Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skin Treatments

What you should know about silicones in skincare

Get the lowdown on this ingredient, straight from the experts.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 27, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
Liquid Cool Gray Gel on Light Grey Colored Background
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 27, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
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.

Look at the ingredient list for your favorite skincare products, shampoos, or cosmetics, and there’s a decent chance you’ll see silicones listed. These synthetic polymers have become popular in skincare products due to their ability to enhance texture, spreadability, and create a soft, smooth feel on the skin.

However, the use of silicones in beauty products has been met with some controversy. While some experts attest to their safety and efficacy, others express concerns about their potential negative impact on the environment. So, it’s a good idea to have a solid understanding about what silicones are in order to determine if you should include them in your routine.

Here, we’ll explain what you need to know about silicones and their use in skincare. 

What are silicones?

Silicone is a type of material that is used in many applications because it repels water. This means that when water touches it, the water droplets don't stick to the material but instead roll off.¹ 

Silicones come in various materials, including gels, lubricants, foams, and adhesives.² They tend to be quite stable and unreactive, and are used in a variety of medical applications. In fact, they are widely utilized for breast augmentation and cosmetic procedures.³

The use of silicone-based products for the treatment of non-healing wounds has also become more common in recent years. Silicone gel has been found to speed up the re-epithelialization process (essentially, the healing process) by interacting both physically and biologically with the tissue.⁴ Additionally, the application of silicone gel forms a protective film on the skin.⁵

What are the pros associated with silicone use?

Silicone has gained popularity as a skincare ingredient due to its ability to promote faster resurfacing, which refers to the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to reveal a smoother complexion. Its unique properties, including a decrease in surface tension, make it easy to apply to the skin. 

Skin healing properties

One of the benefits of silicone use in skincare is its ability to aid in the skin healing process via the migration of the cells which line the surface of the body, also known as epithelial cells, from deeper portions of the body, such as sweat glands.⁶

For more than three decades, topical silicone has been utilized as a method of improving the aesthetic appearance of scars and, more recently, in improving the healing of complicated wounds or those resulting from cosmetic and post-surgical procedures. 

Scientific studies have demonstrated that it can make scars softer, smoother and reduce redness. Additionally, topical silicone has been shown to alleviate itchiness associated with scars, known as pruritus, and minimize the overall pigmentation of the affected area.⁷

Ease of application

Silicones are a group of synthetic materials that have become increasingly popular in the cosmetic industry due to their unique properties. They are commonly used in skincare creams, shampoos, and conditioners due to their non-toxic nature and high lubricity. 

One of the primary benefits of using silicones in cosmetics is their ability to create a smooth and silky texture that feels pleasant on the skin.⁸ Silicones are also effective in preventing foaming,⁹ which makes them a valuable ingredient in products such as shaving cream, toothpaste, and laundry detergent. 

Protective barrier

Silicones are used in skincare products due to their ability to act as a barrier that can isolate an area from the external environment. The barrier function of silicones can help protect the skin from various external factors that can cause damage or irritation.¹⁰ 

This makes them particularly useful in products such as hair care products, where they may help to reduce damage from heat styling. 

Additionally, they can reduce transepidermal water loss, which occurs when water evaporates from the skin's surface, leaving it dry and dehydrated.¹¹ By forming a protective layer over the skin, silicones can help to keep the skin hydrated.

Overall, the barrier and lubricating properties of silicones make them a valuable ingredient in skincare products. By isolating the skin from external factors and reducing friction and transepidermal water loss, they can help protect and nourish the skin, potentially leading to a healthier and more radiant complexion. 

If you're interested in incorporating silicones into your skincare routine, you can find them in a variety of products such as moisturizers, serums, and primers. It's always important to read the ingredient labels and consult with a dermatology provider if you have any concerns or questions about specific ingredients.

Are there cons associated with silicone use?

