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

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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.

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? We hope 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 we 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, and sloughing off dead skin cells.

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 Skin Care stays completely away from dimethicone and any other silicone products.

  • Methicone
  • Phenyl trimethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Dimethicone copolyol
Have you experienced breakouts when using products that contain this ingredient? Please share in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Samantha G. says

    Just recently purchases Rihanna’s new foundation & i noticesd my skin was starting to break out. My skin is perfectly clear, so when i have a breakout or bump i noticed right away. I started noticing little white heads on my face. The fenty foundation was the only thing i was doing diff with my skin & looked at the ingredients & dimethicone was the second ingredient listed.

    • Melissa King says

      Wish there was a way to really get to the manufacturers and let them know we hate this kind of junk. Not buying their product is not really enough!

  2. Kylie Patti says

    My story:
    I never had a problem like this before – until I used Loreal Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream. It worked fine all over my face except the lower half of my cheeks would always feel very hot after putting it on and one day I spread what was left over on my fingers onto my eyelids. Later on, I noticed that my eyes were itchy, pink, and puffy…great. So I took a break from using it all together and shortly after received the Tarte Rainforest of the Sea V.II eyeshadow pallet. I would usually use colors from it with other colors from different pallets and would occasionally notice the same side effects in a more subtle way. Until YESTERDAY… I decided to use only colors from the tarte pallet (and I used a lot) and throughout the day my eyes became more and more itchy. By the time I got home from work (9 hours later) My eyes were very red and starting to swell. The worst part is that even after taking the makeup off they still continued to swell more and this morning I have big puffy eyes!!! UGH. After doing a lot of research I now realize that I must be allergic to Dimethicone because its in both of these products near the top of the ingredient list. Also, I would like to mention that I’ve used the Tartelette in Bloom eyeshadow pallet many times in the past year and have never had a reaction and there is no dimethicone in that pallet. Thanks for this article. It has helped a lot in my research! 🙂

    • Kailey says

      I had a similar reaction! I’ve been sporadically using Ulta’s Demi-Matte Foundation (dimethicone is the second listed ingredient) under my eyes and only today did I realize that this was the product that has been irritating my skin. I assumed it was an acne cream that I kept accidentally rubbing near my eye because it seemed so random when my under eye and eye lid would swell and become irritated. I’ve stopped using the acne cream a few weeks ago while waiting for my eye reaction to calm down and today I wore only the foundation. Swollen, pink, itchy under eyes and lids. I think it’s safe the say that dimethicone is the culprit here.

  3. Karen says

    I have definitely noticed my face breaking out after using products with dimethicone as a primary ingredient. The problem is that it is very difficult to find any facial skincare products or makeup without it. 🙁

  4. HeatherSays says

    I’m curious about silicons, dimethicone, etc. I avoid it for my hair because I have noticed that it makes my hair dry and brittle, but it is in moisturizers that I use.

    I have not broken out from dimethicone, as far as I know. I have developed whiteheads, though, when I used coconut oil as a makeup remover – I still use it, but I follow it with a foaming cleanser to sweep the oil away.

    I will try moisturizers without dimethicone to see how it goes.

    I suspect dimethicone might be helpful on top of some moisturizers to protect the skin in harsh conditions, like clothing would. Certainly, one would not need anything like that at night.

  5. Stacia says

    I can’t use anything with dimethicone, or I’ll break out badly. I had to return my Shape Tape among other makeup products and no longer condition my hair in the shower. It really does a number for me, and finding cosmetics without dimethicone is a task. Eliminating that one ingredient made a huge difference right away.

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