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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 ( 85 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?

    • Annmarie Skin Care says:

      Hi Madison!

      Absolutely! You’ve come to the right place! Check out our foundation, it only has four ingredients and none of them are silicon 🙂

      https://shop.annmariegianni.com/collections/sample-kits/products/sample-kit-earth-minerals-multi-purpose-foundation?variant=1124787177

    • Joanna says:

      Hi there! I have the same issue and only wear foundation 1-2x per week. Jane Iredale has a great liquid minerals foundation that does not contain silicones. Also, check out Rae Chen’s beauty blog: http://thenotice.net/author/rae-chen/

      If you find something you like, let me know. The best silicone-free foundation I’ve found (liquid) is the Liquid Minerals but it is a bit pricey. Laura Mercier also has a mineral foundation (powder) and there is the Bare Minerals line. This works for some. Pur Minerals has a pressed 4-in-1 foundation/concealer etc.

      Best wishes– you aren’t alone:)

    • CarlaVan says:

      Reply to Madison and anyone else who may have interest ; what most people don’t realize is the majority of humans have demodex mites that live on the face and scalp and any areas hair is found at all . This fact , to elaborate on it would take too long but you can google what you need to know about it ; also they’re transferable and could have been transferred by the operators fingers who applied your makeup at the store or from a brush ; probably the former, as people seem to instantly touch the palette of color or foundation and apply with a finger or at least blend ; even if she used an applicator, demodex mite and scabie mites are instantly transferable from tips of fingers and nails to tissue with it will eat the make up and tissue itself if a tissue was used to clean off the neck of the foundation since he last customer . Welcome to the world! While these are only possibilities, even so , you can fight back with dr bro nerd peppermint liquid soap sold online or at the grocer or gnc stores coupled with our aloe Vera gel like fruit of the earth at Drugstore.com. Dollar tree has generic noxema and original Seabreeze has clove and eucalyptus oil in it that thes mites don’t like . I also rotate a few drops of tea tree oil to my tegimine . And don’t share any make up at

    • Carmen says:

      Powder mineral foundations are great for acne prone skin.

  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 :/

  5. Halley says:

    I have been out of high school for 3 years now, and stopped experiencing harsh acne the end of my senior year. Not using foundation or anything on my skin but bronzer for years i have never had any adverse reactions.. a few days ago i got my makeup professionally done at the MAC counter in Ohio at the mall. Full face, natural look, red lips, highlighter, bronzer and concealer. All for the package price of $35 plus any products you would like to purchase. After wearing the full face for about 8 hours I noticed no breakouts. Keep in mind, I’m more on the natural looking side of makeup and don’t like using anything heavy…I would normally NEVER wear full face makeup. After my appt I purchased the global glow highlighter and concealer. Excited to wear it in a natural look, i did my makeup the next day and wore just this product alone and eye makeup and lip liner. The results were so amazingly beautiful i hard a hard time taking it off that night. I didn’t want to! But thank god i did….i have sensitive oily skin & after taking this product off my skin was severely broken out with acne. WORST PRODUCT LINE I HAVE EVER USED IN MY LIFE!!! This product has a very harsh ingredient called DIMETHICONE..which is very harsh and bacteria prone to the skin.

  6. Imane says:

    Hi! thank you for the article. I stopped using a product that contains demithicone about a month ago ( i used it for a month too) but when i watched someone online talk about harmful chemicals cosmetic ingredients. ..i looked into it and was shocked i stopped using everything except for natural ingredients. Now my skin is breathing again thankfully. But i feel like its still trying to heal itself i keep seeing black heads come out now that i stopped using that product. How long do you think it will take for those to go?
    Regards from Morocco 🙌

  7. Sandra says:

    It’s incredible how many cosmetics manufacturers that tout themselves as “natural” or non-sensitizing put this SILICONE in their products! ORIGINS, ESTEE LAUDER, CLINIQUE, they all do!

    It’s super CHEAP for the manufacturers yet they still charge a lot of money for their products, which have a TINY AMOUNT of the good ingredients. So tiny it doesn’t do anything!

    I shop at Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage, etc. for my cosmetics. Even Derma E has DIMETHICONE in some of their products, which made me break out!

  8. Carla Van says:

    I happen to be FOR dimethicone just for its suffocating effects and there is a lot of it juphnson baby lotion which is why I think it actually helps heal and protect the skin … Everyone tells me my skin is like velvet and Johnsons doesn’t break me out . Besides its pie dimethicone they use as the only ingredient in the LiceMD for curing head lice in school kids .. They’ve linked adult acne to demodex mites which 95% of all people including most infants end up getting and live with . God also created Dimethicone so saying its unatural is a lie

    • Nature says:

      Are you kidding right now? Dimethicone is not natural,…you’re delusional and paranoid,

      God made lice though, so let them live in freedom.

  9. Jman says:

    Why does silicones like Dimethicone leave skin feeling soft even after washing off aggressively? Is it left over film or just the skin changed temporally?

  10. Leona says:

    I know that there seems to be some negative evidence against Dimethicone but I’m sorry, my holy grail of moisturiser (the L’orael wrinkle decrese) has been a life saver! I’ve had LESS BREAKOUTS and better skin using this product consistently. Every time I’ve had break outs, putting this for a couple of days was calming my skin. Even when I’ve had a few days off I would notice of how less dry my skin used to be. I’m no longer a dry skin type but more normal now.
    Sure there might be people that are sensitive to it, but i am not seeing any negative results on me. It only helped my skin!

  11. Natalie says:

    Recently I have been trying to find new foundations and primers. I bought Maybelline’s Baby Skin primer, which contains dimethicone as the first ingredient, and noticed after a day or so that my face was splotchy and irritated after I washed my face. I immediately stopped using it as I figured it was an allergic reactions. I kept it so I could cross reference ingredients if I had similar reaction with another product. A week ago I bought Rimmel’s BB Cream in the matte finish and used it for three days in a row. After the second day I noticed a little redness and acne but thought nothing of it. On the morning after the third day my cheeks and forehead where splotchy and irritated once again. I looked up the ingredients and found that dimethicone is listed as the sixth ingredient. While the BB cream did not contain as high of a percentage of dimethicone as the primer did I am assuming that it is what has been causing my allergic reactions. Dimethicone was the only product they had in common.

  12. Sarah says:

    Hi all!

    All silicones make me break out! One foundation that works for me is the IT cosmetics celebration foundation. It does not break me out!

    Many bare minerals foundations also do not contain silicone, just be sure to check the ingredient list anything with the word CONE in it is silicone!

    Hope this helps! 🙂

  13. Amy P says:

    I’m actually allergic to Dimethicone and get severe migraines if I accidentally come into contact with it. I’m wondering if anyone else has this kind of reaction? It’s a difficult ingredient to avoid since it’s included in many products that are labeled “all natural”.

  14. Pam says:

    Hey what a great article, i am researching silicone’s in hair products and this has been really helpful. Thank you xx

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