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Is silicone products good for hair extensions and women' hair systems

Is silicone products good for hair extensions and women' hair systems

Posted by Superhairpieces on Aug 18, 2023

In a previous blog post, we discussed the use of silicone in wigs and toppers. However, silicone has a completely different application in the realm of hair care products. It is highly regarded as a beneficial ingredient in such products due to its ability to promote healthy, shiny hair while providing protection against external factors. Unfortunately, when it comes to toppers, wigs, and even hair extensions, silicone can contribute to premature shedding, which is strongly discouraged in the hair replacement industry. Many stylists transition from the hair styling industry to the hair replacement industry and use hair care products that may work differently depending on where and when it is being used. Silicone products are just one of those hair care products, requiring extra training to avoid unhappy clients.

But before we dismiss silicone products altogether, let's delve deeper into what silicone in hair care products actually is, its functions, its advantages, and its drawbacks. Then we’ll examine why it’s not the greatest for wigs and hair toppers.

What is Silicone in hair care products?

Silicone, found in hair care products, is derived from a natural element called silica, which is abundant in the Earth's ground, much like the sand found on beaches. It is a man-made polymer that serves as a synthetic ingredient. When applied, silicone coats the hair shaft and possesses hydrophobic properties, meaning it repels water. Its primary function is to create a protective layer that helps hair retain moisture by forming an impenetrable seal. By smoothing out the cuticles and sealing the hair shaft, silicone safeguards against heat damage, reducing hair breakage. Silicone is a prevalent ingredient in conditioners, serums, shampoos, hair sprays, and other styling and hair care products. Its primary application is in products designed to combat frizz and retain moisture in the hair.

In the hair care industry, three types of silicone are commonly used, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. These types are classified based on their solubility in water: non-water soluble, partially water soluble, and water-soluble. Among these, one type stands out as a superior alternative compared to the other two.

Non-water soluble silicone is silicone that cannot be easily rinsed away with water alone. It necessitates the use of another substance to effectively remove it. This is because non-water soluble silicone tends to leave behind a wax-like texture, making the hair feel thick and heavy. This characteristic is beneficial for those seeking a strong seal for their hair. However, the removal of non-water soluble silicone requires the use of sulphates.

Sulphates are substances commonly found in shampoos, and their primary function is to eliminate oil and dirt from the hair. Unfortunately, when sulphates are used to break down non-water soluble silicone, they have the potential to strip away excessive moisture, leaving the hair dry and unhealthy. Additionally, sulphates can contribute to dryness and irritation of the scalp.

If silicone residue remains on the hair for prolonged periods, it can lead to undesirable buildup, causing the hair to feel greasy, heavy, and increasing the likelihood of bacterial growth if hair care products are not washed out regularly. Examples of non-water soluble silicone you may find in hair care products are dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and amodimethicone.

Next, we have partially soluble silicones that have the property of eventually evaporating after the product has been applied to the hair. However, if the hair has been treated with products containing partially soluble silicones, it is necessary to use sulphate-based shampoos to remove the residue and prevent any product buildup completely. As mentioned, buildup is detrimental to the hair's health and can lead to an unpleasant texture and feel. It is strongly advised to incorporate the use of a clarifying shampoo into your hair care routine from time to time to achieve a thorough cleansing. Examples of partially soluble silicones include dimethicone PEG-8 phosphate, dimethicone copolyol, and lauryl methicone copolyol.

Lastly, we have water-soluble silicones, which are considered the most desirable type of silicone. Water-soluble silicones are highly advantageous because they can be easily rinsed away from the hair without the need for sulphate shampoos. Simply using water alone is sufficient to remove these silicones. Unlike other types, water-soluble silicones are lightweight and make the hair feel smooth and soft. The downside is that the silicone doesn’t have a long-lasting effect like the other two types of silicone. But when it comes to the health of the scalp and hair, the less buildup of products the better. An example of a water-soluble silicone is cyclomethicone

Now this begs the question: is silicone really good for the hair, and if not, why bother having it in hair care products? Well let's dive into the pros and cons of having silicone in your hair care routine.

Pros of Silicone in hair products

Silicone in hair products

Silicone in hair products

Silicone offers various benefits, largely attributed to the protective coating it forms around the hair cuticles, which are the outermost layer of the hair fiber. It works to reduce friction, prevent tangles and frizz, and enhance the shine, smoothness, and manageability of your locks.

Additionally, silicone acts as a protective shield, safeguarding your hair strands from damaging external elements such as pollutants, humidity, abrasion, and heat styling. It also helps minimize moisture loss from the hair fibers, contributing to better moisture retention. Moreover, silicone has the ability to reflect light off the hair shafts, giving your hair a shiny appearance. It can also enhance the body of your hair, providing a volumizing effect. It's understandable why one may be tempted to use silicone hair products as they offer an instant "glow-up" for your hair.

