When it comes to cosmetics, the more chemical-sounding the name, the more questionable it makes the ingredient sound. Typically, perceiving dubiousness from chemical-sounding names is a spot on reaction, but is that the case is our latest ingredient under the looking glass, dimethicone?
Also known as polydimethylsilxane, dimethicone is a man-made silicone polymer. Although man-made, many of its components are natural as silicon is the second most abundance mineral in the Earth’s crust after oxygen. While silicone may evoke thoughts of a more solid substance, dimethicone is actually in an oil form. In fact, as well as being added to cosmetics, it is also a common additive to food like chicken nuggets and French fries.
In both food and cosmetics, dimethicone serves the same purpose. It is used as an emulsifier, which means it keeps the ingredients from pulling apart and separating in the package as well as a moisturizer. In both cosmetics and food, you can see how this can be a major boon. However, in cosmetics, dimethicone has the added benefit of also being a emollient to make the surface of the skin more pliable to receive the moisture within.
There are also some who believe that polymers like dimethicone actually fill in fine lines and wrinkles temporarily, giving your face a more youthful appearance. Sort of like chemical spackle for your aging face, and in products with high amounts of dimethicone, this may be true. However, most products have a minimal amount of dimethicone inside, which means you won’t get those age erasing effects in dimethicone products that don’t advertise removing wrinkles and fine lines.
As you can likely guess, you can find dimethicone is many products that don’t have any qualms about including chemicals. Anything that advertises itself as a moisturizer is prone having it on the ingredients list. This includes shampoo, conditioner, face creams, lotions, lipstick, and foundation. Of course, those are just a few products, there are actually so many more kinds of products that use it.
Like any chemical ingredient, there is some debate as to whether dimethicone is okay for sensitive skin. In terms of allergies, they are rare for this ingredient, but if you have any sort of silicone allergy it is best to steer clear. The real issue with dimethicone isn’t allergies, but rather creating irritation through its very purpose in most cosmetics.
Dimethicone is meant to seal in moisture on your skin. This means that it is not only sealing in moisture, but it is also trapping bacteria and other dirt that may be on the area as well. This can not only cause irritation, but acne breakouts as well. There are also some who believe that dimethicone creates a buffer on your skin, not unlike mineral oil, which causes the skin to dry out over long-term use. Finally, because dimethicone traps in moisture, it also makes temperature regulation an issue if used on a wide area, like your face. This can actually trigger further irritation from the inability of sweat to release from the glands.
So is dimethicone safe? Yes, it is a safe chemical ingredient for regular skin to use. Is it safe for sensitive skin? Kind of. If you use a product that is primarily dimethicone-based every day, you will have problems, likely starting a month or two after daily use. However, if you use a dimethicone product every now and then, it likely won’t cause any irritation.
Like with all moisture sealing cosmetics, always remember to wash your face thoroughly first. Irritation from this ingredient really does primarily come from bacteria and dirt being trapped against the skin. In the case of bacteria, it actually thrives in those conditions and can lead to very serious irritation.