Why Silicones in Skincare and Haircare?
You may have noticed that many different silicones can be found in skincare and haircare products today. There are a number of reasons why formulators – and customers – like products containing silicone. With many names, some ending in “oxane”, they are in cosmetics, as well. There are also reasons to be cautious when using skincare and haircare products containing silicone. It’s important to know, first of all, what silicone is and how they are used in skincare and haircare products.
What Is Silicone?
Silicone – also called polysiloxane – is a synthetic polymer derived from the element silicon and oxygen atoms. Silicon is extracted from common sand with a variety of chemicals, most of which are recycled or inert (e.g. water). It’s been used in personal care products for more than 30 years, which comprises about 15% of all uses for silicones. It is now used in everything from breast implants and beauty blenders to products found at Home Depot. Because it repels water, it’s useful for projects that require a waterproofing substance. Two types of silicone are commonly used; water soluble and non-water soluble.
Silicones In Skincare
If you look at the labels on most skincare and cosmetic products, you’ll find ingredients like Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclohexasiloxane. These silicones are not water soluble. Silicones are popular in primers for their ability to leave skin feeling silky smooth, and they tend to reflect light. Most recently, polymers like Polybutene and Polyisobutene may appear on your product labels. It’s becoming more difficult to identify silicones in beauty products. For those of us who are looking to avoid synthetics, it’s becoming almost impossible to avoid them in skincare products. That, in and of itself, is troubling. Consumers should be able to choose whether or not to use products containing synthetic polymers that don’t benefit the skin in any long-lasting way.
So what’s so wrong about silicone in skincare? The answer often depends on your skin type and personal preferences. The moisture-trapping nature of silicone may mean that it also traps other substances (like dirt and oils) that may cause breakouts. And while everyone loves smooth-looking skin, it’s a short-lived effect rather than the result of a product’s impact on the skin. Their water-repellent nature can also make them more difficult to remove, which requires more intense cleansing at the end of the day.
We’ve decided to avoid using silicones in our Whole Earth Body Actives Vitamin C Face Cream. Instead, we’ve incorporated isoflavones derived from bamboo to smooth and enhance the skin’s appearance.
Silicones in Haircare
At first, the benefits of using silicones in haircare may seem obvious. They serve to smooth our frizzines, and who doesn’t love that? However, the water-repellent nature of most silicones can cause them to accumulate in their hair, making it heavy. Removing this product from their hair then requires the use of a deep-cleaning (e.g. harsher) clarifying shampoo. For dry, curly hair, this can do more harm than good. For many, the use of a nourishing oil like coconut or argan would be preferable to smoothing a synthetic all over the hair. Recently, some products formulate with water-soluble silicones that are easier to wash out. Examples are hydrolyzed wheat protein and ingredients that begin with PEG.
Finally, there’s a question of sustainability and eco-friendliness with this ingredient. Petroleum by-products are used to create silicones, which begs the question: do we want such a by-product in our skincare and haircare products? There may also be a question of bioaccumulation in the environment and what this means for wildlife. Given the furor over the use of plastic beads, it’s something to think about.
Silicone discussion in Wikipedia
Dow Corning Information about Silicone
Health Canada’s webpage on the safety of cosmetic ingredients
From the beginning, WEBA Natural Products has taken a firm stand with regard to the use of animal ingredients in our products. While many personal care, clothing and food manufacturers may think differently on this topic, it is an ethical and aesthetic choice that makes sense for us.
Many consumers have argued that some ingredients don’t involve hurting animals, but we feel that this is a slippery slope. After all, how do they know? Are they expecting the cow or goat or bumble bee to scream “Don’t take that!”? We’d be surprised if they did. Let’s explore this practice and we’ll tell you why we feel the way we do.
