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Ingredient Watch List: Dimethicone, the Smoothing Silicone That Exacerbates Acne

Foundations, skin creams, and primers—they all may contain dimethicone, which can increase acne breakouts.

You can hardly pick up a skin care, makeup, or hair care product these days without reading “dimethicone” on the ingredient list. Why are so many products suddenly using it, and should you be concerned?

What is Dimethicone?

Dimethicone (also known as polydimethylsiloxane or PDMS) is technically called a silicone-based polymer. More simply, it’s a silicone oil with certain properties that make it extremely popular in today’s personal care properties.

What companies really like about this ingredient is that it provides a smooth application. For skin care products, it fills in uneven texture and fine lines, which helps create a smooth and flawless look in products like primers, foundations, and lotions. It also provides a protective cover on skin, which is supposed to help keep moisture in, leaving skin hydrated for longer.

What's Your Skin Score?

In hair care products, dimethicone is used to provide smoothness, particularly in conditioners and detanglers, where the ingredient helps smooth hair and provide better comb-through. Because dimethicone leaves a sort of covering on the hair strands, it can also make hair appear shinier.

Is it Safe?

The FDA approved dimethicone for personal care products, and it is generally considered to be safe to use. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) also evaluated the scientific data and concluded that it was safe for use in cosmetics. The Skin Deep Database also marks this ingredient with a low hazard rating. The only possible side effects listed are dryness, slight irritation, and allergic reactions.

This tells us little, however, about what this ingredient may do to the skin. Scientifically, it may not cause cancer or other obvious harm, but should you be applying this ingredient every day to your skin? I’m hoping you don’t!

What are the Concerns?

The first concern with this ingredient is that it covers the skin. Manufacturers may think that’s a benefit, but I don’t. Imagine having a thin, rubber-like cover over your face all day. Sound healthy? It’s not.

Not only are you missing out on truly moisturizing ingredients like natural oils, extracts, and shea butter, but you’re interfering with the skin’s natural processes, like sweating, temperature regulating, sloughing off dead skin cells, and the like. Prolonged exposure can increase skin irritation and create a dependency on the product. Just like petroleum jelly, dimethicone can actually end up drying your skin the more you use it, as it interferes with the natural hydrating processes, making fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable.

Here’s something even worse: Have you noticed, since using these new products with dimethicone, that your skin is breaking out more? No surprise, as the covering and trapping property of dimethicone means that it’s not just trapping moisture, but bacteria, skin oils, sebum, and other impurities. That means those prone to acne or with oily skin are more likely to see increased blackheads and breakouts when using products containing this ingredient.

There is also some concern that dimethicone is hurting the environment. It is non-biodegradable, which means that it can pollute our environment during both the manufacturing process and after it’s used, in the disposable process.

What to Do?

Your skin doesn’t need chemicals to look healthy and smooth. The way to truly beautiful skin is to nourish it, both inside and out. Avoiding this product is simple and complicated at the same time. Simple, because you can find it (and related cousins listed below) by simply reading the ingredient deck. Complicated, because you’ll find this ingredient in thousands of products out there.

The answer? Purchase your skin care products from conscientious manufacturers who care about using truly nourishing ingredients. As for hair care products? The ingredient is less likely to cause any personal adverse effects when used on the hair, as long as you don’t soak in it (as in a bath) afterwards.

Oh, and by the way, you already knew, but Annmarie Gianni Skin Care stays completely away from dimethicone and any other silicone products.

  • Methicone
  • Phenyl trimethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Dimethicone copolyol

Did you experience more acne breakouts when using products that contain this ingredient? Please share.

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COMMENTS ( 70 and counting )
  1. Madison says:

    All throughout high school it was very rare for me to have so much as one pimple on my face; I always had very very clear skin, however, being the baby of five older sisters, I always wore makeup anyway. Now I’m 20-years-old and am having breakouts left and right–some were so bad that I didn’t even want to leave my house. After going to several different dermatologists, trying all sorts of medications and creams, and even swearing off makeup for weeks (I was desperate), the acne FINALLY started to go away. So, I started using makeup again, but just on the weekends, and what do you know? I broke out once again, and realized that my skin does NOT agree with sillicone based foundations. I have been unsuccessfully searching for non-sillicone-based foundations for about a year now and I am wondering if there are any out there that don’t contain these harmful ingredients?

  2. Alex says:

    This ingredient is in a hair product I use for my curls. After a week of use, I have breakouts around my hairline. My scalp is also suffocating. It made my curls looks great, but I can feel the buildup on my hair.

  3. dlr57 says:

    I am in my mid-50s and any type of silicone still gives me a break outs. I love the look of BB & CC creams but they all caused problems due to silicone type ingredients. I finally found Bare Minerals Complexioned Rescue. It works as a BB & CC cream and so far as I can tell does not contain any form of silicone.

  4. Zara says:

    Little did i know that even moisturizers have demithicone in them,i used Aveeno daily moisturizer thinking it would help my skin rather i have small bumps all over my forehead n cheeks.. I dont know how to get rid of them now :/