The Natural’s Guide to Silicones

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Lorraine Massey’s book, ‘Curly Girl’ was a catapult for naturals to reject silicones. Silicones were blamed for pretty much everything from buildup, excess shedding, breakage and dryness. Several years down the line, naturals discovered that Lorraine’s products did actually contain silicones. Was this hypocrisy? In my view, it was not. At the time of the writing of the book, Lorraine was in effect referring to the silicone serums that many naturals were using to style their hair daily. Years after writing the book, silicones had been redeveloped and in fact the silicone included in the Deva products is quite different from that in styling serums. Here is the updated science on silicones:

1. What is a Silicone?
Silicones are essentially artificial oils. They therefore behave as oils do, meaning they can attach to hair and to some extent prevent moisture entry and loss from hair. Do not be alarmed, all oils including castor oil, coconut oil, olive oil etc behave in this way. However, none of these oils can ever fully block water exit or entry – otherwise your hair would never ever get wet.

2. What makes silicones different from natural oils?
The old generation of silicones such as dimethicone tend to form a firmly attached coating on hair with a few gaps. Natural oils like coconut oil meanwhile can penetrate a little and do not tend to latch on to the surface so strongly which is why they transfer easily to your hand or to your pillow. The strong coating of dimethicone means it is better at sealing hair and to some extent blocking moisture entry. It also means that the silicone is much harder to remove from hair as it sticks well to the surface.

3. What are the new silicones?
The ‘new’ class of silicones are real game changers because they are water-soluble. A very common ingredient is amodimethicone (a modified version of dimethicone). The addition of the ‘amo’ or amino group to the dimethicone makes it able to be washed off easily with just water

4. So should I avoid the old dimethicone and go for the new amodimethicone
Actually no, there are different reasons for using both the old and new silicones. In summary:

- Heat protection: Dimethicone serums are really excellent if you are heat styling. They offer good heat protection during the heat application and also humidity protection to maintain a heat styled look for longer. For daily styling however, a dimethicone serum may not be the best product.

-Hair conditioners and Leave ins: Amodimethicone or any other water-soluble silicone is usually preferred in conditioners. This is because the silicone acts as a conditioning oil which can be washed off to a large extent which will leave hair with less chance of build up when subsequent products e.g gels or natural oils are layered on.

-Shampoo: Any silicone in shampoo is much better than a shampoo that is totally oil free. Do note that some shampoos will not have silicones but may instead contain an oil such as jojoba instead, these are equally fine. Shampoos which have some oil (silicone included) in them will tend to be gentler on the scalp and hair. Oils actually reduce the cleansing power of shampoos but most naturals do not really aim for complete removal of oil anyway.

Ladies, what have you believed about silicones in the past? Does this article clear up misconceptions you might have had? How do you approach silicones now?

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The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

 

35 thoughts on “The Natural’s Guide to Silicones

    • I agree msboogee! “all of these big words” LOL- it is just too much for me to be reading and diciphering labels what to use, what not to use. I am not an “all natural” natural, so i just use what makes my hair feel good. I wash when i need it and i use what gives me the best results and i suspect there are more than a couple of -cones in my products. I tried the all natural route and the no cones and it just didnt work for me and it stressed me out. I’ll be damned if i am more stressed with my natural hair than with a relaxer!

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  1. After 20 months of transition, now Im finally all natural, silicones are truly a naturals best friend! They prevent knots, dryness and add shines!

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  2. I don’t know about anybody else but my hair loves some siliconed. I can’t keep up with all these “natural rules” I do what I want and what works for my hair. As long as its healthy, I’m good. I’m not to concerned with length either.

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    • I have just gotten to the point where i am not so concerned with length and curl definition and it is so liberating!

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  3. When I first started learning about the curly girl method, the silicone debate really confused me. But since the two you tubers that I admired most (mahoganycurls and naptural85) didn’t use silicones I decided that I wouldn’t either. I mean their hair was beautiful so they had to be doing something right!! I must admit that my hair has NEVER looked or felt better…and it’s really maintaining moisture(it took about 6 weeks to build my moisture balance). For me, I try to avoid as many man made/artificial ingredients as possible and my hair is thriving.

