Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hair care routine part II: Why I don't like silicones

Time for part two of the hair care routine mini series!

Here I'll just talk about why I chose the specific products that I mentioned in my previous post.
The hair care products I use are all from a local drug store and thus probably not available where some of you live, so while in the first entry I focused on specific products that I use, this time I'll just try to explain what is important in a hair care product for me, and what I recommend too look out for. It might help you to look out for hair care products in your area that are similar to the ones I use.

A comparison pic from when my haircut was still fresh! The rest didn't change so much, it's mostly the bangs that are now finally cut properly :3 I should probably add that that was a really good hair day on the left photo, and normally my old "bangs" were just a wall of hair over the right side of my face XD
So back a few years ago, when I started to dye my hair black again, I noticed how the color would wash out extremely fast at the tips of my hair. It turned an ugly shade of reddish brown, whereas I always wanted blue-ish, jet black hair. So I started to read into the topic, and soon found out that many sources claim that a group of substances colloquially termed "silicones" (labelled dimethicone on cosmetics and probably refering mainly to polydimethylsiloxane) might be responsible for dyes lasting not as well as expected.

Silicones make up a thin film or layer on the surface of your hair when you use hair care products that contain them. Many products advertised as making your hair "silky smooth" or "easy to brush" contain lots of silicones, because this film causes just that effect by covering your the cuticle, the scaly outer layer of the hair and thus making it more smooth and less prone to tangling. However, this silicone layer can come with a variety of drawbacks.

First of all, the layer can prevent dye molecules to reach the hair efficiently. During the dyeing process with permanent hair color, usually ammonia (the stuff that smells so bad) has the function to enter the cuticle and 'spread' the scales so that the dye molecules may permeate into the hair. Ammonia evaporates rather quickly (which is why you smell it) so the scales may 'close' again. But a proposed explanation as to why silicone-layered hair takes up color worse is that the layer prevents ammonia from reaching and "swelling" the cuticle like that, so that the dye molecules cannot enter the hair, with the overall effect that dye lasts less long!

Secondly, silicones can also form a layer on your scalp, "suffocating" the skin and clogging the glands there. The body actually secretes a number of substances to keep your hair smooth and shiny by itself from there. A layer of silicone might cause an overproduction of these substances resulting in a subjective feeling that your hair gets greasy very quickly. On the other hand, it could be that the layer prevents these substances from being secreted and distributed throughout your hair while brushing, depriving it from nourishment.

Thirdly, substances that nourish your hair cannot permeate this layer very well in general - also those you treat your hair with, like conditioner and other hair care products. You basically "starve" (rather, dry out) your hair from within, and might not even notice, because a layer of silicone around the brittle, dry hair, might still make it look very smooth and shiny. This is also the big risk of switching from a year-long care routine with regular, silicone containing products to a silicone-free routine. Over time, the layer will decrease again and it might only be after a few washes that you realize the full extent of the damaged state your hair is actually in.

A friend once asked me for advice, how I get my hair so soft and shiny. I just told her about my silicone free hair care routine, and she decided to give it a try. And after a single wash with a "deep cleansing" shampoo to get rid of the layer of silicones, the bottom 15cm of her hair were completely ruined. She had to cut her hair, and since it was such a bad experience, she kept to using silicone containing products from then on.

The point is, it might not matter for your personal situation if you use silicone containing or silicone free products. If you do not dye your hair, you might never notice a negative effect of the silicone layer. If you tend to have very brittle hair and want an easy way to make it look smooth and easy to brush, silicones might be the right way for you. But if like me you've been wondering why your hair dye does not last, or maybe you have problems with greasy skin, it might be worth giving it a try. 

In my case, changing to silicone-free products was a very positive decision.
There's a whole list of positive effects I've noticed since I changed my hair care routine.

+ I have to wash my hair even less often, as it subjectively does not get greasy very quickly. This is very convenient when you have long hair and little time :'D I suppose my scalp is just well-balanced and does neither over- nor underproduce anything.
+ Hair dye lasts very well. I usually only dye my roots and the tips never bleach to that reddish brown that I hate so much.
+ My hair is smooth and very soft, but also strong. It does not frizz anymore and it rarely breaks. If it breaks the ends are not split but 'clean', which was proven during the 18 months period where I didn't went to the hair dresser, perceived some hair loss due to splitting, e.g. when brushing my hair, but had probably less than a dozen single split hairs on my head.

To summarize, for me it was definitely a good decision to switch to silicone-free hair care.

Haha, forgot to take my cellphone out of my pocket XD

But what to look for in a product?
The products I use contain plant derived organic oils, which also form kind of "layers" of protection around the hair and nourish it, but do not tend to accumulate in such thick layers that they remain to be the only thing that hold your split hair together at all. While I am usually not the kind of person who goes for the "Chemistry is bad" argument (because it's bullshit, but I suppose you know what I mean here) in this case it really seems to make a difference.
But not everything that's written on a bottle of shampoo can be trusted. When I read pecuilar made-up word combinations like "pearl extract" or "silk proteins" I cannot help but wonder what exactly the company mans by that. I highly doubt that they hire factory workers to "extract" something from pearls, although the image of somebody trying to squeeze something out of a pearl is a quite droll one. And I also doubt that silk protein(s), which after all makes up a rather rigid and un-elastic type of fiber is really of some use to our hair.
Instead, when you look for a good shampoo or hair care product, you should have a look at the backside, at the list of ingredients. It takes a while to get used to it but most components are the same so after a bit of comparison you can glimpse differences easily. 

