Trends may come and go, but healthy, strong hair is always in style. With so many products and ingredients on the market, it can often feel difficult to narrow down what actually works, and furthermore what works for your targeted issues. Silica, for example, has created quite the buzz as of late with its potential to strengthen hair. Experts say more research is to be done, but note that this ingredient offers great promise for those with brittle, thin, or damaged hair (if you are guilty of using hot tools, this one's for you.)
We spoke to two trichologists—Gretchen Friese and Dominic Burg—to get the lowdown on silica.
Meet the Expert
- Type of ingredient: Strengthener
- Main benefits: Silica helps strengthen hair, delivers essential nutrients, and can help maintain shine.
- Who should use it: In general, anyone can benefit from silica, but Friese notes that may be especially beneficial to those with fine hair, as their hair can typically break more easily.
- How often can you use it: Silica can typically be used daily, but it is recommended that you consult a doctor for proper dosing, as silica is most effective when taken orally.
- Works well with: Friese notes that when taken with biotin, the combination may promote hair growth.
- Don’t use with: Silica can typically be used with any other ingredient.
Benefits of Silica for Hair
The benefits of silica for hair are still being researched, but, as mentioned, experts believe it can help strengthen hair. "[Silica] has been known to deliver essential nutrients to your scalp and hair follicles, therefore it may strengthen hair and help prevent hair breakage," Friese says. "It may [also] help prevent hair loss and helps maintain shine in the hair."
Studies suggest that a higher silicone content in the hair results in a lower rate of hair loss and increased brightness. While research is still being done to evaluate the safety and efficiency of using silica for health benefits, information is trending towards hair and skin improvement.
Dr. Burg adds that the benefits of silica can differ pending the topical use of the ingredient vs. ingesting. "As an ingredients in products, silica is quite often used as a flow agent and anti-caking agent, which means it makes your dry shampoo spray well, consistently and prevents nozzle clogging," he says. "It also has some absorbent qualities, which means it will help with the oil absorbing action of the dry shampoo. In other products it is used to stabilize emulsions and as a humectant—i.e., it helps the formulations stay together and can also help moisturize."
He goes on to say that the ingestible form of the ingredient is different from the topical. "The version most used is not exactly silica but 'choline stabilized orthosilicic acid,' a.k.a. soluble silica," he says. "The science isn’t fully developed with this ingredient, and there is not an advanced level of evidence, but one study has shown that soluble silica supplementation decreased the brittleness of the hair (improved strength). Similar studies have shown that soluble silica supplementation improves collagen formation in skin and bone."
Hair Type Considerations
While silica can generally be beneficial to any hair type, those with damaged, broken, or thin hair may find the ingredient most beneficial. "People with fine hair will most likely see the most results, because fine hair has a tendency to break more easily and the silica can help strengthen it," says Friese. "Silica can help with thinning hair issues because it can increase blood circulation at the scalp and strengthen the hair strand."
Dr. Burg concurs, "[Silica helps with] brittle hair. A study has shown decreased brittleness in hair of women taking oral choline stabilized orthosilicic acid."
How to Use Silica for Hair
So, how exactly does one use silica for hair? For starters, you can purchase hair products containing silica. The ingredient can be found in shampoos and conditioners, as well as masks and other topical treatments. However, researchers are still trying to scale just how effective products with silica actually are. Friese says that "there haven’t been many studies on the efficiency of topical silica and you may or may not get any results after using silicon-rich hair products."
Instead, taking vitamins and supplements are typically recommended as a more effective way to intake silica into your system. "Most people don’t get enough silica in their diet because it gets flushed out by the kidneys," Friese continues. "So taking vitamins and/or supplements is one of the best ways your body can retain silica. Silica supplements most commonly come from bamboo or the horsetail plant extract."
Friese also notes another method of consumption: Drinking tea made from the dried herbs. In terms of DIY at-home treatments, Friese shares, "to use as a treatment on the hair you can steep horsetail in hot water, then add it to your shampoo. But there isn’t much evidence to prove this will actually do anything."
Friese recommends Bosley MD's healthy hair growth supplements. "These contain horsetail extract which is a great source of silica," she notes.
Dr. Burg recommends évolis PROFESSIONAL's dry shampoo as a good source of silica, noting the ingredient is part of its premium formulation.
Is silica toxic?
Yes and no. Inhaled crystalline silica can have toxic effects on human health, but researchers are uncovering benefits to human health from other forms of silica and silica as an ingredient in both topical and ingested products.
Are silica and biotin the same?
No, silica and biotin are not the same. Both silica and biotin do however have benefits for hair. Silica can help prevent hair shedding, and biotin can help with hair growth.
How can I get silica naturally?
Silica can be found naturally in the foods we eat daily. Foods like leafy greens, brown rice, and bananas are all high in silica.
It's safe to say the experts agree that while there is still more research to be done on just how beneficial silica is, it's most certainly worth trying if you are experiencing dry, damaged, or brittle hair and are looking to strengthen and bring some life back into your strands.
Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91(3):331-335. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20163986
Martin KR. The chemistry of silica and its potential health benefits. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007;11(2):94-97.
Glynis A. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(11):28-34.