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by author, natural beauty expert & cancer survivor Britta AragonRSS



Dimethicone: The Truth Behind This Common Cosmetics Ingredient

By Britta Aragon on April 16, 2012 | 112 Comments

You may have seen it on the ingredient list of your shampoo, conditioner, cream, lotion, foundation, or makeup primer—dimethicone. What is this ingredient, and should you avoid it?

What is Dimethicone?

Dimethicone is what the chemists like to call a silicon-based polymer—”polymer” meaning it’s a large molecule made up of several smaller units bonded together. Simply put, it’s a silicon oil, man-made in the laboratory and used in personal care products as an anti-foaming agent, skin protectant, and skin and hair conditioner.

Manufacturers like it because it makes products easily spreadable, so you get that feeling of the lotion or cream gliding over your skin. Dimethicone also helps form a protective barrier on the skin, and can fill in the fine lines and wrinkles on the face, which is why it’s often used in makeup primers.

Is Dimethicone Safe?

The FDA has approved the use of dimethicone as a skin protectant ingredient in over-the-counter products, and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel has assessed it as safe to use in personal care products. Some studies have found it to soothe and help improve chronic hand dermatitis, and to help reduce inflammation and irritation. The Skin Deep Database also lists it has have a low hazard risk.

For me, though, this is not a good ingredient to be using in your daily skin care. Like petroleum products, silicone oils can actually make dry skin worse over time. Instead of sinking into your skin and nourishing it from the inside out, like healthy ingredients do, it forms a sort of plastic-like barrier on the outside of skin.

Why Dimethicone is Bad for Your Skin

That artificial coating on the outside of skin causes several issues:

  • It traps everything under it—including bacteria, sebum, and impurities—which could lead to increased breakouts and blackheads
  • The coating action actually prevents the skin from performing its normal activities—like sweating, temperature regulating, sloughing off dead skin cells, etc.
  • Prolonged exposure to dimethicone can actually increase skin irritation, due to the coating property and because dimethicone is listed as a possible skin and eye irritant
  • Those with sensitive or reactive skin are at risk of an allergic reaction to dimethicone
  • On top of all this, dimethicone is a non-biodegradable chemical—bad for the environment

I also believe that using these types of ingredients on your skin can actually exacerbate skin aging. Why?

  • You’re inhibiting skin’s natural processes
  • You’re creating a dependency on the coating product, disrupting the skin’s own hydrating processes, which in the end increases dryness, making fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable
  • The coating properties may increase breakouts, particularly if you’re susceptible to acne, which will lead to scars and older-looking skin
  • You’re doing nothing to boost the health and vitality of the skin, thus letting aging take its toll

Much better to use nourishing ingredients that help keep your skin hydrated naturally! (Speaking of, check out my new skin care line here!)

To avoid this ingredient, stay away from all dimethicone and similar ingredients like cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, and phenyl trimethicone.

What do you think of dimethicone? Has it caused you to break out? Please share.

Source

Fowler JF Jr., “Efficacy of a skin-protective foam in the treatment of chronic hand dermatitis,” Am J Contact Derm 2000 Sep; 11(3):165-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11012005?dopt=Abstract.

Dimethicone. Truth in Aging. January 1, 2006. http://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/dimethicone.

Material Safety Data Sheet, Dimethicone. http://www.essentialingredients.com/msds/Element%2014%20PDMS%20350.pdf

Photo courtesy kisluvkis via Flickr.com.

Posted in: Eczema and Dermatitis, Make-up, Psoriasis, Side Effects, Skin, Lip and Body Care, Toxic Talk and Labels


112 Comments to “Dimethicone: The Truth Behind This Common Cosmetics Ingredient”

  1. mary wright says:

    i have a terrible reaction to dimenthicone…itchy bumpy rash..i have found purmineral pressed powder works fine (not bare minerals) but i would like to find a safe liquid foundation–even dhc which i thought had great skincare has it in theirs:( thanks for spreading the word!

  2. Deborah Lewis says:

    Hi, I’ve been having all these problems, too, but now I have found REN; their sensitive skin care range (Evercalm) does not contain any Dimethcone, not the redness serum. The range has only 4 products (and I haven’t checked any of the other products in other ranges), but so far I have to say, I am completely converted. Good luck all, Deborah

  3. GHoward says:

    Thank you for all the info, links & opinions. Although some may not experience this YET it can be an irritation or allergy that can take time to rear it’s ugly head. As we age our skin does get thinner and what I’ve learned from my dermatologist and research over time what you may have been able to use is now irritating and cause dermatitis. In the past 6 months I’ve figured out anything with dimethicone, silicone is not right for me. Since there are companies who see the customer concern and complaints I’m keeping my fingers crossed we see more who go cone/xane free. I’ve had success with Juice Beauty and I’m interested to try some of the others people have posted. As for the negative comments, especially from the derm resident I hope you understand that criticizing and mocking others concerns and obvious symptoms does not help. Unless there is definitive proof that this ingredient has NO comedogenic issues than it should be discussed.

