A few years ago, silicones became the biggest revolutionary sensation in various industries worldwide. Even motor oil for vehicles used silicones for better performance in car engines, even kitchen pots and pans had a layer of Teflon (a form of silicone) to make the pans “non-stick”. As an ingredient, it was seen as perfect for the hair and cosmetic world; it was very cheap to produce as it’s made from sand. Other benefits included the fact that it is synthetic, so it never goes bad, therefore, the shelf life of a product with silicones in it was never a concern. Silicones became the ultimate ingredient in hair products, from shampoos and conditioners to every sort of styling product. Their effect on hair was amazing to industry professionals. Hair instantly became softer and shinier, and tangles no longer existed. Silicones were even added into hand creams and left your hands feeling soft because of the coating.
As a hairdresser, I noticed an immediate change to the hair, especially for people with curly hair. It became very difficult to work on such soft hair because the styles would not hold. Even curling irons and hot rollers didn’t make a style last if the hair was coated in silicones. We also observed that the results from chemical services such as colour and perms, had inconsistencies, which meant they were not completely successful and did not consistently work the same way, or look similar to before. Using silicone-based products on your hair has definite pros and cons: on one hand, you have shiny and soft hair, but on the other, your hair is no longer easy to style or group to form defined ringlets that last for days!
So how do you know if you have silicone buildup on your hair?
The Slide Test:
Slide a piece of dry hair between your fingers in both directions. You will see that where there is product buildup, your fingers should easily slip through with no resistance. If your hair is clean of silicones, you should not be able to slide your fingers through your hair upwards, from ends to roots, without resistance. If you can, you have silicones buildup on your hair.
But the most predominant sign of product build up is when you are trying to get your hair wet. The oils and silicones glued to your hair will instantly repel water. Tiny drops of water appear on the outside of the hair and it takes a lot of effort just to get hair wet. Another thing you may notice with product build up is the smell from cigarette smoke and food staying in your hair. Silicones and oils absorb fragrances, so your environment starts to affect the cleanliness of your hair. Overall, product build up makes your natural hair dirty much more quickly.
Our hair has a specific purpose to protect the body from outside elements, from heat, rain, cold and even from perspiration. When we interfere with our hair’s natural makeup, then there will be consequences. The natural oils produced from our scalp are supposed to be absorbed by the hair. However, when there is excess product build up on the hair, the natural oils on the scalp will build up as well. This can possibly result in bacterial infections because the oils can’t be absorbed – so they just sit on your scalp until they’re washed off. So even though using silicones seemingly has temporary benefits to the appearance and softness of the hair, the long-term effects of using them will interfere with your hair’s functionality and ability to maintain its curly hairstyle.