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Explication shampooings sans silicones.

Should we switch to a silicone-free shampoo?

Silicone is often used in the formulation of shampoos. At first glance, its role appears to be beneficial for achieving soft, shiny, flexible, and easy-to-style hair, but it turns out that it is actually harmful to hair health. As a result, an increasing number of silicone-free shampoos are being offered to take care of one's hair. But how are they different from traditional shampoos? What should one expect? This article provides some answers.

Published February 22, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 6 min read

What is Silicone?

The silicones are ingredients commonly used in many hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. These are synthetic actives belonging to a family of polymers derived from silicon, a compound that naturally exists in sand.

The most common method for synthesizing them is the polymerization process, a chemical reaction that allows several units of monomers to be linked to form long chains of polymers. In the case of silicones, the monomers used are generally organosilicon compounds, which are molecules containing both silicon atoms and organic groups.

In the formulation of cosmetic products, silicones are often found in the form of oil. In a shampoo or conditioner, these ingredients serve to coat the hair fiber to make it smooth and silky. They do not contribute to hair maintenance, as they merely cover the hair fiber with a film on the surface of the cuticle. They can be recognized by their INCI name ending in -thicone, -thiconol, or -siloxane.

The drawbacks of using a shampoo with silicones?

Just as silicones coat the hair, they also make it impervious to other treatments that need to be applied. Indeed, the buildup of silicones can prevent hair care products, such as masks, oils, and treatments, from properly penetrating the hair, thereby reducing their effectiveness.

Health risks?

It is crucial to note that silicones belong to a broad family of polymers, and not all necessarily have adverse effects on health. Some silicones are entirely safe to use. However, there are specific types of silicones, such as theoctamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and the decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5), which can be toxic at high doses (>0.1%), a concentration from which they are likely to enter the systemic circulation. Indeed, they are suspected of being toxic to reproduction. Therefore, the European Regulation limits their concentration, which must be less than 0.1% by weight in cosmetic products to ensure their safety for human health.

And what about the environment?

Silicones pose a concerning environmental impact, as these chemically inert compounds require on average more than 400 to 500 years to degrade. Volatile silicones, such as D4 and D5, are particularly criticized, as they are known to accumulate in the environment and do not biodegrade due to their high stability.

However, this can lead to an increase in the concentration of these substances in ecosystems, which can be harmful to living organisms. Certain types of silicones, such as linear polymers, can be toxic to aquatic life, including fish and marine organisms. They can cause hormonal disruptions and adverse effects on marine organisms.

Note : Silicones are often portrayed as harmful to hair. However, at a concentration mandated by the European cosmetic regulation, this is not always the case. Indeed, by creating a protective layer on the surface of the hair, they play a crucial role in protecting against external aggressions.

What are the benefits of a silicone-free shampoo?

A large number of people wonder if it is beneficial to adopt a silicone-free hair care routine: what are its actual advantages?

  • Maintaining the balance of the scalp.

    Silicones, when in contact with the scalp, can clog pores and "suffocate" it. This may then cause irritations or itching. Using a silicone-free shampoo allows for the cleansing of the scalp without causing harm.

  • Spacing out washes.

    Often enriched with natural ingredients and active substances with multiple benefits, silicone-free shampoos are designed to care for the hair fiber and the scalp. With better maintenance, the scalp will produce sebum regularly. This will slow down the greasing of the hair, allowing you to space out your shampoos.

  • A positive action for the environment.

    Shampoos devoid of silicone help prevent issues of negative environmental impact, particularly for marine environments, caused by silicones.

In "natural" skincare, silicones are often replaced with esters derived from vegetable oil, which are transformed to mimic the properties of silicones. Their goal is to replicate their sheathing, shining, and smoothing activity. This is the case, for example, with heptyl undecylenate, a lipophilic ester that is 100% natural and derived from castor oil. Its emollient properties allow it to form a protective layer on the surface of the hair cuticle, which can help to reduce the absorption of moisture from the environment and minimize frizz to maintain a smoother appearance.

Another example is the caprylic/capric triglyceride which is derived from hydrogenated and hydrolyzed coconut oil. This is a light emollient that can help maintain hair hydration by forming a protective barrier on its surface. It also helps to minimize the absorption of moisture from the environment, which contributes to reducing frizz and maintaining a smoother appearance.

At Typology, all our shampoos have been formulated without silicones to respect the hair fiber and balance of the scalp.


  • GARAUD J-L. Les silicones 50 ans d’innovation en cosmétique. L’actualité Chimique (2008).

  • Règlement (CE) n°1223/2009 du Parlement Européen et Conseil.


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