Silicone and Skincare – Debunking the Myths

Many skincare and hair care products these days contain silicone. The substance is famous from its silky, fluid properties that leave the skin feeling extra smooth and improve its ability to retain moisture. Silicone is derived from silica, which is essentially sand, and despite its emollient nature, it doesn’t lose its form when exposed to water. This is why the most common types of silicone—varieties of dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, and even phenyl trimethicone—are often used medically to treat skin that’s damaged from scars. Silicone is also used to expedite the process of wound healing.    Despite being one of the best-known remedies for skin conditions such as acne, many myths surrounding silicone portray it as a non-porous substance that limits what gets absorbed by the skin, leading to suffocation and moisture deprivation. Claims such as these are usually backed by anecdotal evidence, and no scientific study thus far has confirmed that silicone causes irritations, exacerbates acne, or indeed, “suffocates” the skin. Here’s why.

Why Silicone Does Not Clog Skin Pores

The mere fact that silicone is commonly used to improve the appearance of acne scars proves that it does not affect the transmission of substances across the skin whatsoever. Silicone alleviates some of the common symptoms of using topical anti-acne medication like benozyl peroxide, which is known to cause dryness and flaking.      Topical antibiotics have the same effect, and interestingly, the same remedy too. This immediately debunks the myth that it clogs pores because delicate skin conditions like acne will only get worse if the surrounding skin pores cannot absorb the active anti-acne ingredients in most topical medications.    There is also a scientific reason behind why silicone is chemically incapable of forming a seal around pores. Silicone is a volatile substance by nature, and what this means is that it evaporates after some period of exposure. Furthermore, it is naturally viscous, making it incapable of penetrating the lining that covers our pores.

This is also the reason why silicone is commonly used as an applicant in many skincare products; it aids in the even distribution of the active ingredients and leaves the skin with a smooth, silky feel and sheen. In a way, it acts as a barrier that protects the skin from the accumulation of harmful substances while allowing the air to circulate freely.    The breathable nature of silicone skin products brings us to our next point.

 Why Silicone Does Not Suffocate Skin

Silicone has a unique molecular composition, in that, its molecules are porous, but they act as a barrier at the same time. The tea bag analogy is commonly used to explain this phenomenon—teabags are capable of releasing tea despite the fact that they’re covered in sturdy membranes—and it explains why silicone is used as a base formula that gradually “steeps” the active ingredients through.

Silicone is less moisture-resistant than petrolatum, a base for several topical medications, yet both substances are capable of delivering active substances through the skin. In fact, silicone bears an advantage over petrolatum that makes it a crucial medical remedy for treating burns: its breathability. Silicone is molecularly incapable of forming an impenetrable barrier as its large molecules have wider spaces in between them, making the substance naturally breathable. This explains why silicone-based skincare treatments don’t feel occlusive on the skin despite their ability to lock moisture in. With all this in mind, it is safe to derive the following conclusion.

Silicone Will Not Make Your Acne/Skin Issues Worse

As mentioned earlier, the belief that silicone makes acne worse is based on anecdotal evidence and is largely considered a myth. Not only is the substance very breathable despite its ability to prevent moisture loss, but it also serves as an excellent base for acne treatments since it promotes the even distribution of the active ingredients. Thus far, no reports have been published to establish whether silicone is bad for acne patients. Instead, it is capable of enhancing the appearance of skin by leaving a thin silky smooth membrane on top of it, which facilitates adequate air circulation and prevents excessive moisture loss.

Silicone is virtually harmless to the skin, and this is one of the reasons why it is commonly used as a cosmetic applicant in most beauty products as well as to eradicate scars and heal wounds.