Spotlight: “Silicone” is a collective term for a group of substances critically discussed with a view to their effect on skin and hair and their impact on waters.

What are silicones?

  • Diverse synthetic substances that consist of a compound of oxygen and silicon as well as hydrocarbons.
  • The eponymous basic building block silicon occurs, for instance, as silicon dioxide in the form of quartz sand or quartz gravel in nature. Elementary silicon is recovered from the quartz sand, which is then processed into silanes, which in turn represent the basis for silicones.

What roles do silicones fulfil in cosmetics?

  • Silicones are used in hair care to smooth the surface structure of hair, impart sheen to dull hair and repair hair with split ends.
  • In skin care, silicones ensure a pleasant skin feeling and provide a protective film which protects against moisture loss.
  • In some decorative cosmetic products, such as lip sticks or eye shadows, silicones ensure a smooth consistency and a lasting hold.

What concerns are expressed?

  • Silicones allegedly have no caring effect, but merely seal the skin and hair.
  • As a result of the rinsing-off of silicone-containing products, silicone compounds could reach the sewage water and hence flow into waters, where they are allegedly not degraded because of their persistence.

What do the experts say?

  • Today’s silicones generally act in a targeted manner, settle exclusively in the damaged areas of the hair and can be easily rinsed off.
  • The silicones used in hair and skin care products are harmless. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) of the European Commission has, for instance, confirmed that the use of the cyclic silicone compound D5 in cosmetic products poses no risk to human health
  • Many of the silicones used in cosmetic products have a higher molecular weight (> 500 Da) and are primarily filtered out in wastewater treatment plants.

What are the regulations?

  • From a certain quantity onwards, the low-molecular cyclic silicone D5 may no longer be used in rinse-off cosmetic products for environmental reasons in the EU since 31 January 2020.

INCI names

  • In the INCI list, silicones can in most cases be identified from the declaration ending “cons” or “iloxanes“.