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?