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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Pam says

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

  4. Kiran says

    Dr YOUN recommend this on p_b_s. He claims that it heals dry skin. what a joke this plastic surgeon is. Dr. Youn is a liar. His mother was in the audience with a non human face looking like it is caught in a wind tunnel and a bad nose job. he claims she has never gone under the knife, LOL!

  5. Suzanne says

    I work as a caregiver. With regard to skin protectant creams that are applied to an elderly person’s rear end to help prevent skin breakdown, does a cream that has 5% dimethicone protect the skin better than one with only 1% dimethicone?

    • Annmarie Skin Care says

      Hi Suzanne,

      We’re not sure because we do suggest staying away from dimethicone if it’s at all possible.

      Best,
      ASC

  6. kate says

    i can relate so much to this article.. i am currently researching about the certain ingredient that causes me further breakouts when i introduced one moisturizer to my skin care routine..at first i thought it was alcohol..but i realized, Im also using other products (toners,serums,essence) that contain alcohol, which isn’t causing me breakouts, just that one specific moisturizer that contain dimethicone..i searched for the side effects of every ingredients of that moisturizer.. now i think i found the answer..that is, to stay away from this particular ingredient.

  7. Brenda says

    Another “cone” hater here. I skin has auto-detect for dimethicone or any “cone” ingredient. It is so frustrating looking for primer, foundation, and moisturizers without it. I always have tiny whiteheads on my skin by the end of the day. I can treat at night and they are all but gone by morning. Let me just find a line that doesn’t have “cones!”

  8. Olivia says

    Recently purchased new makeup and a moisturizer. My skin has gotten worse over the past week. I took the products back to Sephora and they looked at all the ingredients. Dimethicon was the common denominator. I was able to return the products but my face is still red, irritated, has bumps and break outs. My acne has never been this bad. I was also in the shower using my new shampoo and conditioner, I have dry patches behind my ears and along my neck and jaw. I looked at the ingredients and there it was, Dimethicon. Not only am I break out on my face but also my chest, stomach and/upper back.

  9. K2 says

    Thank you for the article. I didn’t know what was causing my breakouts! I now know…argh.

    I’ve been using this tinted SPF and when I use it, I break out more. When I don’t have anything on my face, it’s clear with little acne.

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