What Is Dimethicone Crosspolymer?
Dimethicone crosspolymer is a silicone derivative that is used in skincare and cosmetic formulations to improve texture and help condition the skin and hair.
Dimethicone crosspolymer is a type of silicone. Silicones are synthetic ingredients made up of repeating units of siloxane which is elemental silicon and oxygen. This is why silicones may also be referred to as polysiloxanes, as they are made up of many repeated siloxanes.
Often, the terms ‘silicone’ and ‘silicon’ are mistakenly used interchangeably, when they are actually quite different. Silicon is the 14th element on the periodic table and the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust, after oxygen. In contrast, silicones are always synthetically produced.
Dimethicone crosspolymer can be classified as a silicone elastomer gel. It consists of crosslinked dimethicone, which means the dimethicone molecules are chemically joined by a covalent bond. Dimethicone crosspolymer is supplied in the form of a thick gel. Silicone elastomer gels, such as dimethicone crosspolymer, are widely used in both skin and hair care products, including moisturizers, conditioners, sunscreens, antiperspirants, cosmetics, etc.
the good:Dimethicone crosspolymer is used to improve the texture and feel of skincare, cosmetics and hair care products. It also has the added benefit of providing the skin and hair with some conditioning benefit
the not so good:Silicones in general have a bit of an undeserved reputation. Despite this reputation, there are no safety concerns as it is non-irritating, non-toxic, and doesn’t clog the pores.
Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on:Nothing to keep an eye on here.
Why Is Dimethicone Crosspolymer Used?
As a class, silicones improve the feel, appearance, and performance of products. They act as silky moisturizers, conditioners, solvents, and delivery agents for other ingredients, as well as improve product spreadability.
Silicones have a structure that resembles a molecular lattice with wide spaces between each molecule. Upon application to the skin, this lattice enables silicones to form a film on the surface while still allowing skin to ‘breathe’. Oxygen, nitrogen, and other nutrients can still pass through the film formed by silicones. However, most silicones do not allow water to pass through, which is an ideal quality for preventing dry, dehydrated skin.
Hydration and protecting
Dimethicone crosspolymer may help to improve the appearance of dry skin and flakiness. Dimethicone crosspolymer is occlusive, which means that it protects the skin and prevents moisture loss from the top layers of the skin. Moisture can be lost from the top layers of the skin to the air. Occlusive products help to trap in moisture and can help prevent the progression of skin conditions that occur when the skin barrier is disrupted, such as; eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
The skin barrier is the outer layers of the skin and includes the natural oils that the skin produces. When the skin barrier is damaged or disrupted from hormonal changes, irritation from other products, diet, or inflammation, it can cause the skin to lose moisture, leaving the skin dry and flaky. A healthy skin barrier helps to protect the skin from harmful bacteria and allergens. Dimethicone’s emollient properties can help to soothe the skin and give the appearance of hydration without the greasy residue that other hydrating ingredients leave behind
Texture and efficacy
More specifically, when dimethicone crosspolymer is applied to the skin, the film serves to develop a layer in which perfumes or active ingredients can be contained. This property enables dimethicone crosspolymer to deliver controlled release characteristics and provide long lasting effects. Additionally, dimethicone crosspolymer reduces the tackiness of a given formulation. It imparts an exceptionally desirable skin-feel that is dry and non-greasy, yet silky smooth. Dimethicone crosspolymer can also serve to temporarily diminish the appearance of unsightly fine wrinkles, thus providing a smoother skin complexion.
These same conditioning properties make dimethicone crosspolymer an excellent ingredient for hair care products, such as conditioners and leave-in serums. It offers a controlled conditioning effect to leave unhealthy, damaged hair looking and feeling more silky and smooth.
Dimethicone crosspolymer functions as a thickening agent in the preparation of water-in-silicone formulations by increasing the viscosity. Additionally, dimethicone crosspolymer can act as a stabilizing agent due to its natural compatibility with a variety of lipophilic active ingredients, for example, perfumes, UV filters, anti-aging actives.
8 Truths About Dimethicone and Dimethicone Containing Products
There has, in recent years, been a lot of controversy over silicones in skincare, particularly dimethicone. Here are some important truths about dimethicone that you should know before using a dimethicone containing product.