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      • That’s unfortunate that you feel that way G. People compliment my hair and I am more than happy to share. But unfortunately, they stop me mid explanation stating…”you just got good hair”. That bothers me so much!! I can honestly say my hair is “beautiful” because I am hardcore with my regime. My hair did NOT look like this before. It wasn’t until I started watching their you tube channels that I understood what it took. When I say beautiful hair, I’m referring to the health of the hair. Genetics is just another way of saying “good” hair, I thought we decided that we were doing away with that term?

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        • Genetics does NOT mean “good hair” to me! I dont care what products OR techniques folks use or dont use their is certain things about your hair you cant change….because its who you are GENETICS!!

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          • I agree having healthy hair not includes healthy hair practices but it also includes genetics. For somebody to say that they’re hair healthy only because of hair practices is foolish. How do you explain ppl who do nothing to their hair but their hair is long and healthy. How you explain ppl who do all the right things but their hair won’t grow. I use good hair practices but my hair still breaks. I have fine, thin hair like my mother. And no matter what I do, that won’t change. I do all “fine haired natural” aprroved techniques but still have a lot of breakage. And before somebody say maybe its your diet, my diet is just fine and yes I take vitamins

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          • Yes, there are some people who hair will always retain length and probably there are some people who hair will always be prone to breakage. But I still believe that the vast majority of us can have healthy hair if we take good care of it. Nobody says that it will change the texture of the hair, but it can change the quality of it.

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        • Yes but to dismiss G when she said genetics plays a huge part in healthy hair, I think is foolish. Healthy hair includes many things including good hair practices, genetics, environment, diet… I feel like when ppl make it seem like that the only or majority reason why their hair is long and healthy is because of “good hair practices ” then you have ppl who don’t know no better who will use the same practices and then wonder why their hair is not healthy. They are not realizing that person genetics plays a part. I can do all hair regimines in the world and I will still have fine/thin hair. Which inturn make my hair prone to breakage. Most the women on my mother sides have fine hair/high density

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          • @clewis Not dismissing G. I have very fine/low density hair also and speaking for myself, my haircare practices have made a difference. No my hair isn’t thicker, but it is in tip top shape now and it doesn’t break. I think the biggest difference is the moisture my hair now retains. Actually, the thing that saves my thin hair is all the humidity(the same humdity that i use to hate) in south Florida!! :) it makes my hair look 3x thicker (and bc my hair doesn’t dry out like it use to….it doesn’t get dry and frizzy anymore). So that’s why I feel so strongly about haircare. I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m just happy I kept trying until I found something that worked for me. So I wish you luck on your hair journey. Don’t give up!!

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      • i swear… i just watched the “draw my life” video from naptural85 and she stated that when she was relaxed she could never imagine herself natural and look at her now… i’m sure she owes the health of her hair to the care she gives to it. people really need to stop throwing the word genetics on everything

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        • Nor can we ignore the fact that certain youtubers popularity lies in the hair type they possess and it’s ability to show and retain length or the curls it has.

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          • nor can we ignore that many women report that their hair at some point in their lives is longer than it has ever been because they finally figured out how to take care of it. genetics play a role for sure but if you have poor hair care practices you’ll never see the true potential of your hair that was my point. but let’s say everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
            ps: lenght is lenght 10 inches of hair will be ten inches of hair whether you’re 3B or 4C we were talking about the ability to grow your hair.

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          • by the way maptural85 constantly streches her hair that’s why you see the lenght of it. she stated that she was a type 4 we’ve seen many other icons with her hair type on this site whose hair doesn’t “show” its lenght when unstreched

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          • Wait wasn’t her hair always long tho? Inching close to bsl. So it goes back to genetics, same w/ Haircrush too. Just because its longER than when they had perms doesn’t change the fact that with it, it was long.

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  4. this article was really informative. it’s great learning how these ingredients actually work instead of some of the myths that float around.

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  5. When I first went natural, I did not know about “cones”. Then, I found out about them and avoided them like the plague for a full year. Now, I just don’t give a danm and will use whatever works!! Aussie Moist FTW!!

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  6. I find myself getting barraged with too much information, especially when it comes to silicones. I’m careful with them and clarify more often when I use them, or I adjust when my hair just doesn’t look or feel right. Basically, I listen to my hair!

