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Fact or fiction: Is dimethicone in skincare products bad for your skin?

Dermatology experts share what you really need to know about this

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
Liquid Skincare Ingredient
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is dimethicone?
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Consider the ingredient lists of some of the skincare products you use daily. They likely have dozens of ingredients, and each one is there for a specific reason. An ingredient that you’re likely to see in many products is dimethicone, a common component in many skincare formulations.

If you’ve looked into dimethicone before, you likely have come across people on the internet who believe it’s unsafe and warn against its use—but dermatologists and cosmetic formulators disagree. 

Here, Curology’s team of licensed dermatology providers unpack the scientific evidence to determine the facts about dimethicone so that you can make educated decisions about your skin health and the products you use. So, is dimethicone something that you should be concerned about? Here’s what we know about dimethicone in skincare.

What is dimethicone?

Dimethicone is derived from silica (silicon dioxide), often found in nature via sandstone and quartz.¹ Dimethicone is used in many skin, hair care, and cosmetic products.

Specifically, dimethicone is frequently included in oil-free moisturizers.² It’s generally not heavy or greasy like petrolatum products can be, and it doesn’t typically end up feeling sticky like glycerin products sometimes can. Plus, dimethicone is hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and nontoxic.³

Roles of dimethicone in skin care 

As we said, dimethicone is found in various products, including creams, lotions, sunscreens, shampoos, conditioners, primers, moisturizers, and more. It’s a popular ingredient because of its many benefits to your skincare and cosmetic products.

Occlusive

Dimethicone is an effective occlusive ingredient. Dimethicone forms a thin, non-sticky barrier that seals in hydration and prevents your skin from losing moisture, a valuable quality when used in moisturizers.⁴

Protectant

That same barrier-forming quality also protects your skin from external elements. While dimethicone protects your skin from moisture loss, it also keeps external irritants away from the skin’s surface.⁵ 

Non-comedogenic

Despite some of the claims you might see online, dimethicone does not cause acne. It’s non-comedogenic, which means it doesn’t clog pores.⁶ Of course, it’s still possible that you’ll use products that contain dimethicone combined with other ingredients that may clog pores and cause acne, so it’s always a good idea to consider each ingredient carefully before you try out new products.

Emollient

Another benefit of dimethicone is that it has an emollient quality. Emollients work to smooth the skin by filling in the space between skin flakes with a bit of oil.⁷ Dimethicone can help soften and condition the skin, which helps to protect your skin barrier. 

Oil-free

Dimethicone is silicone-based and contains no mineral or vegetable oils.⁸ For this reason, it’s an excellent addition to formulas designed for acne-prone skin. Dimethicone is versatile and can be used on all skin types.⁹

Is dimethicone safe to use?

Despite claims that dimethicone is a dangerous or unhealthy synthetic ingredient, the research doesn’t support those conclusions. The Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety concluded in 2021 that dimethicone and other similar silicone products are safe and non-irritating when used in cosmetic products.¹⁰

A lot of the negative talk about dimethicone may be rooted in the fact that it’s a synthetic ingredient. In our age of eco-consciousness, many companies market themselves as a healthier alternative by using all-natural or organic ingredients—a tactic known as “greenwashing.”¹¹ The truth is, synthetic doesn’t necessarily equal dangerous or unhealthy. 

Natural products can be highly allergenic for susceptible people, and all-natural ingredients can have contaminants that aren’t an issue in synthetics created under controlled, sterile conditions.¹²

There are claims that dimethicone causes acne, but the truth is, as we touched on earlier, that dimethicone is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores. Some of the confusion might lie in the fact that dimethicone has occlusive properties. Occlusive moisturizers containing oils and other comedogenic ingredients could possibly worsen acne for some people.¹³ However, dimethicone, specifically, is oil-free and non-comedogenic and is not known to cause acne. 