A History of Using Animal Ingredients
Animal products have a long history in the personal care industry. The first soaps were made as far back as 2800 B.C. almost by accident. The basic recipe called for using wood ash and tallow, which consists of rendered animal fat (usually beef or pork). Many commercial “beauty” bars still use tallow (often labeled sodium tallowate), as it is an inexpensive by-product of factory farming. The same goes for gelatin, which is rendered by boiling animal cartilage and bone.
At first, these ingredients would be used in order to avoid waste and to save money. Before factory farming, local farmers made use of whatever was on hand, and they no doubt sold these products for a profit. Back “in the day” there were very few options for cleaning and bathing. Once these ingredient properties were found to be beneficial, they became more popular in many products, from soaps and skincare to cosmetics.
Can We Avoid Using Animal Ingredients?
Absolutely! Today, technology has made it possible for us to utilize plant-based and synthetic alternatives for many of the animal products that have been used in the past. As more and more consumers embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle, they want to be sure that the businesses that they support don’t use animal ingredients to create their skincare and cosmetic products. Below is a list of common animal ingredients alternatives that you will find in the marketplace.
- Tallow – many plant-based oils, including palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter, can substitute for this ingredient. We’ll explain at a later time why we don’t use palm oil.
- Gelatin – Agar is a suitable plant-based alternative to this animal ingredient.
- Lanonin – Derived from the wool of sheep mostly. Again, cocoa butter would make a good substitute, and it smells great!< .li>
- Squalene – Extracted from shark livers – yuk! Luckily, olive squalene is perfectly fine.
- Collagen – Derived from animal tissue. While very popular as an anti-aging ingredient right now, its effectiveness in building up collagen is questioned; it is a large molecule. Oils like olive and amla are suitable.
- Allantoin – Found in uric acid secreted from animals (usually horses). Fortunately, there are plant-based sources of allantoin.
- Alpha-Hydroxy acids – There are both animal and plant sources. It’s important to read the label or contact the company to know what source they use.
- Royal Jelly – Derived from the throat glands of honeybees. Its value is questionable. A good alternative is aloe vera gel.
- Retinol and Retinoids – This only comes from animals. It’s used in many anti-aging creams, however, and it can cause irritation and sensitivity. As an alternative, try rosehip oil or Vitamin C, and eat more beta-carotene.
The list can go on, of course, so please check the References below. We hope that you’ll consider using products (like ours) that are free of animal ingredients and rich in plant-based oils and extracts.
One Green Planet post on common cosmetic ingredients
Crueltyfree.org post on animal ingredients
Article on Alternatives to Retinol
What is a self-tanner, and what are some Dos and Don’ts for their use?
A self-tanner is a cream or lotion containing chemicals that react with the skin’s surface to produce an artificial tan. They’ve been around for a long time, and no doubt most of us have tried one at least once. The FDA approved the use of the main ingredient, Dihydroxyacetone (or DHA), in the 1970s for use in self-tanners. Before this, people utilized the tannins found in tea leaves to stain the skin a darker color. Ugh!
Formulations have improved quite a bit since then. Unlike the products that made one look like a carrot, it’s now possible to have a fairly natural-looking tan (even tanning gradually) with the products on the market today.
Self Tanner Dos
There is the obvious reason for using a self-tanner: you avoid excess sun exposure which is known to damage the skin. One also gets instant gratification; instead of tanning for hours, an instant tan can be had with very little effort. For someone looking to look sunkissed for a special event, it is a quick and easy way to achieve the look without the risk of sunburn. Some self tanners also contain erythrulose, a carbohydrate that helps to produce a more natural-looking tan.
Self Tanner Don’ts
So what are the downsides to using a self-tanner? For one, some individuals may be sensitive to the main ingredient DHA. It has been shown to cause contact dermatitis in some individuals. More importantly, some studies have shown that sun exposure within 24 hours of applying DHA can cause free radical formation, thereby damaging skin cells. Therefore, it’s important for consumers to know that when using self-tanners containing this ingredient, they should avoid sun exposure for a period of time.
