The beauty industry is prone to controversy, there’s no doubt about that. This time, one of the most pressing issues is whether silicones are more harmful than useful. There’s no denying that they can be useful – there is a reason why they are so widely spread in so many cosmetic products and for a long time too. However, since more and more studies are being made regarding the comedogenic attributes of various ingredients, silicones have been put in the spotlight, but not in a good way.
What are Silicones from a Chemist Standpoint?
As chemists would put it, silicones are polymers that consist of the natural mineral silicon (also known as silica) and oxygen. While it is true that they, in fact, have a natural origin, the process that creates the final form of the silicone ingredients used in cosmetics products is rather synthetic. There are many forms in which silicones may appear, but there are two main ones used in beauty products: cyclic and linear.
What Causes This Debate?
In the core of all of this controversy lies the fact that silicones are unpenetrable and they form a protective layer on the skin which prevents it from breathing. But the counter-argument is that this protective layer only serves as a moisture retainer and a way to make the appearance of the skin smoother. The fact that silicones are so good at making the skin look good, but we don’t actually know if they are capable of improving the state of one’s skin, or at least if they aren’t doing any harm in the long run, is what confuses everyone.
People who are into natural cosmetics claim that chemists should work on a better alternative since silicones clog the pores and may cause acne in people with oily skin. But there is also the fact that the molecules of silicones aren’t big enough for them to penetrate the skin that easily, whereas whether the layer they form is beneficial or not – the jury is still out.
What Can You Do about This?
What you as a consumer of beauty products can do if you want the smoothing effect of silicones, but don’t want to risk suffocating your pores on a daily basis is to rely on products that contain these ingredients but only when it comes to makeup products (foundation, primer, makeup fixator). When it comes to toners, eye creams, your day and night cream, serums and oil blends, you want to make sure that silicones aren’t included. This way you will be able to get the best of both worlds – the beautifying effect of silicones and the ability to give your skin the total freedom to breathe when you are not wearing makeup.
You can also take notes in a journal and see whether some of your skin issues improve (if any) if you cut on the products that contain silicones. If you don’t see any significant difference, you may go back to some products you used to use prior to this experiment. If you do see significant improvements, I’d recommend you to even start switching your current foundation and primer for some of the more natural ones cause that way you’ll know that you are making the best out of your skin and you’re giving it the best chances possible.
What Skin Type is Most Prone to Clogging?
As always, oily skin gets has the biggest chances for the worst-case scenario. Since the oil glands in people with oily skin are working overtime, it is hard to control when and how something will clog the already crowded pores. This is why it is recommended for people with oily skin to wear lighter makeup and do regular gentle exfoliation (twice a week).
Another thing on the list of silicone skin care pros and cons is that these particles are not biodegradable. They simply wash down into our drains and into the oceans, where they pollute the already endangered environment. This is one more reason why people who are into natural products avoid silicones since that particular type of self-care paired with interest in reading the labels of the products one consumes usually goes hand in hand with activism for the environment.