The last 10 years of the cosmetics industry have been revolutionised by silicones: extraordinary synthetic materials.
What are they? Silicones are synthetic inorganic polymers whose chemical basis is silicon. They are available in various forms (liquids, emulsions, compounds, lubricants, resins, elastomers, plastics).
These substances possess a number of different properties: they are water-repellent, antistatic, resistant to high temperatures and ageing, and they are chemically inert.
Their versatility means they can be used in a range of sectors. For instance, they can be found in toys, insulation, prostheses, seals, food moulds, and so on. Silicones are also used by the cosmetics industry, because of the ability to enhance the performance of cosmetic formulations. They ensure a number of useful effects: they make the skin more silky to the touch, they facilitate the absorption of creams, and they increase the effectiveness of both chemical and physical sun filters. Thanks to these properties, they are used as ingredients in water-resistant sun creams, non-greasy face and body creams that give the skin a velvety feel, haircare products that give shine without weighing down the hair, foundation that can be spread evenly.
There are many different types of cosmetic silicones. These range from cyclic silicones, with ring-like structures, which are extremely non-greasy and evaporate in a short period of time (cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane), to those that have a medium degree of greasiness and do not evaporate (dimethicone and compounds), to those that are very greasy and heavy, such as dimethicone copolyol.
These substances have excellent properties for the cosmetic formulator, who considers that:
they are lightweight and do not create the same greasy feeling that plant-derived fats do;
their silky feel on the skin is unparalleled;
they are resistant to heat and oxidation, and do not provide a breeding ground for bacteria; they discourage the formation of froth, in other words, they prevent a white wake from forming when you spread on a cream; they do not cause allergies, not even in low percentages (although recent studies have been demonstrating quite the opposite); they do not penetrate into the skin; they are water-repellent; they enhance the performance of both chemical and physical sun filters.
So, why should we avoid using them?
When used in creams in place of plant-derived emollients, they have the defect of not penetrating or being in any way complexed by the skin, of not nourishing it at all. People who use silicon-based creams, convinced they are helping their skin, soon realise that instead it is becoming progressively more dehydrated.
Silicones are often used to mask poor formulations that are lacking in active ingredients, since they provide immediate gratification in the form of silky-feeling skin, but the cosmetic product in question will do no more than that.
When used on the hair, they give good aesthetic results the first few times they are used, but then the hair, weighed down by the silicones that are deposited on it and cannot be washed away, becomes limp and loses body.
It would appear that the lighter-weight silicones (the cyclic ones) are especially guilty of drying out the skin they are applied to and are particularly unsuitable for skin that is in need of hydration. For now, however, there are no studies on this subject, only the clinical evidence that has been collected by attentive dermatologists and the testimony collected from women who use these sorts of cosmetic products.
The hypothesis of sensitisation to silicones could be posited.
Lastly, from a perspective of eco-friendliness, silicones are not completely biodegradable. They end up in sewer systems as they are and then accumulate in the environment.
To summarise, they are acceptable at concentrations of up to about 2%, and their presence improves the performance of certain cosmetic formulations. However, in excessively high amounts (high up in the INCI listing), they are no longer skin-compatible and their satisfying cosmetic effect is deceptive.
Here are the names of the most common ones. Learn to recognise them and AVOID them!
others ending in “-one”.
others ending in “–siloxane”,
or ending in “–silanol”.
NATURAEQUA does not use silicones of any kind in its products
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