1. Natural vs. Synthetic
One of the main criticisms of dimethicone is that it is a synthetic ingredient. There is a stigma around synthetic ingredients in the skincare world, particularly in the green or natural beauty industry. While the idea that natural ingredients are better does seem appealing, it isn’t necessarily true. Many natural ingredients can cause irritation and sensitize the skin and many synthetic ingredients are beneficial and safe for the skin. Dimethicone is one such ingredient.
2. Dimethicone and congested skin
Dimethicone has often been accused of clogging pores and worsening congestive skin types. This is because dimethicone is an occlusive ingredient. However, in the extensive research that was reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel and the US Food and Drug Administration, dimethicone was found to be non-comedogenic and non-sensitizing, meaning that it doesn’t clog pores or cause irritation.
3. Key ingredients
Dimethicone has been argued to reduce the ability of the skin to absorb ‘active’ ingredients from skincare products. The opposite has been indicated in the studies conducted to date. Research suggests that dimethicone containing products may actually help key ingredients to penetrate deeply into the skin, allowing them to work more effectively to improve the appearance of the skin.
4. Hair loss and dimethicone
Another myth about dimethicone is that when included in hair care products, it prevents the follicle from obtaining oxygen, resulting in hair loss. Again, this is a myth where the truth is the opposite. Silicone products help to coat and smooth the hair follicle, giving it a shiny appearance and making it easier to comb through. When the hair follicle is covered in dimethicone, it is less prone to friction and there less likely to be affected by breakage from styling or combing.
An essential area of skincare that has come to the forefront in recent years is the impact that the industry has on the environment. Dimethicone and silicones more generally have been criticized in this area because they are not biodegradable. While this is true, silicone and dimethicone are filtered out of the water by clay which can trap the undissolved ingredients. Clay filtration of dimethicone and silicones, degrades the silicone and is a natural chemical-free way to prevent silicones from entering the environment.
6. Allergies and irritation
Allergies and irritation have often been linked with silicones and dimethicone. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. While there are a handful of anecdotal cases of irritation to dimethicone, it is more likely, given the lack of actual evidence, that these cases are reacting to other ingredients in the dimethicone containing products. Dimethicone is too large to penetrate the skin to produce an allergy or irritation.
The safety of dimethicone has come under question with claims that it is toxic and accumulates in the body. Dimethicone has undergone extensive study across many countries’ regulatory authorities. In the US, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert panel reviewed the available safety data and determined that dimethicone is safe for its indicated uses. This outcome has been echoed by the US Food and Drug Administration, the EU’s Inventory of Cosmetic Ingredients group, and the World Health Organisation. In the US, the concentration of topical dimethicone containing products is restricted to 30%, and the World Health Organisation recommends that the oral consumption of dimethicone should be limited to 1.5mg/kg body weight. These guidelines are well below the concentration or dosage that has produced an adverse effect during research.
Is Dimethicone Crosspolymer Safe?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients, reviewed the safety of 62 dimethicone crosspolymer ingredients as used in cosmetics. The Expert Panel reviewed available animal and human data related to these polymers and addressed the issue of residual monomers. The Expert Panel concluded that these dimethicone crosspolymer ingredients are safe in the current practices of use.
Despite approval by the CIR Expert Panel, silicones have received a negative connotation in the cosmetic industry due to claims that they are unsafe for topical use. There are rumors that suggest topically applied silicones can lead to chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, chronic fatigue, and even cancer. However, it is not possible for topical silicones to cause or worsen any of these diseases because their molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, preventing them from entering the bloodstream. The claim that silicones can bioaccumulate or build up in our bodies is also false since their size prevents them from being able to pass through cell membranes, a key requirement for bioaccumulation.
Furthermore, the large molecular size of silicones dispels the claim that these ingredients are unsafe for topical use because they are allergens. If a substance cannot penetrate the skin, it cannot react with cells of the immune system. Thus, silicones, including dimethicone crosspolymer are not allergens. In fact, silicones are so biologically inert when in contact with the skin that silicones are now replacing latex, a common allergen in adhesives, gloves, and a wide array of other items.
References:Becker, L, et al., 2014. ‘Safety Assessment of Dimethicone Crosspolymers as Used in Cosmetics’, International Journal of Toxicology.