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  7. If I’m actively trying to define my natural coil pattern, I will use a co-wash conditioner with cones (HE HH) along with, occasionally, a leave-in with cones (GF Sleek and Shine). Otherwise I tend not to use them. I will say that I tried Proclaim’s argan oil treatment, which is basically a silicone serum, on damp hair and it left my hair feeling surprisingly smooth.

    As for those who are frustrated by “the rules”: These are and have always been GUIDELINES. The only rules that count are those that work for you and YOUR hair. Unfortunately we still aren’t at that point where you can walk into a salon and have someone walk you through the process of understanding your own hair so you’re going to have to experiment to find out what works for you. There’s no way around it!

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  8. My hair hates cones, I wish it didn’t but it does.. dries my hair out terribly and leaves a noticeable film on it, yuck.

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  9. I generally avoid ‘cones like the plague because using them too frequently dries my hair out. That being said, my head is currently slathered with Chi Silk Infusion because I want to wear my hair out in a curly fro tomorrow for graduation (I finished my Bachelor’s degree, yay!), and it’s supposed to rain all weekend. I do what I want!

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  10. I never actively avoided ‘ cones, I just don’t use serums, because they don’t work for my hair. But I do tend to gravitate to products with more natural ingredients. But it’s not a rule. Informative article :)

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  11. Its pretty scary that some of you don’t read labels. Knowledge is power ladies! Please read labels for ANYTHING you put in and on your body. Never blindly trust a manufacter. I use to avoid cones and stillbdo for the most part. That artificial slip feeling sometimes feels weird on my hair. I’m not going out of my way to avoidvsilicone but if I read an ingrediant list of a product that is cone heavy I tend to avoid it.

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  12. I tend to avoid all artificial ingredients as much as I can. If black women had beautifully tended, amazing hair in the past (without all these manufactured products barraging them), then why can’t I have the same using natural ingredients? As if our genetics have changed so much we need fillers to take care of ourselves.

    As if! These things make us worse by camouflaging the problems, they don’t contribute to TRUE healthy hair. I have normal strands, thick density and would be categorized as a 3C-4A, and my hair matts up like a shag rug if I don’t use natural ingredients when I take care care of it (Products frequently used are Shea Moisture, shea butter and homemade 100% pure oils). Diet is really important too. But all in all, even if things are being engineered differently, why should they be made at all if the earth provides for us so well already?

    vertmoot.blogspot.com

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  13. I agree.as a new natural researching healthy hair habits I read a lot that villianized silicones so I did away with all my cone products. Skip ahead a year…I learned that there r some water soluble ones, that cones r great heat protectants as an altern to grapeseed oil & that cones for ME were a great smoother.I experienced less tangles so cones r back in my hair product rotation. I just know to do a acv rinse when I’ve been using cones.I do work harder to cleanse it out but for daily haircare I like the results.to each her own I say!

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  14. I stopped using silicones about a year ago and my hair is now thriving! I think it all depends on what your hair needs are. For example, I have low porosity hair. Low porosity hair is “great” for keeping moisture in but it’s also hard to get moisture in. So my thoughts are that, for me personally, silicones aren’t the way to go because they would just give me more trouble trying to bring in moisture since they coat the strand so much. I think it’s silly to tell other naturals what they should use because the whole point of being natural is embracing YOURSELF and doing what works for YOU. Most likely, from what I’ve gathered, a person with high porosity hair would probably benefit for silicones a little bit more. But hey, I’m sure there are plenty of naturals with high porosity hair that hate silicones as much as I do and plenty of naturals with low porosity hair that can’t live without silicones and I’m sure their hair is just fine.

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  15. I used to avoid silicones too in the past, but I do incorporate them when using heat (because they are great heat protectants) & when rollersetting, I use a serum. My question is how often are you supposed to clarify with them? Should you use a sulfate shampoo weekly if you use silicones weekly? How long does it take for product buildup?

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  16. I’m of the “no cones” crowd. Primarily because I don’t understand paying more for a product with artificial ingredients (that cost companies less to make) than a product with natural ingredients.

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  17. Pingback: Does Having Natural Hair Mean Using All-Natural Products? | Black Girl with Long Hair

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