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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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38 Comments on "The Natural’s Guide to Silicones"

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[…] Sil­i­cones – arti­fi­cial oils (dime­thicone) often used in hair care prod­ucts that pre­vent mois­ture from going into or out of your hair. There are new­er ones (amodime­thicone) that are water sol­uble. (read more) […]

tina

My hair behave bet­ter with sil­i­cones than with­out. I have fine, high poros­i­ty hair so it’s hard­er to keep it mois­ture in. So the sil­i­cones come in handy because it keeps all the mois­ture in.

AJJ

What type of sham­poo do you use to pre­vent build-up?

trackback
[…] And some­times, there are things that nat­u­ral oils, but­ters, and extracts can’t do. Case and point: heat pro­tec­tion. If you’re seri­ous about pre­serv­ing your curls, coils, and kinks, you’ve like­ly invest­ed in a heat pro­tect­ing spray or serum of some sort. Even more like­ly, that spray con­tains sil­i­cones. Why? Because cones sim­ply put, are bet­ter at delay­ing or mit­i­gat­ing the trans­fer of heat from combs and irons to hair. Not say­ing that oils can’t do this, but just that sil­i­cones are bet­ter at it, and heat pro­tec­tants tend to be for­mu­lat­ed to with­stand direct heat up to speci­fic tem­per­a­tures.… Read more »
LaNeshe

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.

Marcia

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?

Anike
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… Read more »
imani
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… Read more »
D.K.
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… Read more »
JENNID

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.

Zanjabil

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 :)

Dananana

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!

Jessica

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your degree!

Dananana

Thank you! :)

AC

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.

LBell
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… Read more »
Dallas

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!

Tisha

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!!

TheActiveSpirit

+1 for Aussie Moist. Cheap & effec­tive.

wds

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

Antrelise

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.

G

The two You Tubers you men­tion, owe most of their “beau­ti­ful” hair (your words) to GENETICS!!

eve-audrey

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

Ummm

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.

hmm

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.

eve-audrey

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

eve-audrey

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.

Antrelise
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… Read more »
clewis
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… Read more »
Antrelise
@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… Read more »
G

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!!

Antrelise

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.

clewis
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… Read more »
clewis

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.

Jessica

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

G

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

msboogee

I just do What I want the­se restric­tions make my head hurt

Jessica
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… Read more »
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