Dimethicone: The Truth Behind This Common Cosmetics Ingredient
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.
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, Poly(dimethylsiloxane), May 14, 1999. http://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/95130.htm.
Photo courtesy kisluvkis via Flickr.com.