Silicone efficacy

qwertyqwerty Member
edited October 2020 in Hair
What is everyones experience on the usage of non-water soluble vs water-soluble silicones in hair products? 

Obviously because of consumer concerns and scare mongering within the market of late a lot of people are either omitting them or switching to more "friendly" water-soluble options.

Are these as effective as their predecessors such as dimethicone etc?

Is there truly a benefit to switching to water-soluble options without sacrificing desired effect, and what exactly are the water-soluble options?

Seems like everywhere I look people have a different opinion of which ones fit into which categories.  


  • @qwerty If by water-soluble you mean ethoxylated silicones (which allow formulation of transparent surfactant-based formulas), they are actually not water soluble, but easier to disperse in water systems. Generally speaking, ethoxytaled silicones sacrifice transparency for performance (the more dispersible the silicone is, the less final conditioning on hair). But that's generally speaking, you really need to get in detail through each molecule to understand the final performance it gives.
  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited October 2020
    Watersoluble options are Amodimethicone (it's actually not but it's usually supplied as an emulsion), PEG-8 Dimethicone and PEG-12 Dimethicone (ethoxylated) and Quaternium-80 (and many others that I haven't used). It really depends on the product but I noticed that PEG-8 and PEG-12 dimethicone might have a negative effect on viscosity (or I use too much, or I don't use it the right way). Amodimethicone and Quaternium-80 are more dummy-proof and feel quite nice in shampoos (add slip and conditioning effect: both are cationic which is handy). Now, if you compare something like a serum made with dimethiconol vs a water-based spray with amodimethicone for coarse and thick hair... well I guess the answer is obvious, dimetichonol wins. I guess people with thinner hair might like water-soluble versions as they feel lighter. So, there is no straightforward answer, all silicones are great and all have a place to be, it depends on the product.

    I use amodimethicone (or quaternium-80) in my shampoo (plus loads of cationic polymers), plain dimethicone in my wash-off conditioner and a simple blend of dimethiconol in D5 plus some phenyl trimethicone  in leave-in serum.
  • @ketchito @ngarayeva001 thank you both for your feedback

    I guess my main question is, if i am using a sulfate free sufractant blend (SLMI, CAPB just for example), would something like this be strong enough to remove silicones from the hair and prevent the "build-up" effect with continued use?

    Let's say for example something not as heavy as dimethicolnol but heavier than amodimethicone which I guess would be something like dimethicone? 

    Obviously I would like to get away with the best performing silicones as possible but without the possibility of too much accumulation on the hair and it seems to me that most brands that use quite a lot of silicones in their products tend to have SLS as their primary surfactant and i'm not sure whether this is due to cost effectiveness or if it is the only good option for removing the silicones they use. 


    p.s @ngarayeva001 what is d5? 

  • @qwerty The main cause of build-up is actually polyquats, so I'd worry more about the type and amount of polyquat you're using (PQ-10 is harder to remove than Guar HPTC, even when using SLES). 

    When you're talking about silicones, by heavy you mean to their nature (non modified dimethicone vs modified -hydroxylated, cationic-) or to their molecular weight?

    As I mentioned, due to their hydrophobic nature, silicones can be removed from hair by common surfactants (providing your formula is cleansing enough), it's polyquats the ones that resist washing more.  Nevertheless, since silicones can deposit in good amounts specially in the presence of polyquats, you could feel your hair overcharged after only one application of your product, so you need to regulate the amount of silicones you want in your shampoo.
  • @ketchito I guess I mean in their nature, I thought this would relate directly to their tendency to build up on the hair but I am probably misunderstanding the fundamentals (of which I don't know a lot). 
    What would you say the difference is between say Dimethiconol, Dimeticone, and Amodimethicone?
    Are they more likely to build up in that order would you say or am I understanding wrong?  

    Is there any point in using polyquats then if you are using silicones? Do they have any benefits at all?

    I thought they were just used most of the time to replace silicones since cones have been vilified for so long now but again I am probably off the mark here. 

  • @qwerty Those are good questions. In a shampoo, polyquats actually help "neutral" silicones (like dimethicone and dimethiconol) deposit on hair, through what it's called assisted deposition. The story is different for cationic silicones like amodimethicone, with which polyquats will compete for binding sites on hair. 

    In the case of a conditioner, the story is different, since contact time and vehicle varies. Dimethicone and Dimethiconol deposit driven mainly by hydrophobic forces in an uneven way, with the possibility of particles being deposit on top of others. Nevertheless, since they are hydrophobic, the forces that make them stick to hair are low, and a good shampoo can remove them (residues will remain probably, if your surfactant system is not good enough). In the case of Amodimethicone, ionic interactions play a great part, and that's why it usually has more changes to deposit where there is damage on hair due to electrostatic interactions. But even though forces are stronger than just hydrophobic and it's actually harder to remove them than neutral silicones, they form a very uniform film and they tend not to deposit more particles on top.
  • @ketchito, thank you! So many useful points!
  • @ketchito indeed, very cohesive info there thank you very much!

    With that said, would I then be best to put a combination of Polyquat and neutral silicones in the shampoo and then ionic silicone in the conditioner seeing as they perform best in those respective categories? 

    What would you say would work best also in a leave in serum and a pre-shampoo treatment? 

  • @qwerty Polyquats/dimethicone is a good performing and cost-effective system for shampoos, but if you have some more money to spare, I'd go for a cationic silicone also in the shampoo, to avoid PQ buildup. But the first combo is still valid (just keep in mind you'll need a good surfactant system to remove the PQ's). For the serum, a cationic silicone (especially a microemulsion) would work well. For the pre-shampoo, it you want a product for gentle cleansing before the shampoo? of a refattening product to avoid excessive removal of lipids? I believe that in any case, no silicone would be needed.
  • @ketchito thank you again!

    When you say a good surfactant system to remove polyquats, would that rely mostly on sulfates like sls? Or would it be possible with others as long as they are prevalent in adequate amounts? 

    What exactly is microemultion? (pardon my ignorance). I see pretty much all mainstream leave in serums that i have looked into use something like a mix of dimethicone (or dimethiconol), cyclohexasiloxane. Would they be using these neutral silicones purely for cost effectiveness do you think?

    In terms of a pre-shampoo I was wanting something more re-fattening and conditioning, if not silicones what do you think would be worthwhile in something like that? 
    It seems like a lot of coconut/sunflower oil plus butters like shea are popular but i'm unsure about what to use in terms of more "cosmetic" ingredients. Would a product like this really be that effective if the hair is full of silicones coating it anyway?

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