Silicones are widely used in the cosmetic industry due to their various benefits, such as creating a silky texture and improving product spreadability. While the Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety, a non-profit scientific body founded in 1976, has concluded that silicones are generally safe for their present use when formulated to be non-irritating,¹² some concerns have been raised about their impact on the environment. 

Specifically, certain types of silicones may not be biodegradable and can persist in aquatic environments due to their hydrophobic nature.¹³ The hydrophobic nature of silicones means that they repel water and can form a barrier on the skin, reducing water loss and friction. However, this property can also make them difficult to break down in nature. Therefore, some have raised concerns about their potential effects on the environment.

Because of this, researchers are actively searching for more environmentally sustainable alternatives.¹⁴

Skincare that works for you

The ease of application and ability to promote skin healing are just a few of the unique properties that make silicones a valuable ingredient in skincare products. They can also act as a barrier, reducing mechanical friction and transepidermal water loss, which helps to protect and nourish the skin, leading to a healthier and more radiant complexion.

Additionally, silicones have been found to be effective in creating a silky texture and improving product spreadability, making them a popular choice for many skincare formulations.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

If you’re looking for guidance from a licensed dermatology provider, we’re here to help! Curology offers personalized prescription formulas for your specific skin concerns, and gives you access to a skincare expert who can help you with questions you may have. Start your 30-day trial* today!

FAQs

Is silicone okay in skincare?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel concluded that silicone in skin care products is generally safe. Forms of silicone, such as dimethicone, do not interact with the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin, and are therefore unlikely to penetrate the skin barrier.

What are silicones used for in skincare?

Silicones feel soft on the skin, so they are often used to give beauty products a smooth finish. They fill the cracks and crevices of skin and are commonly found in primers for this reason.

What ingredients are silicones?

Some commonly known silicone ingredients are dimethicone, cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, and amodimethicone.

Is silicone and glycerin the same thing?

No, there is a fundamental difference between silicone and glycerin. Silicone is a synthetic compound made of silica, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. Glycerin is derived from animal fats or vegetable oils.

• • •

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

  1. Owen, M.J. Silicone Surface Fundamentals. Macromolecular Rapid Communications. (2020, September 16). 

  2. Hill, R.G. Biomedical polymers - Polysiloxanes (silicones). Biomaterials, Artificial Organs and Tissue Engineering. (2005, n.d.).

  3. Ataya, A. and Harman, E. Case 54 - Silicone Embolism Syndrome. Rare and Interesting Cases in Pulmonary Medicine. (2017, n.d.).

  4. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. (2021, March 31). 

  5. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. Ibid.

  6. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. Ibid.

  7. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. Ibid.

  8. Aziz, T., et al. Modified silicone oil types, mechanical properties and applications. Polymer Bulletin. (2018, August 7).

  9. Aziz, T., et al. Modified silicone oil types, mechanical properties and applications. Polymer Bulletin. Ibid.

  10. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. Ibid.

  11. Lucattelli, E., et al. Non-Healing Burn Wound Treatment With A Sterile Silicone. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. Ibid.

  12. Cosmetic Ingredient Review. Amended Safety Assessment of Dimethicone, Methicone, and Substituted-Methicone Polymers as Used in Cosmetics. (2022, April 19).

  13. Bilal, M., et al. The Beast of Beauty: Environmental and Health Concerns of Toxic Components in CosmeticsCosmetics. (2020, February 28).

  14. Bom, S., et al. Replacing Synthetic Ingredients by Sustainable Natural Alternatives: A Case Study Using Topical O/W Emulsions. Molecules. (2020, October 22).

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
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.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

Related Articles

Is my hairline receding? The signs and stages, explainedFinasteride vs. minoxidil: Which hair loss treatment is right for you?How to remove makeup without makeup remover wipesThe complete guide to face cleansers for every skin typeSkincare tips for dry skin, according to dermatology providers

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyGuidesOur StoryCommunity
All Rights Reserved 2014-2024 Curology Inc.
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information