Silicones in skin care: miracle cure or cheap trick?


A magician does not reveal his tricks. When it comes to silicone as a quick-change artist, you don't have to and shouldn't make a secret of it. Silicones in skin care - what happens when you use products containing silicone?

What is silicone?

The basic material of silicone is very finely ground silicon. To get from silicon to silicone, a number of highly complex chemical processes are necessary. In addition, large quantities of coal, natural gas and temperatures of up to 1,800° Celsius.

Silicones have excellent sealing properties and, in principle, work like Lego: You can build short-chain, long-chain or ring-shaped silicones and branch them together as you like. In addition, silicones can be wonderfully transformed into a certain aggregate state and thus influence a product:
How liquid or solid should the product be, for example, what are its gliding properties (i.e., how can it be spread) and how should light be refracted in makeup products?

In addition, silicone protects and stabilizes the UV filters in suntan lotion, makes it waterproof, and ensures that less sand sticks to the lotioned body.
Silicone is actually very versatile and, not least, quite inexpensive to produce.

What does silicone do to the skin?

Silicone is literally an emollient - in fact, the skin feels smoother and softer immediately after the first application. Following the principle of a joint filler, silicone also pads the wrinkles and thus makes the face appear smoother. However, only until the next wash, because silicone is then washed off again - along with the rejuvenating effect.

Disadvantages of silicone: harm to skin and the environment

The rather bleak truth is that silicones have only limited skin care properties, since silicone is not metabolized by the skin.
What initially feels so nurturing is therefore a sensory illusion: By covering the skin surface like a film (which is also breathable), the silicone traps moisture underneath. Silicones thus protect the skin from drying out (keyword: transepidermal water loss), which is the root of many skin evils.
This can be absolutely desirable, but it does not necessarily have to be done with the help of silicones.

In the human body, the silicone compounds cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and cyclopentasiloxane (D5) can cause damage: They disrupt hormone balance, impair reproduction and can damage various organs.

Not to forget the environmental aspect: Especially the two silicone compounds mentioned above are difficult to degrade in the environment, accumulate there and endanger the water and its inhabitants. Incidentally, when silicones are advertised as being "water-soluble", this means that they can be washed off the skin - but this has nothing to do with environmental compatibility.

The Disadvantages summarized:

  • Wrinkles do not really disappear, but are only filled. Vitamins and minerals cannot be absorbed better than with the help of other carriers.
  • Some types of silicone are classified as harmful to humans.
  • Silicones are not biodegradable and therefore a problem for the environment and in turn for us. In contrast to fixed seals, they get into the groundwater every day after washing, showering and bathing and pollute nature. According to the Federal Environment Agency, around half of the silicones from skin and hair care products end up back in the agricultural cycle via sewage sludge.
  • Silicones do not stand out from other active ingredients in terms of care properties. Many other moisturizers and natural oils can easily keep up with silicones - but they are usually much more expensive to produce!

Advantages of silicone: Well tolerated and hypoallergenic

We have already reported on the disadvantages of silicones above. On the one hand, silicones are said to seal the skin and clog the pores. Gradually, a real silicone layer is said to form on the skin. Silicones do lay down on the skin, that's true. But:

  • The silicone layer is by no means occlusive, i.e. impermeable.
  • Silicone is non-comedogenic (pore-clogging).
  • Silicone is a breathable protective layer: In hospitals, silicones have been used for many years to treat skin burns because they protect the skin - without sealing it airtight.
  • The silicone dimethicone reduces redness in rosacea and soothes skin irritation.
  • Silicones are vegan, low irritant and well tolerated.
  • Because silicones do not contain anything organic, they do not cause allergic reactions - they are hypoallergenic.

Recognize silicones on the INCI list

There are different types of silicone and therefore also different names. You can recognize silicones in cosmetic products by the ingredients on the INCI list with the endings "-icone" or "-xane". In the cosmetics industry, the most commonly used silicone is dimethicone(s).

  • Silicones are often found under the name dimethicone, but also as methicones, simethicones, cylomethicones, polysiloxanes, amodimethicones.
  • Also, pay attention to the position of the substance: the higher it is listed in the list of ingredients, the more of it is contained.

100% silicone free: HighDroxy does not use silicones

We don't use silicone - even if it sometimes feels like it: The pleasant, silky feeling when applying comes, for example, from the humectant propanediol (produced purely from plants in our case).
Some of the ingredients we use have an immediate skin-smoothing effect - but they also have a lasting effect, because they promote elastin and collagen formation, for example, or have an anti-inflammatory effect, or reinforce the effect of other ingredients.

Sunscreens are the least able to do without silicones so far - and we can understand that very well. Our sun protection products do not use silicones, but it is a real challenge to develop a UV protection without silicones and drying alcohols that is not too heavy on the skin.