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What are Silicones and are they Good for Your Hair?

• Sep 11, 2012


There are a lot of great hair products available to help us achieve the perfect ‘do. However, it does make you wonder if you can put too much stuff on your hair? Do certain ingredients build up over time? Silicone is a very commonly used hair care ingredient. so lets take a closer look at how it works.

How do silicones work?

While often maligned, silicones are actually one of the most effective ingredients in both hair and skin care products. Silicones work by covering hair with a thin hydrophobic (waterproof) coating. This coating serves several purposes:

  • Reduces the porosity of the hair, which makes it less likely to absorb humidity (Which is why it’s great for smoothing and straightening!)
  • Reduces moisture loss from the inside of the hair (Great for conditioning.)
  • Lubricates the surface of the hair so it feel smoother and combs easier (Makes your hair feel slippery and less tangled.)
Will silicone build up on your hair?

It really depends on the type of silicone. There are several different silicones used in hair care that exhibit different properties.

  • Cyclomethicone is one of the most commonly used silicones in hair care. It’s a volatile silicone, which means it evaporates and won’t build up on your hair. It gives a silky, smooth feel and leaves the hair with incredible slip when wet and is found in both leave-on and rinse-off products.
  • Dimethicone Copolyol is a water-soluble, lightweight silicone that provides very little buildup. It is often used in conditioning shampoos.
  • Amodimethicone (or silicones that have “amo”, “amine” or “amino” in their name) is a different kind of silicone that is chemically modified to stick to your hair better. That means it conditions well but it can also be more challenging to remove. Amodimethicone is commonly used in leave-in conditioners.
  • Dimethicone is sometimes referred to as a silicone oil. Dimethicone coats hair, providing great shine and conditioning to the hair. However, because it’s so water insoluble, it can be difficult to remove.  Additionally, this heavy coating is more likely to attract dirt and pollutants from the air, making the hair feel weighed down.  Dimethicone is often found in serums and other leave-on products.
How can I deal with buildup?

Wash your hair! Any decent shampoo will wash away silicone. However, if you are a heavy user or products containing silicone (particularly those with dimethicone), you may have to lather, rinse and repeat. If you want the benefits of silicone without the weight, look for lightweight silicones, as mentioned above, like cyclomethicone and dimethicone copolyol. These ingredients won’t build up but still give you some conditioning and shine benefits.

Bottom Line

I personally find the benefits of silicones to far outweigh any negatives. Silicones are very effective conditioners, provide great shine and can help smooth and straighten hair. If you are concerned about buildup and weigh down, be sure to look at the label to make sure you are using lightweight silicones.

Ladies, do you avoid silicones? Why or why not?

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37 Comments on "What are Silicones and are they Good for Your Hair?"

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I tried out Herbal Essences Hello Hydration. It makes my scalp itch like crazy, my hair dried very dry and it did build up. Later I clarified and switched back to natural products. While HE products may be cheap, in the long run I’d rather get something that doesn’t irritate my scalp or build up quite so easily.


I had an itchy scalp with HE, also. Not just the HEHH, but all of them. I think it had more to do with the dyes and fragrances in the product, rather than the actual silicones.


I hate HE HH, too! In fact, every HE product I have tried created build-up on my hair. Like Zanthe, I experienced itchy scalp, while using products by HE. I don’t get all the hype about this product line at all. I think Aussie Moist is far superior to HE and I never had a bad experience with that product line.


Because of the many positive reviews on HEHH, i bought it and was really looking forward to trying it. It felt as if I had washed my hair with wax. Needless to say, I immediately got rid of it. Never had a product do that before. I had the time of my life trying to lift that product off my hair.


Hello Hydration is excellent as a shave cream. Legs and bikini area as smooth as-all-get-out:)


HAHA! Thought I was the only one who tried that 😛

I wish this had been posted sooner! I stopped using silicones for about 4 months and boy did my hair pay dearly for it! I did some research, and most of what I read indicated that silicones should be avoided. Well anyway, my hair started shedding alot, and was super tangled and difficlut to get thru. Anyone considering an “all natural” line of products without silicone may want to re-think that! I’ve reintroduced it back into my hair routine and my hair is doing better already. I do stay away from parabens, but silicone will always be my friend! I… Read more »

totally agree. Happened to me also


I have experienced the same. HHHE is here to stay.Almost everything else in my regimen is all natural. I will continue to switch it up.

Bridget J.

Definitely agree. My hair needs silicones.


Co-sign…HE HH is the closest thing I have to a HG product and it sure does have a cone in it. When I was experimenting with WNGs a couple of years back I found that cones gave me slip and helped with definition. For MY hair, cones are here to stay…


Happened to me also, even after using a protein treatment, although my shedding wasn’t too crazy and I didn’t have much problems combing. It just wasn’t as well maintained as when I used silicone’s, so now I’m doing a ‘silicone treatment’ every every weeks by just dc’ing using a product with some ‘cones in it. So far I can see a total difference, but my hair still doesn’t like them in leave ins. Just have to be careful with silicone build up!


*few weeks


I use themand it does not bother my hair at all. I am also curly girl and they seem to work better for ME then non silicone conditioners. I do cowash with As I Am coconut cowash and that dont have any but the herbal essence I use and the Garnier does.
I just straightened my hair using cones also. Love it


I can’t wait to straighten mine, haven’t done it since my last relaxer in March’11! I’m giving it 2 more months to see if I can get past SL.