  4. Britta Aragon says:

    Thanks so much for writing in, GHoward. You’re so right that a sensitivity can develop over time, and also about the changes our skin undergoes as we age. I totally agree with you that these issues need to be discussed and it’s obvious from the response to this post that a number of people are having symptoms from this ingredient. So appreciate everyone sharing here!

  5. Kathy says:

    Wow, there are so many posts, I couldn’t get through them all. I read this book called “Green Beauty” and that really scared me away from anything with Dimethicone or silicone in it. A licensed aesthetician tried to convince me that it helps bind moisture to the skin. I just think its a cheap filler that gives you a false sense of having smoother skin. Boscia has a nice “rose oil” for the face that is pretty clean from all the nasty chemicals and works nicely. Also. Tatta Harper’s skin care line is free of all chemicals, completely botanical based, they sell it at Nordstrom’s in their spa. I’ve tested so many creams I can just tell if they are just sitting on top of my skin or really nourishing it – once you realize the difference, you cant go back to the bad stuff. Your skin feels perkier and just looks and feels so much better. Thanks for making this great website!

  6. Britta Aragon says:

    Hi, Kathy. Thanks so much for commenting! Greatly appreciate your recommendations. I loved “Green Beauty” as well—one of the staples in my library! So glad that you’re finding benefits in what we’re doing and even happier you let us know about it! All the best. :)

  7. S B says:

    I have eczema. I discovered through trial and error that beauty products with any of the -cone caused allergic reactions around my mouth, nose and eyes and minor break outs. I explain to people that dimethicone is like putting plastic wrap on your skin. I switched off completely for a couple years (including shampoo and conditioner so my scalp and back no longer have outbreaks). There are very few products that don’t contain some form of dimethicone or other silicon substance. Many are very expensive, such as my foundation, that I’ve compromised and now use eye make up with the terrible stuff. Even non-prescription eczema “treatments” have dimethicone as the active ingredient!!

  8. S B says:

    So I read through a lot of other posts and other people seem to have a hard time finding products without dimethicone. These are some things that work for me and are di-free and usually other-stuff-free. Note that a lot of brands with have just one line that doesn’t have silicon! Dr Bronner and Everyday Shea body wash, Everyday Shea body lotion (pretty inexpensive), Tate’s Miracle leave in conditioner (oil-, di-, alcohol- free, though I’d be fine with oil), Juice Beauty products, Dr. Hauschka (not cheap but the only foundation I’ve found that is free of everything that sets my eczema off). Some lines from Giovanni are good: the Golden Wheat shampoo is di-, SLS-free and alcohol free. Their facial line with activated charcoal (deTox) doesn’t have di- in it, so it’s a relatively inexpensive facial moisturizer. Nude is ok – some of their products use too much alcohol. For me, Bare Minerals feels like sandpaper on my skin (I insulted the Bare Minerals sales person by saying that!), but they are non-micronized particles which is supposed to be good since it can’t enter your skin. Most of these products are available online or at Whole Foods or Sephora. For other super-sensitive people like me that don’t mind the social stigma: most deodorants come with a massive dose of dimethicone to block sweat glands. The Thai crystal alum deodorant works ok, especially if you are careful about not letting your shirt rub it off while dressing. I’ve also tried baking soda/ salt/ cornstarch blended into shea butter. Greasy on clothes but good at keeping scents away. I also had to switch to a everything-free laundry detergent. I use BioKleen laundry powder unscented. The one with the bleach alternative makes my dry skin itch. It’s not the cheapest ($18-$20 for a box) but it lasts me a year. Best of luck everyone!

  9. Zipporah Thompson says:

    I understand the importance of being and using “natural” products in and on our persons…however, last year I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosus, a very painful and horrible skin condition. The use of Dimethicone has been a necessary hygienic regimen for me.

  10. Britta Aragon says:

    Thanks so much for the great recommendations!

  11. Lizzie says:

    I am convinced it causes what is sometimes known as SMELLY HAIR because the scalp cannot breath, I get painful itch spots on my scalp too. I have resorted to just using Jojoba oil instead of conditioner spread through the ends of my hair while wet to condition it. I always read the ingredients before I buy. It really aggravates me that even high end brands use this stuff to create slippage in shampoo or conditioner..

  12. Britta Aragon says:

    Hi, Lizzie—jojoba. What a great recommendation! So much better for your hair, for sure. Thanks for sharing!


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