Silicone: yes or no?

Lights and shadows of a technological product

Silicone is largely used in the cosmetic field because of its chemical structure.
The purchase of beauty products has increased in recent years, especially since all the information can easily be found in the Net. When choosing their own beauty product, people often read the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) and tend to “decode” it by means of more or less proper instruments from the technical point of view (e.g. “bio-dictionary”, online forums, bloggers, etc).
At first that attitude referred to a medium-low consumer target, but now things are changing.
Several substances are now preferred by the consumers as their awareness towards eco-friendly products has widely increased:  petrolates, silicone, parabens (in an indiscriminate way) and SLESs are seen as undesired elements in the INCI.

Silicone is a polymer, that is chains of Silicon-Oxygen monomers. The bond between the various monomers – unlike what happens in the vegetable oils where Carbon-Carbon bond is found – is extremely flexible and elastic. Therefore the silicone perfectly suits the surface which it rests upon, creating a non-occlusive viscous-elastic film capable of immediately improving the skin appearance, a silky, sophisticated film to the touch. Chains can be more or less long, generating a more or less volatile silicone. Functional groups can be “hooked” along the chain which enrich and differentiate its properties, thus creating true “active excipients” for the skin care.

The kinds of silicone manufactured lately economise the production as they can be cold processed. Moreover, they are waterrepellent and they flow very well, thus making massage lotions and creams less greasy and sticky. The silicone emulsions do not go rancid, do not irritate and they do not contain any harmful substances. For that reason they can also be used in manufacturing the cosmetic products for kids. Several cosmetic preparations received fame and trust thanks to the use of those kinds of silicone. In fact – thanks to their chemical properties – once they are applied onto the skin, they generate a pleasant sensation of “velvety skin”.

Let’s see some technical answers relating to the “reason why” silicone is sometimes opposed to.

Is it true that…?
“The cosmetic silicone is derived from the combination of silicon and oil substances” 

Silicone and petrolates are chemical substances that differ with each other. Let’s get this straight. Petrolates – also called hydrocarbons or mineral fats – are a class of chemical compounds derived from oil refining. The most known product among those ones is vaseline or liquid paraffin. Silicone is, instead, a semi-organic polymer obtained from silica.

Is it true that…?
“The silicone can cause skin dryness, pore occlusion and favour the formation of blackheads and comedones”

The contrary is true. The various kinds of silicone can be used in the cosmetic field as moisturising agents. They act through a mechanism of indirect hydration, that is they create a film on skin surface capable of retaining water, thus preventing its excessive evaporation. However, since they are highly moisturising substances, they should not be used improperly or too much, as they may inhibit the physiological mechanism of skin hydration.
As far as blackheads or open comedones are concerned, they are caused by the accumulation of sebum, keratin and microorganisms inside the hair follicles. Therefore the oily substances – not the silicone ones – such as hydrocarbons are the ones that might clog the sebaceous duct and hair follicle, thus determining the onset of comedones.
However, even those substances must not be completely avoided. They can provide benefits to the skin if used properly, that is according to the suitable skin type.

Is it true that…?
“The silicone is not biodegradable and is a great pollutant”

The silicone derivatives are not biodegradable. However, it is not always true that a vegetable cosmetic ingredient is safer in terms of environmental impact (from manufacture to disposal). An example is given by the zinc oxide, deemed to be an “ecological”, physical sunscreen far better than the so-called chemical sunscreens. But it is very harmful to the marine system. Therefore the institutions must commit to managing and monitoring the environmental impact of all the different kinds of cosmetic products over time. This approach must be taken on by the manufacturers and the companies formulating the products.

The following is a perfect example: the silicone is cold processed with energy impacts very reduced compared to the vegetable oils.       
We should avoid the volatile silicone whose release into the atmosphere is (cyclopentasiloxane), thus opting for the non-volatile silicone that can be removed through the hydraulic drains meant for purifiers.

Source COSMOPROJECT – Beauty spa

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