Dimethicone: you’ve seen it in your hair conditioner, skin serum, and even your baby’s diaper cream. While it’s considered a safe ingredient, there are some caveats when using it in your skin care regimen.
“Safe” ingredients don’t always equate to “gentle” or “natural” – and aren’t a guarantee that they’ll cooperate with your skin. This post will cover the following questions: what is dimethicone, how does it negatively affect your skin, and what’s the alternative?
What is Dimethicone, and What Are Its Benefits?
Dimethicone is a synthetic silicon-based polymer, which is a molecule formed of repeating monomers. It is typically used as an anti-foaming agent, skin protectant, and hair conditioning agent, and is by far the most widely used silicone in beauty and skin care.
Chemists love dimethicone because it gives products a smooth, cohesive texture that makes products easier to spread on your skin. Additionally, it’s an efficient moisturizer because it works by retaining water in the skin barrier by forming a barrier of its own. Dimethicone helps prevent TEWL, trans-epidermal water loss, which occurs when outside elements like low humidity suck essential hydration from the skin.
Makeup formulations often contain dimethicone, to give products a silky, mattifying finish. This is why you’ll often find dimethicone in face primers and liquid foundations designed to blur pores and stamp out shine.
How Dimethicone Can Negatively Affect the Skin
So you might be wondering: is dimethicone safe? In short, yes. Dimethicone has undergone heavy research to be declared a safe product, and is even an FDA-approved food additive.
The fact that dimethicone is ‘safe’ means that it’s non-toxic to the body. While this is certainly an important feature for skin care, it doesn’t necessarily mean that dimethicone is an entirely efficient (or gentle) ingredient.
For example: when a product containing dimethicone is applied, it traps everything underneath. Sure, it will lock in moisture – along with pore-clogging bacteria, sweat, sebum, and dead skin cells.
The thick, high-coverage characteristic of dimethicone also makes for a lack of breathability over the skin. For sensitive or allergy-prone skin types, this can trigger issues like breakouts and blackheads or allergic reactions.
For more sensitive or acne-prone skin, the occlusive, suffocating nature of dimethicone can disrupt important natural functions. This ingredient may make it more difficult for skin to regulate temperature, slough away dead skin, and produce healthy levels of lipids.
To add insult to injury, dimethicone is non-biodegradable – which means it’s bad news for the environment. Dimethicone-filled products could sit in landfills or be flushed into bodies of water, where they can disrupt natural ecosystems.
Natural Alternatives to Dimethicone
Sure, dimethicone has its uses – but if you’re looking to avoid its side effects, opt for a natural alternative instead!
Shea butter is a wonderful ingredient for skin care, because it’s a natural emollient with a creamy texture. Shea butter is known for its fatty acid content, which makes it an extremely hydrating skin care ingredient. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe the skin, fight acne, and reduce the appearance of redness. Shea butter is also known to restore the skin’s elasticity, meaning it can reduce the appearance of scar tissue and stretch marks.
Seaweed continues to make a name for itself as a superfood and skin care ingredient. This modest ocean weed is renowned as an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Additionally, seaweed is extremely hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and even offers anti-aging benefits – did we mention that it can smooth skin’s texture and hide pores, too?
Jojoba oil is an especially gentle carrier oil, because it’s hypo-allergenic and non comedogenic. Its low melting point leaves it almost always in a liquid form, giving products a texture similar to dimethicone. Jojoba oil helps fight bacteria and soothes sunburn, making it an especially healing ingredient.
We adore the gentle, soothing properties of jojoba oil so much so that it’s one of the main ingredients in our Restorative Facial Oil. This dimethicone-free oil nourishes tired, stressed out skin while working to fight wrinkles and reduce fine lines.
The bottom line: dimethicone is certainly a safe product to use in skin care. However, it’s not the most suitable ingredient for sensitive or acne-prone skin. Rather than using this synthetic silicone, try replacing it with a plant-based ingredient instead – they’re gentler on the skin, kinder to the environment, and just as effective.