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Dimethicone: How It Hurts the Environment & What to Use Instead

May 22, 2019

Dimethicone: How It Hurts the Environment & What to Use Instead

Written by Audrey Swanson. Medically reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson.


When choosing products for your family or for personal use, reading labels is always a smart move. Unfortunately, chemical names can be difficult to decipher, and it's not always possible to research ingredients when you're pressed for time, especially when shopping.

Some ingredients, although popular and FDA-approved, aren't natural or necessarily good for the environment. To help you learn more about specific ingredients that you may want to avoid, we'll be sharing ingredient-specific posts with you throughout the year, starting with this one sharing insight on dimethicone.

What is dimethicone?

If you've ever used makeup primer that had a silky or slippery feel, it probably had dimethicone (polydimethylsiloxane) in it. This silicone-based polymer or silicone oil makes skin and hair look and feel smooth by leaving a thin layer of product on the surface, as the molecules are too big for your skin and hair to absorb.

One of Puracy's expert medical consultants, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson, says, "Dimethicone is a large molecular weight polymer that does not interact with the stratum corneum, the top layer of the skin. It works by forming a film preventing the loss of water through the skin, thus keeping the skin moisturized. It also works as an emollient filling the spaces between cracks in the skin, making the surface more even."

Dr. Jackson's opinion is that dimethicone is a great chemically inert moisturizer for the skin.  However, because it is not biodegradable, it could be harmful to the environment.

Is dimethicone safe?

According to the FDA, as well as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), dimethicone is safe for use as a skin care ingredient. It calms irritation, minimizes redness, and protects the skin from further damage. We consulted with Dr. Jackson on this topic, and she agreed that with our current knowledge, dimethicone is indeed safe.

However, dimethicone is a man-made product and is not natural. And as we mentioned earlier, it is also not biodegradable. As a result, we do not include dimethicone in any of our product formulas at Puracy.

What is dimethicone used for?

Dimethicone is found in hundreds of personal care products, including diaper rash cream, moisturizer, hand lotion, and liquid foundation. It makes products go on seamlessly, and when used in makeup primer, it prevents foundation from oxidizing (i.e. changing color).

You may be surprised to learn how common this ingredient is. To see a list of everyday household products that contain dimethicone, check out this database from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Is dimethicone bad for skin?

When an ingredient remains on the skin's surface, it's natural to have questions regarding its effects. "Can dimethicone clog pores and lead to acne?" we wondered.

 

There is no evidence that dimethicone can cause acne, Dr. Jackson shares. It is fairly safe to use on the skin. However, dimethicone is not naturally derived, and there are many natural ingredients that perform similar functions.

Natural alternatives to emollients like dimethicone include extracted plant oils, such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, Shea butter, and cocoa butter. Puracy Organic Hand & Body Lotion is made of natural ingredients that soften and protect the skin, and that are also biodegradable and renewable. These include aloe Vera, sunflower oil, Shea butter, and jojoba oil.

Is dimethicone bad for hair?

Dimethicone is also popular in hair care products, including shampoo and conditioner. Because of the slick film it leaves behind, it coats the cuticle and makes detangling easier. It also makes hair look shiny.

But here again, there are natural, eco-friendly ingredients that perform similar cosmetic functions and benefits.

Switching to a dimethicone-free product, like Puracy Natural Shampoo, will safely moisturize your hair and promote natural bounce and shine with potent, plant-based ingredients, such as soapbark, black walnut leaf, and ginseng extracts. It also includes plant-derived ingredients such as Diheptyl Succinate (castor oil) and Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer (coconut and castor oil), which provide the slick, frictionless feeling without the use of silicone.

We recommend using our shampoo for a minimum of two weeks in order to see the true impact of our natural formula. Think of the first two weeks as a hair-cleansing period. After using our natural shampoo for this period of time, any excess chemicals built up on the hair follicles from synthetic-ingredient-laced shampoo will be removed.

Consider this recent customer testimonial:

"Last summer after trying Puracy shampoo on and off several times and not really getting the results I was hoping for, I learned that it can take about two weeks of using Puracy shampoo to get rid of the unnatural substances found in most shampoos. I really wanted to use a product that was good for me, so without telling anyone, I finally committed to the two weeks.

I was amazed at the difference I saw; it was like I pressed a reset button to get my hair to its natural state. It looked and felt healthy and had that nice bounce and wave to it that I hadn't seen in years. One day, my friends asked me what I'd done to my hair because 'it looked so great.' I smirked and told them about my Puracy shampoo two-week test.

Some seemed skeptical, but my friend Nicole purchased her shampoo and conditioner set on the spot. A couple weeks later, I met up with another friend and she told me she had purchased a set as well because Nicole has seen such great results.

My friends are now true believers and know that it takes a commitment, at first, to see the true results."

To learn more about how you can get your healthiest hair ever, check out our hair care tips.

Is dimethicone bad for the environment?

The short answer is yes — dimethicone may harm the environment.

Dimethicone is not natural; it's a hydrolyzed chemical. And since it cannot penetrate skin, it is essentially washed off with soap and water. Depending on the route that water takes, it can feed into aquatic environments and impact fish and plant life.

This article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information states, "The global capacity of siloxanes production in 2002 amounted to 2,000,000 tons, and currently it is more than 8,000,000 tons." Products that don't contain dimethicone or silicones, and instead use natural and biodegradable ingredients, do not contribute to that global impact.

Researchers are still exploring the full extent of this chemical's environmental effects, but when an ingredient this pervasive enters the soil or water, we're naturally concerned, and we want to avoid contributing to an already growing problem.

How to reduce your exposure to dimethicone

To avoid the potentially damaging effects that dimethicone might have on our ecosystem, start by reading labels carefully and looking for products that use biodegradable, renewable ingredients.

Whenever possible, choose products that are silicone- and dimethicone-free, like our sulfate-free natural shampoo and natural conditioner.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and we look forward to sharing more ingredient insights with you in the coming months. In doing so, our goal is to help you and your family live a healthier, more natural lifestyle — one that's free of harsh chemicals and potentially harmful artificial ingredients like dimethicone.