and dry hair along with frequent breakage. If you have curly or coily hair, dimethicone can make your hair texture drier and more brittle. In the case of fine hair, it makes your hair look limp and oily.
As your hair becomes fragile, it can break and fall off. So, you may observe damaged ends and broken strands.
What Types Of Products Include Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is a common ingredient present in some particular types of products, such as,
Many makeup items like primer, foundation etc., contain dimethicone for its ability to provide a smooth appearance. It also covers fine lines and wrinkles by creating a protective barrier.
2. Moisturizers & Creams
Dimethicone forms a moisture-sealing barrier on the skin and hair, which helps in locking moisture and decreasing water loss.
3. Shampoo, Conditioner, & Hair Styling Products
Dimethicone coats on your hair strands help to smooth the cuticles and create a sleek and shiny look. It also seals moisture and protects your hair from heat.
4. Anti-Itch Products
The moisture-locking capacity of dimethicone also makes it an effective component of anti-itch products. It helps to soothe dry and itchy skin.
Though dimethicone is a controversial ingredient in many personal care products, there is no real drawback to using this silicone-based product in a controlled amount. It is completely fine to use dimethicone-containing hair care and styling products.
However, avoid the overuse of such products and do not overload your hair with them. With proper usage, this silicone-based product can leave your hair feeling soft, smooth, and hydrated.
1. Evidence of Skin Barrier Damage by Cyclic Siloxanes (Silicones)—Using Digital Holographic Microscopy, Published online on 2 September 2020,
2. Contemporary African-American Hair Care Practices, Published on May 2015,
3. Water content of hair, Published on 10 October 2009,
4. Hair cosmetics, Published on Sep-Oct 2013,
5. Replacing Synthetic Ingredients by Sustainable Natural Alternatives: A Case Study Using Topical O/W Emulsions, Published on: 22 October 2020
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