The Cons of Silicones in Hair Products

Silicone in hair products

Silicones, especially non-water-soluble variants, are infamous for causing product buildup on the scalp and hair, leading to a greasy and unpleasant appearance. In more severe cases, this buildup can result in flakes, which is definitely not desirable.

While silicones form a protective film on the hair fibers, keeping out pollutants, this barrier can hinder moisture and other nourishing hair care products from penetrating the hair shafts, resulting in decreased hydration levels within the strands. This can eventually lead to dryness, lacklustre hair, breakage, and scalp irritation. While using a sulphate-based shampoo may seem like a solution to remove silicone buildup, it also removes the natural oils from your scalp, leaving your scalp dry and itchy, with the hair more susceptible to dryness, frizz, color fading, split ends, and breakage, especially for those with curly and coily hair types since the natural oils have been stripped.

In summary, Silicone is great in creating a protective coating on the hair shaft, sealing in already there moisture and providing benefits such as smoothness and heat protection. However, the benefits are only good as long as there isn’t a ton of product buildup. The best type of silicone in hair care products that avoids product buildup are ones that are water solubles, but the downside is that it doesn’t last as long as the other two types of silicone. Either way, it’s extremely beneficial to consumers and stylists to understand when to use silicone-based products and ensure that the user knows which is best for their needs.

Now that we know what silicone is, its benefits and disadvantages, let’s discuss why using silicone-based hair care products may not be suitable for wigs and toppers.

Silicone for Wigs, Toppers and hair extensions

Based on the information thus far, wigs, toppers and hair extensions would benefit from silicone since it can provide shine, protection and retain moisture. Although there may be a lot of truth to that, most wearers overlook what this type of substance will actually do to the knots on the wigs and hair extensions.

Many wearers purchase hair care products containing silicone to smoothen out their flyways or add moisture, only to find that their wigs and toppers start shedding right after a wash. Since silicone is of a wax-like texture, it can cause knots on wigs and toppers to loosen and cause slippage, resulting in premature shedding. This has the same effect on hair extensions, especially if they are sown in where silicone can seep through the threads; for example, hand-tied and machine wefts are more susceptible to this type of shedding.

But before we cancel silicone altogether, the benefits silicone plays on wigs, toppers, and extensions can help promote longevity, especially in hair quality.

How to use Silicone on Wigs, toppers, and hair extensions

Although silicone as an ingredient may not benefit someone who uses it directly on their scalp to enhance their locks, it can provide longevity on the hair shaft, especially with wigs, toppers, and hair extensions. The key to using silicone products is to avoid the top of the base. Of course, using water-soluble silicone products is the best to avoid build-up on hair, but hair system wearers have an advantage in using other types of silicone as they have the option to remove their wig or topper daily. Essentially, daily wig and topper wearers do not secrete natural oils on the hair system as much as permanent wearers who sleep and exercise with it. Also, they can use sulphate products to remove the silicone buildup since they can wash their hair system apart from their scalp. So it will depend on the length of time in attachment to determine if the type of silicone is best used and/or whether sulphate products are necessary to clean.

In general, the rule of thumb when using any silicone products on hair systems and extensions is to avoid any product on the base where the knots reside. Only place silicone products at the ends of the hair to promote smoothness and avoid all shampoos with silicone ingredients. Instead, use silicone products like serums at the end of your hair care routine to avoid the knots slipping. But, if you must use silicone and/or silicone has somehow seeped into the base of the hair system or hair extension, then use clarifying shampoos to get a good clean.

For hydrating the top of your hair system or extensions, consider using cleansing conditioners that effectively remove debris while promoting optimal hydration. Many cleansing conditioners are designed without silicones, catering to those who wish to avoid these haircare ingredients. However, it's still essential to read the labels to ensure the absence of silicones or any other unwanted components.

You can follow this great hair care routine for your wig, topper, and/or hair extensions as an example:

  1. Wash hair with sulphate-free shampoo if there is no product build-up. Otherwise wash hair with sulphate shampoos to remove silicone buildup
  2. Condition and clean with cleansing conditioner at the top of the base
  3. Add silicone-based conditioner only at the ends
  4. Rinse with cold water to lock in the conditioner
  5. Spray silicone leave-in conditioner for matted and hard-to-brush areas (avoid top of base)
  6. Brush through with a loop brush to avoid further damage to the hair shaft
  7. Style as usual
  8. Add serum only to the ends to provide extra shine.
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