Is This Shampoo Ingredient Ruining Your Hair?

Updated 09/23/16

If you’ve ever tried a new shampoo and marveled at your sleek, shiny locks, only to be left with stringy strands and greasy build-up a few weeks later, there’s only one thing to blame: silicones. We have quite the love-hate relationship with this group of ingredients, and once you find out exactly what they do to your hair, you will to. Keep flipping to school yourself on silicones in your shampoo!

First things first—what exactly are silicones? They’re a group of ingredients (usually ending in “-cone”) that act like a raincoat for your hair and skin—products with silicones in them will lock out humidity and leave your hair and skin feeling slick and smooth.

Silicones and your hair, specifically, have a complicated relationship. On one hand, they give yours locks that addicting slippery-smooth feeling and keep them from poofing up at the first sign of moisture. On the other hand, these silkening products actually prevent other moisturizing ingredients from penetrating into your hair shaft, and, since most are not water-soluble, can lead to some pretty annoying build-up over time. If you’ve ever struggled with build-up at your roots and dry-looking ends, silicones could be to blame.

“Bad” silicones are the ones that are not water-soluble—meaning that no matter how much you rinse, they’ll stubbornly coat your locks and leave your roots feeling greasy. So how do you get them out of your hair? With a clarifying shampoo, like Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue Shampoo ($5), or a DIY hair rinse. “Fine, I’ll just keep using my silicone shampoo and make sure to use a clarifying shampoo every week,” you say. Not so fast—though clarifying shampoos will remove silicone buildup, most of them do so by using sulfates, which strip your strands of all buildup and excess product, but also a lot of their natural oils. You could follow up with a deep conditioner, but it might have silicones in it too—it’s a vicious cycle.

“Bad” silicones: dimethicone, cetyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, dimethiconol, stearyl dimethicone, cyclomethicone, amodimethicone, trimethylsilylamodimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane

There are a couple of “good” silicones out there—or rather, silicones that are water-soluble. These silicones won’t cause buildup, but can still coat your hair and keep moisturizing ingredients from penetrating. Look for these ingredients next time you buy a “smoothing” shampoo.

“Good” silicones: dimethicone copolyol, stearoxy dimethicone, behenoxy dimethicone

Our conclusion? Use shampoos with silicones sparingly. Though they’ll leave you with silky-smooth strands at first, this is one case where instant gratification might not always be a good thing.

Keep flipping for our favorite silicone-free shampoos!

Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Shampoo ($20)

Weleda Oat Replenishing Shampoo ($11)

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Conditioner ($24)

DevaCurl Low-Poo ($20)

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