Dimethicone: Your Complete Guide to This Common Skin Care Ingredient
If you’ve ever read the ingredients list on your skin or hair care products, you may have come across the word dimethicone. Kind of sounds like something from chemistry class, right?
While dimethicone is made in a lab, that shouldn’t convince you to throw out any product that contains it.
Read on to learn more about this common cosmetic ingredient. Then you can decide for yourself if you want to avoid it or not.
What is dimethicone?
Dimethicone is a silicone-based ingredient used in many personal care products. It keeps all of the ingredients in a product from separating. It also gives these products a smooth, silky texture.
When applied to the skin or hair, dimethicone creates a physical barrier to seal in hydration, keeping skin moisturized and hair frizz-free.
In cosmetics, dimethicone “helps to fill in fine lines and wrinkles,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a board certified dermatologist.
It helps your makeup look even rather than cakey, and gives it a matte finish. Dimethicone is also noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores.
What it’s used in
You can find dimethicone in many products for many different reasons. The main places it shows up are:
Cosmetics. This is because of dimethicone’s ability to smooth the appearance of fine lines and form a protective barrier, Cheung explains.
Moisturizers and creams. Dimethicone forms a layer on the skin, thereby locking in hydration and decreasing water loss.
Shampoo, conditioner, and hairstyling products. “Dimethicone coats the strands and smooths the cuticles, giving a sleek and shiny look while protecting from heat,” Cheung says.
Anti-itch products. Since dimethicone helps moisturize skin and retain water, it can help soothe dry, itchy skin.
Is dimethicone safe for your skin or hair?
Some people believe that dimethicone is harmful because it’s not natural. Others say that since it forms a barrier, dimethicone seals in oil, sweat, dirt, and other things that can clog pores and lead to acne.
However, the amount of dimethicone in face and hair products is generally considered safe.
In a 2019 review, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel found that most over-the-counter products contain less than 15 percent dimethicone.
Based on previous research, the review concluded that dimethicone in cosmetic products is safe.
“Though there is public concern about dimethicone, there is no data to substantiate it. It’s a safe product to use, and it’s very unlikely that it can be absorbed in the skin due to its large molecular weight,” says Peterson Pierre, MD, dermatologist and founder of the Pierre Skin Care Institute.
That said, anyone may have a reaction to any product. If you notice any of the following, you may be having an allergic reaction:
If this happens, wash the product off with gentle soap and water, and stop using the product immediately.
If things don’t improve within a few days, see a healthcare provider, like your primary care doctor or dermatologist. If the reaction is severe, see them immediately.
Also know that if you use hair care products with dimethicone, it can build up on hair and prevent the penetration of moisturizing ingredients.
“Swap in a clarifying shampoo every so often,” Cheung recommends.
The bottom line
Dimethicone is a silicone-based ingredient used in primers, foundations, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, and other skin and hair care products.
It gives a silky-smooth texture, helps retain moisture, and fills in lines and wrinkles so makeup looks even.
Research shows that the level of dimethicone found in personal care products is safe. It’s also noncomedogenic and won’t clog pores.
“From a health perspective, there is no reason to avoid products with dimethicone. They have a nice cosmetic feel and do a good job moisturizing the skin and hair,” Pierre says.
However, some people may have a reaction to it. If you notice any irritation, stop using the product and see a healthcare provider.