In shampoos, I do not really look for certain ingredients, but I'm going for the old fashioned "the less, the better" when it comes to ingredient lists. Just keep in mind that when going through these lists the components at the beginning are the highest abundant, and the farther back a component is listed the less there is present int the product. There are also websites that can help you identify substances you don't recognize, and many also list detailed information about their use, effect and possible considerations.
Natural oils ('natural' meaning plant derived here) are usually labeled as such, for example Castor oil, Avocado oil or Grapeseed oil and also plant extracts are rather easy to spot. If you can find a product that contains a lot of such natural oils, you might want to give it a try and see for yourself if it can compete with silicones and their effect.

Lastly, just keep in mind that when you decide to change your routine and try something new, try to stick with it for a while (unless there is a reason why you absolutely cannot, such as an allergic reaction, a smell you dislike or immediate negative effect on your hair). Often, positive effects can only be seen after the product has been used for several washes/weeks. Switching the bottle every time you wash your hair will probably make it difficult to track down if any of your shampoos are better than the others. I've been using the same type of shampoo and care products since 2011 now, and as my hair is really healthy (and wasn't near as healthy before) I am rather confident that at least part of that comes from the products I use.

To conclude I would like to point out that anyone has to try and check for themselves which products are good for them and their hair. Nobody can give you the perfect formula just by looking at you or your hair, and trial and error might take several attempts an quite a long time to find what is right for you. I know that many people say silicones aren't half as bad because there are also some that can are soluble and can be washed out. Still, to me it seems more sensible to care for my hair with nutrients instead of a film former. But I cannot guarantee you that your hair will become smoother or healthier when you switch to silicone-free products. Maybe you'll have the same experience as my friend who ended up losing 15cm of her hair. Maybe, if you do, and you continue to use silicone-free products nonetheless, you will find that your will become stronger and healthier over time despite the initial drawback. Or maybe for your purposes it will be just enough to use silicone-free "deep cleansing" shampoo a few days before you plan to dye your hair-

It really is up to you to try and find your perfect hair care routine. Before I found mine, I was really desperate with my hair and also rather unhappy with it. So if you are unhappy with your hair as well, you could just try to find different products that suit you and your hair better! After all, no matter which products help you, healthy hair can be a real boost of confidence! :)

And for those interested in the individual types of products I use, the next part of this little series I'll explainw hat kind of hair care products I use and why!
Thanks for reading :)


  1. Schöner Beitrag =)
    Ich bin auch vor ein paar Jahren auf silikonfreie Haarprodukte umgestiegen und es war echt hart am Anfang. Ich hab sehr dünne und lange Haare, die sahen nach dem "Entzug" wirklich fies aus und es ist viel abgebrochen, aber es hat sich total gelohnt. Jetzt hab ich kaum noch Spliss, muss auch weniger oft waschen, sie glänzen viel mehr als früher und sind babyweich (ein Grund, der auch einige Freundinnen dazu bewogen hat, sich mit dem Thema zu befassen, ich hoffe es geht besser aus als bei deiner Freundin).

    Man kann, wenn man sich vorher ein bisschen Zeit nimmt und informieren möchte, potenzielle neue Pflegeprodukte auch bei auf Inhaltstoffe prüfen, dort steht meistens in den Pros und Contras ob Produkte Silikone enthalten und die Inhaltsstoffe selber werden nach schädlichkeit und teilweise Nachhaltigkeit (Palmöl) bewertet. =)

  2. Very well explained ;) I noticed a big difference between using products containing silicone and those without: I had been fighting with dandruff and a super sensitive, itchy scalp basically all my life, my hair got greasy super quickly as well. When I switched to silicone free products the dandruff went away in a matter of a few washes, my scalp stopped itching and burning and now I too just have to wash my hair once a week and even then it doesn't really look greasy.

    I had my hair bleached to use directions hair colour, and funny enough the colour lasts months before i have to re-dye it, i have to touch up my roots more often than re-dye the directions in the lenghts of my hair. I believe this is also due to me not using silicone because everyone else I know using directions it washes out rather quickly.

  3. mir geht es ähnlich wie dir bei silikonen... meine Haaren werden schneller strähnig, Haarfarbe wollte bei mir früher gar nicht halten :/ gerade weil ich ja öfter nachtöne benutze ich jetzt lieber keine mehr.
    Aber ich kenne auch einige Leute, die mit Silikonen besser klar kommen... kommt wohl sehr auf die Haare an.

  4. Toller Eintrag... <3 ich liebe deine Haare!


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