First I’d like to thank you for gathering all this information and putting it in one place. I was also very happy to read your articles on parabens and preservatives. They answered many questions I could not find the answers to and I can finally make an informed decision on what I want to use.
My question is about silicones. I’ve read in various publications silicones suffocate the skin and are harmful to the environment, but I have also read the opposite. I say I love how lotions that contain them feel and the application is wonderful. But I’m confused as to how “harmful” they really are to us and the environment. I was wondering what your take is on them?
Hi Carla –
Silicones are used in many applications other than personal care products. They are used as lubricants to machinery, nonstick pans, caulking, defoamers and on and on.
The process by how they are created is of course, a synthetic one, yet has been confused with Silicon which is an earth element on the periodic table which is closely related to Silica (sand) which is used to make glass. Again this form of silica should not be confused with the silica in cosmetics used for oil absorption. I give you these other examples to show that there are many on the Internet that get many compounds confused with others and then the myths start making considerable mistakes through spreading inaccurate information. Products are created through many syntheses processes, yet there are some that will take the process itself and make claims to toxins. This is why we must only address the resulting effect from the creation of the finished ingredient.
What was of concern in creating silicones is their effect on the environment and this has been closely monitored. During polymerization, this reaction evolves hazardous hydrogen chloride gas. However, for medical uses and personal care products and cosmetics, a process was developed where the chlorine atoms in the silane precursor were replaced with acetate groups, so that the reaction product of the final curing process is nontoxic acetic acid (vinegar). This is the chemistry they now use in cosmetics, medical and personal care industry.
Also in formulating with different silicone derivatives, one must be careful to not counteract the other one or they simply will not do the job for which they are intended, such as soft focus, velvet feel to the face and skin. This is why cosmetics and personal care products utilizing these types of silcones are some of the most highly engineered in the industry.
And example below of Dimethicone derivatives:
Amino Bispropyl Dimethicone, Aminopropyl Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Amodimethicone Hydroxystearate, Behenoxy Dimethicone, C30-45 Alkyl Dimethicone, C24-28 Alkyl Dimethicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Dimethoxysilyl Ethylenediaminopropyl Dimethicone, Hydroxypropyldimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethicone, Stearoxy Dimethicone, Stearyl Dimethicone and Vinyl Dimethicone.
Cetearyl Methicone, Hexyl Methicone, Stearyl Methicone
Products containing silicones that are a primary ingredient or have a saturation of many derivative forms combined in one product are when they can prove to be occlusive to skin. But generally speaking the polymer size, especially when another ingredient used with the silicone is not in liquid form, is too large to penetrate pores, whereby allowing skin to breathe, such as in the case of mineral makeup….so typically acne is not a resulting factor. It is always about ratios used. For example: dependent on that ratio, acne can also be occurring from the silicones combined with another oil or pore clogging ingredient since liquid silicone can be a penetration enhancer. So what we may think is the silicone at fault, may actually be what it is used in conjunction with it. In fact silicones have been accused as being a skin sensitizing agent, but as more research comes out, it is being determined that it may not actually be the silicone, but another ingredient in the formula causing the reaction due to silicone being a carrier of other ingredients. But this is in no way makes them toxic.
The simple fact is, if skin can perspire, then it can breathe and any toxins therefore can also be expelled…however, please be aware this is not skins’ main function but is the work of our kidney’s and liver to excrete toxins from our bodies.
Here is a great link for further information in regard to silicone and its’ derivatives. It is fun and informative…an interactive site for one to explore! It also includes in depth information through additional links.
For further research in to the technical terminology this would be another great source:
I hope this answers your question thoroughly!