What Are Cyclomethicones?
Cyclomethicones are clear, odorless liquids utilized in skincare products to give your skincare that silky texture. Cyclomethicones are a type of silicone, so they help products to apply evenly and smoothly to your skin. There are several types of silicones used in skincare and cosmetic products. You may already be familiar with silicones, probably the one you are most acquainted with is dimethicone. Cyclomethicones have a similar function to dimethicone in that they help improve the texture of products, improve the appearance of scarring, improve the water-resistance of products, and emulsify the product. However, Cyclomethicones are also better at delivering active ingredients to the skin.
Cyclomethicones are a subclass of silicone; there are many different cyclomethicones in that subclass. Cyclomethicones are sometimes also called cyclosiloxanes, they are different names for the same class of chemicals. The two most commonly used cyclomethicones are cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane; you may have seen these ingredients somewhere near the bottom of your product’s ingredients list.
Cyclomethicones have a ring-shaped structure that makes it more volatile or less stable. This instability allows cyclomethicones to evaporate when applied to your skin—making cyclomethicones a great ingredient for products that need to go on smoothly but not remain sticky after application. As all the cyclomethicone eventually evaporates, it leaves behind the other key components in the product to work their magic. This action of evaporation makes it an excellent carrier ingredient.
the good: Helps retain the skin’s moisture, improves the texture of products, and can help to deliver active ingredients to the skin.
the not so good: It can cause some irritation to hypersensitive skin types.
Who is it for? Most skin type except those with identified allergies to silicones.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most skincare ingredients but works exceptionally well at delivering key ingredients and fragrances.
Keep an eye on: There is no evidence to suggest that cyclomethicones cause clogged pores or breakouts. Congested skin types should be mindful that cyclomethicones can cause other products to be trapped close to the skin, potentially causing breakouts. This same process can also occur with sweat getting trapped under cyclomethicone, also causing breakouts.
What Are The Benefits of Cyclomethicone?
The main benefit of cyclomethicones is their ability to improve your product’s texture and sensory feel on the skin. However, cyclomethicones are also thought to help improve the appearance of dryness, are used for the appearance of scars, and may help to reduce irritation.
Cyclomethicones work to produce a smooth, silky feeling product. The structure of cyclomethicones, like most silicones, prevents the molecule from penetrating the skin. The structure allows for cyclomethicone containing products to glide over uneven texture and pores so that the product can be distributed evenly. They ensure that all areas of the skin are receiving the key ingredients in your product.
A study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology looked into the way cyclomethicones interacts with the skin. The study investigated the occlusive nature of the cyclomethicones. Occlusive substances work by creating a physical barrier between the skin and the air. The study’s results suggested that cyclomethicones are not an occlusive ingredient, and due to cyclomethicones being an unstable molecule, the evaporation means that they don’t form this barrier. These results are excellent news for congestive skin types, more on that later. However, occlusive barriers are generally useful for drier skin types, and it prevents moisture loss. The rate at which the evaporation occurs provides the skin with a little bit of this protective barrier and may help to improve the appearance of dry skin and flakiness.
Research into cyclomethicones has suggested their use in improving the appearance of scars in conjunction with other silicone ingredients. A study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery determined that silicone gel preparation significantly enhances the appearance of superficial, hypertrophic, and keloid scars. While this research has not been conducted into cyclomethicones specifically, it is related to the broader subgroup of silicones. Many of the silicone gel preparations contain cyclopentasiloxane or cyclohexasiloxane, which is used at the volatile element to deliver the other silicone ingredients to the skin.
Who Should Use Cyclomethicones?
Cyclomethicone products are suitable for most skin types, including congested, dry, or sensitive skin types, as well as skin types that may have damaged skin barrier integrity.
Acne and clogged pores
There is a general misconception that silicone-containing products cause breakouts. These claims remain unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed research. This misconception comes from anecdotal evidence, and while that can be a useful tool for driving areas of research, it does not replace an in-depth study. However, an explanation for this anecdotal evidence is that silicone-based products can trap sweat or other skincare products that potentially cause breakouts closer to the skin. This theory hasn’t been tested but has some validity given the function of silicones. To avoid this, make sure you wash your face after using silicone products and exercising. It would also be useful to check the ingredients in your other skincare products to see if they could be contributing to the breakouts. Studies have determined that most silicone products are non-comedogenic (not clogging) and allow the skin to breathe. Silicones and cyclomethicones do not enter the pores, where the formation of blemishes occur. Silicones will also evaporate to varying degrees away from the skin, reducing the barrier effect. Cyclomethicones naturally form less of a barrier on the skin as they disappear more readily, minimizing the likelihood of congestion even further.
Cyclomethicones can be beneficial for sensitive skin types as the barrier effect of products containing cyclomethicones can help to reduce the skin’s contact with irritants. If you have sensitive skin, be mindful of the other ingredients in your product that may irritate, such as fragrance, because the cyclomethicones will deliver these ingredients effectively to the skin. In some cases, minor irritation may occur from the use of silicones, but it’s not usually the source of sensitivity in a product.
Cyclomethicones may help to improve the appearance of dryness and flaking on the skin. As mentioned, silicones and cyclomethicones help to form a temporary breathable barrier on the surface of the skin, which may help to prevent moisture loss. Research is ongoing into the uses of silicones and cyclomethicone in issues that affect skin barriers such as psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
Cyclomethicone vs Dimethicone
The main difference between cyclomethicones and dimethicone is that cyclomethicone has the ability to evaporate from the skin where dimethicone does not. This allows cyclomethicones to be a better carrier to deliver key ingredients to the skin. Dimethicone works best in products where the desired outcome is for the product to stay on the skin for prolonged periods of time. This makes dimethicone great for foundations, concealers, and rich moisturizers.
Cyclomethicones have been well studied and are safe for their indicated uses. The main issue with cyclomethicones is that in some people, they can cause some minor irritation of the skin and eyes. The report produced by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review group stated that cyclomethicones are safe for cosmetic use.
Some of the other uses for cyclomethicones include use in products that reduce the appearance of scars; it is present in gels designed for burns and may help in wound healing. Cyclomethicones are often used in hair care products to help improve the appearance of the hair, making it shiny and glossy. It is also undergoing research for use in head lice treatments.
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Burgess, I, Lee, P & Brown, C, 2008. ‘Randomised, controlled, parallel-group clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of isopropyl myristate/cyclomethicone solution against head lice’, Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. 280, pp. 371-375.
De Paepe, K, Sieg, A, Le Meur, M & Rogiers, V 2014. ‘Silicones as Nonocclusive Topical Agents, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, vol. 27, pp. 164-171.
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Puri, N & Talwar, A, 2009. ‘The Efficacy of Silicone Gel for the Treatment of Hypertrophic Scars and Keloids’, Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, vol. 2 is. 2, pp. 104-106.