Many individuals also use tanning booths where the self-tanner is sprayed onto the skin. This increases the likelihood of inhaling DHA and other ingredients, which can have negative effects over time. Long-term effects of inhaling these ingredients is unknown. The dyes used in these products could also cause allergic reactions. In addition, many of the other ingredients found in self-tanners like fragrances and preservatives may also cause reactions in some individuals.
So can one find a self-tanner without DHA? Alternative ingredients are being developed for self-tanners that do not produce the same type chemical reaction. For example, the amino acid Tyrosine has been shown to possibly enhance melanin formation in the skin. Other ingredients like this include Vitamin D metabolite, retinoids, and Forskolin (derived from the Indian Coleus root). It may be some time before they are commonly available.
Alternatives to Self-Tanners
Another idea that involves zero commitment is to use cosmetics to create a temporary glow. Many cream and powder bronzers are available on the market that can be used on the face and body to provide some color. Ingredients used in cosmetics in the U.S. are regulated by the FDA. Even so, a patch test is always a good idea if your skin is particularly sensitive. Powders tend to have fewer ingredients than creams and lotions.
Regardless of which product you use, it’s always a good idea to obtain an ingredient list and to perform a patch test before using it all over. Read reviews and exercise caution when going out into the sun. With a little experimentation, you will be able to find the right self-tanner to give you the sunkissed glow you’re seeking.
Wikipedia article on sunless tanning
Huffington Post article on self-tanners
Compound Interest article on the history of a fake tan
You may find yourself asking when you should throw out skincare and cosmetics that you may have been using for awhile. After all, not all products have expiration dates. Naturally-derived products, while more appealing to many, can be even more difficult to determine when it’s past its prime.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate cosmetics, which include most personal care products that we use today. Exceptions to this rule include products that function like drugs (e.g. sunscreens and acne medications). These types of products are regulated by the FDA and, as such, require expiration dates on their packaging. Once they expire, their effectiveness is not guaranteed, and they should be tossed.
Most other products do not require expiration dates, so it’s the consumer’s responsibility to track when a product was purchased, and when it’s no longer safe to use it. As a rule, products in tubes and pumps will maintain their integrity longer than products in jars. Products that come close to the eyes should also be thrown out sooner than other cosmetic products. Product composition is also important. Natural products with little or no preservatives should be refrigerated if they contain water, and will have a shorter lifespan than oil-based products. This is because products containing water are breeding grounds for bacteria and mold. Bacteria and mold, while they may be present, do not grow in oil-based products. However, you should not allow water to enter these products or they will go bad.
Regardless of what types of products are used, here are a few guidelines for knowing when to throw out your skincare and cosmetics products:
- Mascara – 3 months
- Liquid eyeliner – 3 months
- Liquid foundation – 6 months
- Cream formulas (water-based) – 6 months
- Cream eye shadow – 6 months
- Products in pumps – 1 year
- Sunscreen – 6 months-1 year (after expiration date, not after opening)
- Hair products – 1 year
- Nail polish – 1-2 years (or when separation occurs)
- Powders – 2 years
- Pencil/powder eye shadow – 2 years
- Lipstick/Lipgloss – 2 years
Regardless of the products used, it’s always a good idea to use common sense. If a product is causing redness or irritation, itching, or signs of infection on the skin, throw it out! Factors like high heat or dirty fingers can affect a product’s stability. Don’t use other people’s products. If you must use a lipstick or eye pencil, for example, use a knife or sharpener to remove the top layer first. After all, safety should be uppermost in our minds whenever we use a product on our skin. Huffington Post article on makeup expiration dates
In order to make this easier for our customers, we have created labels that can be used to mark the date for a product to be replaced. We will be sending them out with new orders for customers to test. Please let us know if you like the idea! You can visit us on Instagram or Facebook for a sneak-peek. We want to make using skincare as safe as it is uplifting.
FDA regulations on cosmetics
Good Housekeeping magazine article on expired cosmetics