I must say, I'm in LOVE with this topic! There are just so many silicone alternatives us formulators can have access to when formulating haircare (and skin) products that there is absolutely no reason for using synthetic silicones. Let's chat, shall we?
Silicone has been used in haircare since the 1950s. In this article I will not reinvent the wheel by getting into the nitty-gritty of silicones as we have much to cover in terms of natural silicone alternatives for haircare use (the intended focus of this post), but if you're interested in learning more about the science of it all, I'll recommend this reading material:
Our stand on silicones for hair
We are aware that you will either be FOR or AGAINST using synthetic silicones in your products, and your opinion is your own, yet we are determined to use the most natural and nature-derived ingredients possible as they just have so many nutritional added benefits to both scalp and hair that we cannot ignore! Why would you choose anything else, when natural silicone alternatives for haircare are simply gorrrrgeous? Synthetic silicones are known to build up on the scalp and hair, causing some issues in the long run – such as dull, dry feeling hair that is lank and more prone to breakage. Plus, they are not all that eco-friendly, they are bioaccumulative, with many of them not being biodegradable in our waterway system.
What are plant-based silicone alternatives used for in haircare?
Plant-based silicone alternative oils and esters are used in haircare products to impart shine, glide, slip, and to smooth down frizzies. They are added to shampoos, conditioners, leave-in conditioners, hair masks, hair gels, you name it.
If you see these following ingredients in your products, then you know there are silicones among the ingredients (to name a few of the most popular ones:
Myth: "If you can't pronounce it, it's bad for you"
Not necessarily true. There are many ingredients in your cosmetics that are either known for their Latin name (such as "Lavandula angustifolia" = Lavender) or for their chemical name (water = H2O). Remember, everything is a chemical, even water. By definition, the word "chemical" means "a substance that has a defined composition". So if you see "citric acid" or "lecithin" in your foods or cosmetics, for example, don't be discouraged because these are some of the most natural ingredients available for both skin, hair, and consumption! And don't be discouraged when you hear the word "emollient" as this can even mean beeswax. Point made.
Here are some of the BEST plant-based silicone alternatives for hair and skincare:
We just love this plant-derived light emollient that comes from the fermentation of sugar cane. It's a light, dry oil that absorbs quickly into the skin and hair. In fact, it's so light that you could even take a blob of it in between your fingers and run it through your hair without having greasy hair after. It's beautiful on skin and will give you that ever-so-light skin sheen we love so much during summer months.
2. OLIVE SQUALANE
Olive squalane is an amazing oil for haircare use! It's slightly - but ever-so-slightly - heavier than Hemisqualane. It's derived from the oils of olives and distilled. It is another non-greasy oil that you can use for both skincare and haircare (and on skin? OH. MY. GAH. Just lovely!). It's lightweight, odourless, and helps moisturize without the greasy feel residue.
3. BROCCOLI SEED OIL
This oil comes from... can you guess? Yes... The tiny seeds of the broccoli plant, which are cold pressed like many oils, and butters. It has a beautiful film-forming activity on the hair, without causing build-up. This film-forming action gives the hair natural shine and smoothes down the cuticle so your individual hairs don't rub against each other (causing what we know as 'frizz'). Broccoli seed oil is definitely one of our favourites and we like to add it to our shampoo bars and leave-in conditioners for these reasons. Yes, it has a slight broccoli-herbaceous-fart scent, but since we don't use it neat in products, you don't even notice it.
We love it so much that there's a whole blog post dedicated to it, check it out [HERE].
4. ISOAMYL LAURATE
If you're asking yourself, "Okay, what the heck is that??" don't panic dude – it's a natural ester derived from sugar beet, coconut, and sometimes palm (an 'ester' is a fatty acid that is formed when an organic acid combines with alcohol or glycerin). It's right up there with the lightest of them, hemisqualane for its loveliness in skincare and haircare, because it's often used exactly for that: as a natural silicone alternative. If you rub it between your fingers you will get that tiiiiny bit of "oil" feel that absorbs readily in the skin and hair, making it an excellent choice for haircare as it won't make your scalp greasy.
5. Abyssinian seed oil
This beautiful carrier oil comes from another Brassicaceae family (like broccoli seed oil) and is widely grown right here in Canada - yay! It's extracted from its seeds and is slightly oilier than Olive squalane and Broccoli seed oil, so it's perfect for those with thicker, more porous hair types. You can read more about the different hair types [HERE].
Abyssinian seed oil is high in cuticle-smoothing erucic acid (the fatty composition in some oils like Broccoli seed oil) which makes it excellent for giving added nutrients to coarser hair, helping to define it, making it stronger and helping with manageability. If you have fine, thin hair then you're probably best to keep to a lighter oil like hemisqualane, olive squalane, or isoamyl laurate.
So there you have it! With so many benefits to these beautiful plant-based silicone alternatives for hair care, why would you use synthetic silicones, right? The best part is that us natural formulators have taken the guess out of what goes into your hair products and purposely chosen to instead use naturally-sourced ingredients.
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