Why we say NO to Silicone

Things that are different, are not the same.   It's my favourite Captain Obvious quote!  When it comes to cosmetic formulating, consumers and brand owners want the ingredients in their products to be wholesome, clean and organic.  Yet at the same time, they want the product to perform the same as their mainstream cosmetic brands; the staying-power, pigment pay-off, colour vibrancy, etc.  So while the pressure is on to compete with the synthetics, more often than not, I'm amazed at what we CAN achieve with substances from the earth.

With that said, there are bound to be limitations and some differences if the list of ingredients in a products ARE in fact drastically different than a mainstream variety.  Once again, things that are different are not the same....or at least they shouldn't be!

When it comes to cosmetics, consumers want to know the difference between traditional brands and their clean, green, "natural" alternatives.  Why should they abandon their favourite product in exchange for a natural alternative?  What's the sacrifice?  What's the benefit?

This is such a broad subject, so I won't be able to expand on it entirely.  But in this article, I would like to discuss silicones.  Silicones play a MAJOR role in the formulation of traditional brands of cosmetics, including skincare, haircare and makeup.  It's one of the main differences between a mainstream and a natural product, since most eco-friendly brands, including Pure Anada, choose not to use silicones.

So what are silicones anyway?  Silicone is a synthetic ingredient that was first introduced to the beauty industry in the 1950s.  It is derived from the natural ingredient called silica, however by the time it's undergone extensive chemical processing, it can no longer be considered natural or eco-friendly in any way.

Types of silicone:   There are many different types of silicone used in cosmetics.  The difference is in the number of atoms and arrangement of the molecules in the different varieties.  Some silicones are heavy and viscous, others are lightweight in texture.  Cosmetic chemists may use a blend of several varieties to achieve the texture they are looking to achieve in their product. 

How to identify silicone on a product label?  Silicones usually have names that end in -cone or -siloxane.  For example: dimethicone, clyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane.

Benefits of silicone?  Let's start with the benefits. There has to be a benefit to using silicone.  If there wasn't, cosmetic chemists wouldn't continue to use them in almost every beauty product on the market!  Most formulators would say it's a substance they couldn't work without. They give products a luxurious feel; the spreadability of an oil, or thickness of a butter -  without a greasy texture.

In primers, liquid foundations and lotions it improves spreadability, helping the product to glide over the skin beautifully.  In hair-care, it coats each strand to detangle and improve manageability.  In pressed powder makeup, it gives a cushioned effect, excellent colour adhesion and water resistance.  In lipstick, if you want high-performance, long lasting colour, you need silicone.  In gloss, it imparts a high shine, (sometimes) slightly sticky feel.

From a brand-owner's perspective, Silicone is a dreamy primary ingredient since it has an infinite shelf life.  It doesn't oxidize and go rancid like plant oils or butters.  We're talking of products that can have a shelf life of 10 years or more!

Are you sold?  Reading the benefits, I almost am as well!  But before we check out, let's talk about the cons.

Disadvantages of silicone:  The main reason that conscious brands say no to silicone is because it is bio-accumulative.  Their molecules are inert and can take over 500 years to decompose!  Of course, this poses a concern for the environment, especially aquatic organisms.  It's for this reason, that David Suzuki includes siloxanes on his Dirty Dozen, and that cosmetic organic certification bodies (Ecocert, USDA, etc) do not permit any form of silicone in their certified products.

As far as safety to humans, there isn't as much of a concern.  Of the many chemicals that DO absorb into our bloodstream from cosmetic application, silicones do not penetrate the skin.  Their purpose is to sit on top of the skin.

The fact that they sit on top of the skin however, poses the problem for the health of skin.  It creates a occlusive effect - similar to a thin layer of plastic applied to your skin on a daily basis.  This interferes with your skin's natural functions, like sweating and temperature regulating.  In other words, it doesn't allow your skin to "breath".

The instant gratification of the luxurious skin-feel, is overshadowed over time. Skin becomes dry and dull, since silicones do nothing to moisturize or hydrate.  It's a vicious cycle, applying more product on top of damaged skin to mask the symptoms rather than repair.

Skin may become more acne prone, because it isn't permitted to "breath" as mentioned above.  Any bacteria or residue that gets trapped under your silicone "mask" begins to irritate your skin, cause inflammation and acne.

I've seen it over and over again, the amazing transformation that ladies experience when they switch to more natural products.  Eliminating silicones (and other synthetic fragrances and chemicals) is such a relief for their skin!

Silicone Alternatives: So what's a natural formulator to do?  Let me share with you the many beautiful alternatives!  In Pure Anada products we use plant oils, butters and waxes: jojoba, sunflower, seabuckthorn, coconut, castor, shea, candalilla.....and more!

One of the main advantages to using these natural plant oils is that they help to nourish and repair skin each and every time you apply your products!  Antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins are all infused into your skin, keeping it moist, supple and youthful.  I can't imaging forgoing the goodness of these nourishing ingredients in exchange for a luxurious "sensation" of using silicones.

Limitations of the Alternatives: I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit there are limitations to not using silicone polymers in cosmetics.  It's a fact that it poses a significant set of challenges to formulate a range of makeup and skincare using only ingredients that are naturally found in nature.  However, it has helped to be passionate about my goal, and I believe we have achieved success, and Pure Anada is a viable alternative to using synthetic alternatives.

When people remind me of the limitations, it does help to remember that "things that are different, are not the same".  We can't expect products made from plants and minerals to be the same as products made from plastic and petro-chemicals.

1) Texture limitations.
  • Liquid products that contain plant oils  such as our Tinted Moisturizer, can feel oily on some skin types.  Silicones on the other hand, would give a dry-oil feel.  
  • When full coverage is desired, a product like our Liquid Foundation can feel dry to some people.  What they are experiencing is the lack of "spreadability" that comes from silicone.  It's why we always recommend applying our liquid foundation with a brush.  It helps the product glide across your skin a lot easier than with your fingers.  
  • Our lipstick and cream concealer can sometimes feel like it drags.  Especially the first time you use it, or if you haven't used it in a while.  All it takes is a bit of warmth from your skin for it to soften the butters and waxes.  
  • Our Smooth Priming Serum's main function is to hydrate and plump skin cells, making it a perfect canvas for makeup application.  Traditional primers on the other hand, just create a layer of plastic on your skin that helps to artificially fill in pores and fine lines.  
  • Our lip gloss and shines, don't have that sticky feel - which is usually a benefit!  I actually haven't met anyone who likes the tacky-feel of silicone in gloss.  

2) Shelf life limitations.
Plant based ingredients in cosmetics are actually closer to food products than they are cosmetic products!  So when you think of your natural makeup, it's better to think of it as a naturally, well preserved food item.  It won't last forever (like silicone-based products).  Plant oils and butters oxidize and will eventually go rancid.  How can you tell?  Your face cream or liquid foundation will start to smell rancid.  You will know!   The best suggestion is to only purchase a product when you are ready to use it, and then use it till it's gone before you buy more.  For natural product retailers, it means being aware of rotating the skincare and cosmetics, and only stocking what you feel will sell within 6 months to 1 year (or so).

I hope this helps to explain what silicones are, their function and why we choose not to use them in Pure Anada products.  It's certainly not the most dangerous ingredient for our health, but it isn't a wise choice for the earth.  But with all the benefits to your skin of using plant and mineral based makeup, I personally feel the choice is an easy one!