Any ingredient in any skincare product—even the most gentle—has the potential to cause a skin reaction in some people. If you know you have highly sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to test a new product on a small area first to see if you have any negative reactions

Optimize your skincare routine with Curology

Despite the claims that dimethicone can be dangerous or unhealthy, the evidence says that it’s generally safe for use in skincare and many other applications. It’s a gentle and versatile ingredient that can improve the function of many personal care products and increase skin moisture without triggering acne flares. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Curology offers many solutions to address your overall skin health and goals and simplify your skincare routine. Our licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

Ready to get started? Just answer a few questions and upload a small handful of photos to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers, who will create a personalized prescription formula for you. They’ll also recommend any of our gentle and effective skincare products. Sign up to start your Curology journey now.*

FAQs

Is dimethicone a microplastic?

This is a common piece of misinformation you can find online, but dimethicone is not a microplastic; in fact, it’s not even a plastic! It’s generally considered to be non-toxic to people as well as the environment.¹⁴

Is dimethicone the same as petrolatum?

No, dimethicone is produced from the mineral silica, whereas petrolatum is a by-product of petroleum. They both have moisturizing and occlusive properties, but they are structurally unrelated.

Is dimethicone a carcinogen?

Dimethicone is not a carcinogen. It is considered safe when used in cosmetic concentrations and has shown no evidence of causing cancer in research studies.¹⁵

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Baumann, L. Chapter 18: Dimethicone and Silicones. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. (2015, n.d.).

  2. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (May 2014). 

  3. Baumann, L. Chapter 18: Dimethicone and Silicones. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. Ibid.

  4. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  5. Baumann, L. Chapter 18: Dimethicone and Silicones. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. Ibid.

  6. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  8. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  9. Baumann, L. Chapter 18: Dimethicone and Silicones. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. Ibid.

  10. The Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety. Amended Safety Assessment Of Dimethicone, Methicone, and Substituted-Methicone Polymers As Used in Cosmetics. Cosmetic Ingredient Review. (2021, January 12).

  11. Dahl, R. Green Washing: Do You Know What You’re Buying? Environmental Health Perspectives. (June 2010).

  12. Rubin, C. Natural Does Not Mean Safe—The Dirt on Clean Beauty Products. JAMA Network (2019, September 25).

  13. Mojsiewicz-Pieńkowska, K., et al. Direct Human Contact With Siloxanes (Silicones) – Safety or Risk Part 1. Characteristics of Siloxanes (Silicones). Frontiers in Pharmacology. (2016, May 30).

  14. Nair, B. and Cosmetic Ingredients Review Panel. Final report on the safety assessment of stearoxy dimethicone, dimethicone, methicone, amino isopropyl dimethicone, aminopropyl dimethicone, amodimethicone, amodimethicone hydroxystearate, behenoxy dimethicone, C24-28 alkyl methicone, C30-45 alkyl methicone, C30-45 alkyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone, dimethoxysilyl ethylenediaminopropyl dimethicone, hexyl methicone, hydroxypropyldimethicone, stearamidopropyl dimethicone, stearyl dimethicone, stearyl methicone, and vinyldimethicone. Int J Toxicol. (2003, n.d.). 

  15. Nair, B. and Cosmetic Ingredients Review Panel. Final report on the safety assessment of stearoxy dimethicone, dimethicone, methicone, amino isopropyl dimethicone, aminopropyl dimethicone, amodimethicone, amodimethicone hydroxystearate, behenoxy dimethicone, C24-28 alkyl methicone, C30-45 alkyl methicone, C30-45 alkyl dimethicone, cetearyl methicone, cetyl dimethicone, dimethoxysilyl ethylenediaminopropyl dimethicone, hexyl methicone, hydroxypropyldimethicone, stearamidopropyl dimethicone, stearyl dimethicone, stearyl methicone, and vinyldimethicone. Int J Toxicol. Ibid.

Camille Dixon is a certified Physician Assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Camille Dixon, PA-C

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