And your hair looks great, it looks very healthy and bouncy !


Great article. Thanks for the explanation of the various cones. This summary saved me a google search. I’ve been using the Organix line and now understand that it has a heavy cone in it.

Tiff Dizzle
I love my CONES… and I have read on a lot of natural hair blogs that you shouldnt use them, but I know my hair has never had a issue before using them so I’ve never taken them out of my hair regimen… ALL these kinks and curls in my head I couldnt imagine washing my hair with out them lol… It makes me think, where people come up with these “facts” Cus lets face it most of use had beautiful LONG NATURAL hair as children when our parents were slapping Blue Magic and Stinky Glovers Mane Sulfer shampoo in… Read more »

i’m like you. i never questioned taking them out before.


I am pretty indifferent to cones unless the top three ingredients in a product involve two different types of them.

Tiffany W

I’ve used the Silicon Mix Bambu hair treatment as a deep conditoner for over six months now and haven’t seen a problem. Of course that may depend based on hair type, density, etc. I’m 3b, ‚c, and 4 a. It provides lots of slip (detangling is a breeze), sheen, and softness.


Thanks for clearing this up! I’ve always been confused about this.


My hair likes the cones. After watching youtuber Longhairdontcare2011 who emphasizes technique over product,and has a beautiful head of hair to show for it, I decided that as long as my hair responded well to what I was doing, there was no need to make my regime too complicated. I can appreciate the science behind it though. Always a good read.


My hair doesn’t like silicones, I’ve tried that…and it’s just a nogo plus build up isn’t a good look. Silicones may be good for some but my hair is really picky, my mom never used grease on it and it doesn’t like grease, my mom didn’t use oil when I was younger and it doesn’t like oil but it LOVES creams…funny how hair works.


Same here. I use cones when straightening, but cones in conditioners didn’t work for me. Besides that, I have had no problems finding silicon-free conditioners, gels, and shampoos that give me great slip and work fantastically for me.

Moral of this article? Don’t rush to use or dump a product/ingredient because someone else says so. Test and compare before making a decision.


Silicones do not work for me, I have used them for 35+ years on my hair and every since used natural oils like emu and silicone free or products with less silicones my hair is so much healthier.
Its a Trickster ingredient, it tricks you into think your hair like it when it reality after it washes off, you hair is left drier, and more damaged than before. Don’t fall for this Marketing Trick. Common sense tells you that natural is better than a Silicone,s its in the same family and bathroom sealant. lol


My hair hates silicone products. They will literally turn my hair into a weak, tangled mess. I wasn’t sure at first, but after using several silicone based products and all with the same result: dry, tangles and itchy hair. I quickly switched to Nubian Heritage and Shea Moisture products for my hair. I’m too scared to waste money on Cantu since I’ve heard their products have silicone. But I love the fact that silicone works for some and not for others. It shows hair diversity and character. Haha.


No, I do not avoid the use of silicones. I am in transition, and I use what works for my hair, regardless of ingredients.

Johnnie McCullough

What kind of Grease do I need to use that carries silica


Cones for me only when i straighten my hair,otherwise my hair can breathe and happily live without them. 🙂

It’s good to know what ingredients do and how your hair reacts then you can make a choice from them.

My favorite co-wash has petrolatum and i tried to get rid of it but my hair was missing it so i bought it back. 🙂

Blanket condemnation of certain ingredients don’t work as each head of hair has different needs.

I tried to stay away from silicones once I truly began to educate myself on natural hair (when I began my own transition almost two years ago). After trying a number of products that would work for me and my two girls, of which one has a different grade of hair than the other, I finally had to come back to our original entry point to the natural hair industry, Carol’s Daughter. I know a number of people, including me, have an issue with the direction that her company is taking. Yet, my older daughter has 3B/3C hair that tangles… Read more »

I avoid silicones because I prefer natural products for hair, skin, body, etc.

Some natural sources of slip, smoothness and moisture that work for my hair are Lily of the Desert aloe vera gel, castor oil and coconut oil. These ingredients me detangle my kinky, coily hair with ease without silicones.

In the future, I want to look into herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow root for slip in detangling.

I have been natural since March 2012. When I went natural, I went purely natural. NO Cones!! But as my hair began to grow out, my detangling process became a nightmare! I have but super duper thick and super super curly/coily course hair! The top of my hair is easy to detangle, it is more 3C but every where else is more 4a,so it is a challenge! I used a cone conditioner last week for the first time since March, and let me tell you„ my detangling was a breeze! I had began to LOATHE washing my hair! I don’t… Read more »

[…] several minutes then I can style my hair. I wouldn’t do this method with conditioners that have silicones, but for conditioners that are natural I find that this is a great short cut deep conditioning […]


[…] several minutes then I can style my hair. I wouldn’t do this method with conditioners that havesilicones, but for conditioners that are natural I find that this is a great short cut deep conditioning […]


I don’t use them — the “lighter” ones don’t do enough good, and the heavier ones weigh my hair down too much. I’ve found that ditching shampoo altogether & deep conditioning once a week (evoo/egg, kefir/evoo, etc) with water only washes in between works much better for my hair — and for my skin & the rest of my body, too. 🙂

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