Silicone-Free Shampoo and Conditioner: Is Silicone Really That Bad for Hair?

But if your shampoo contains bad silicone for hair, your shampoo may be doing more harm than good, especially if you’re also using a shampoo containing sulfates. Keep reading to learn more about silicone and shampoo, and how to find the best sulfate and silicone-free shampoo and conditioner.

What is Silicone in Shampoo?

Silicone is a chemical compound found in many cosmetic products, including shampoo. Silicones are polymers derived from silica, a natural mineral. Silicones can have many different names, but they usually end in “-cone” (i.e. “dimethicone”).

Silicone in shampoo coats each hair strand, locking out frizz-causing humidity. Think of it as a raincoat for your hair! Silicone in shampoo can also help to improve hair’s shine and manageability. If you’ve ever used a new shampoo and condition and noticed an instant improvement in your hair’s appearance, that’s thanks to silicones!

But here’s the thing: since silicones only coat the hair, they don’t do anything to improve its condition. And in fact, they can harm your hair’s health.

Why You Should Choose a Sulfate and Silicone-Free Shampoo

Silicones do have a lot of benefits for the hair, at least aesthetically. However, silicone in shampoo can also have a dark side.

As we mentioned before, silicone does not penetrate the hair. Instead, it creates a film on top which can prevent other helpful ingredients from reaching the hair shaft. If you use a shampoo with “bad silicones” for hair (more on bad silicones for hair below), you may experience one of two issues:

  • Dry hair. Since silicone in shampoo prevents hydrating ingredients from penetrating your hair, your hair may become dry and brittle over time.
  • Greasy hair. As your hair becomes drier, your scalp may produce more oil to compensate. The result? Oily-looking hair. This can trigger a dangerous cycle. If your hair looks oily, you should wash it, right? But washing more often with shampoo containing bad silicones for hair will only exacerbate the issue.

So what does buildup from silicone look like? It depends on your hair type. If you have straight or fine hair, the build-up will make your hair look limp and lifeless. Silicone build-up may mean less bouncy curls or a loss of curl altogether if you have curly hair.

Signs that your hair is experiencing negative effects from silicone in shampoo: the hair routine that once left you with shiny, healthy-looking locks is no longer working. If your shampoo and conditioner suddenly stop working like they used to, you may have a buildup of silicone on your hair.

Unlike other ingredients considered “bad” for hair, silicones aren’t harmful to your health. However, buildup from silicones on the scalp can cause an itchy rash. Silicones are also comedogenic, which means they clog the pores. If you are prone to acne, silicone in shampoo could make your breakouts worse.

Hint: if you are experiencing a dry, itchy scalp due to silicone in shampoo, try Scalp Follicle Treatment & Volumizer. This spearmint-infused formula provides soothing relief for irritated scalps. Plus, it gives hair instant volume and may even promote healthy hair growth!

There’s another reason why you should choose a silicone-free shampoo: silicones are bad for the environment. Since the bad silicones for hair don’t break down easily in water, that means that they are non-biodegradable. When you wash your hair, silicones rinse down the drain. Eventually, these silicones accumulate in the water supply and cause pollution.

So what about sulfates? Bad silicones for hair and sulfates are designed to work together since sulfates’ abrasive properties wash away silicone buildup. For example, a shampoo and conditioner duo may contain silicones in the conditioner to improve the shine and manageability of hair. To wash away the buildup for silicones, the shampoo may contain harsh sulfates. Over time, washing and conditioning hair with sulfates and silicones can lead to dry, brittle hair that’s prone to breakage. For healthier hair, opt for sulfate and silicone-free shampoo and conditioner.

What Are Bad Silicones for Hair?

Not all types of silicone are bad silicones. Silicones are stable, which means they do not degrade when exposed to heat or UV light. This means that they are helpful in products that are used to protect hair against heat styling tools or direct sunlight.

However, if you are using silicone hair products regularly, you’ll also want to use a clarifying shampoo without silicone to remove build-up. Alternatively, you can use silicone-free styling products like Hair Defence & Hydration Mist or Sea Mineral Wave Spray to prevent build-up from occurring in the first place.

Where you don’t want silicone is in your moisturising products. As we mentioned before, silicone cannot penetrate the hair. Thus, it does nothing to hydrate parched strands. That’s why it’s important to choose a silicone-free shampoo and conditioner, especially if you have dry, damaged, or thinning hair.

Not all types of silicone in shampoo are created equal. There are two main types of silicone in shampoo: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Water-Soluble Silicones

Using regular shampoo and water, water-soluble silicone in shampoo and other products can easily be rinsed out of the hair. Sometimes these silicones are referred to as “breathable”. They provide the shine and conditioning effect of silicones without the buildup as they easily and simply can be rinsed out with water. Some types of water-soluble silicone in shampoo include:

  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
  • PEG-8 Dimethicone
  • PEG-12 Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone PEG-8 Succinate
  • Amodimethicone (when the ingredients Trideceth-12 og Cetrimonium Chloride are present within the same formula)

Fat-Soluble Silicones

Fat-soluble silicone in shampoo is difficult to remove from the hair and scalp and may require a sulfate shampoo or a clarifying scalp scrub like Hair & Scalp Detox Scrub (silicone and sulfate-free). Some ingredient names to look out for include:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Amodimethicone (when the ingredients Tricedeth-12 and Centrimonium Chloride are not present within the same formula)
  • Phenyl Trimethicone
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone

For healthier hair, make sure to thoroughly inspect the ingredients list of your shampoo bottle for fat-soluble AKA “bad” silicones.

HairLust - Hair & Scalp Detox ScrubHairLust - Hair & Scalp Detox Scrub

Hair & Scalp Detox Scrub

Refreshing, sulphate-free shampoo scalp scrub for dry, itchy or oily scalp.


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