What The Deal With Phenyl Trimethicone? - The Dermatology Review

What The Deal With Phenyl Trimethicone?

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10.02.20 AD DISCLOSURE

What Is Phenyl Trimethicone?

Phenyl trimethicone is a type of silicone that is used in cosmetics and skincare products to help improve the texture and spreadability of the formulations. It also helps to trap moisture within the skin, giving your skin that hydrated dewy appearance.

Phenyl trimethicone, also known as polyphenylmethylsiloxane, is a silicone liquid. Silicones are synthetic ingredients with a backbone composed of repeating units of siloxane which is elemental silicon and oxygen. Silicones may also be referred to as polysiloxanes. 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.

Phenyl Trimethicone

the good:Phenyl trimethicone is used to help improve the texture and spreadability of a product. It also has some added benefits for the skin by helping to trap moisture in the top layers of the skin, helping the skin to appear more hydrated.

the not so good:Silicones are not allergens and don’t directly irritate the skin. 

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:More uses for phenyl trimethicone. 

Why Is Phenyl Trimethicone Used?

As a class, silicones improve the feel, appearance, and performance of skincare and cosmetic formulations. Silicones like phenyl trimethicone are used in moisturizers, foundation, conditioners, and concealers to allow for smooth application and reduced friction. Silicones are able to help with skin redness and irritation due to their low surface tension, which enables them to spread easily across the surface of the skin and form a protective barrier. 

Texture 
Phenyl trimethicone is often used to enhance the texture of a product. It contributes to a product’s silky feel on the skin and reduces the tackiness and stickiness in creams and lotions. Furthermore, phenyl trimethicone allows for even distribution of active ingredients on the skin surface. Phenyl trimethicone has a drier finish than dimethicone, another common silicone used in skincare products, making it a great for formulations that shouldn’t be sticky or tacky. 

Hydration 
Phenyl trimethicone is also used as a skin and hair conditioning agent because of its ability to increase hydration. It spreads easily over the skin and hair, forming a non-greasy and non-sticky invisible film that prevents the loss of moisture from the surface. This film still allows oxygen, nitrogen, and other important nutrients to pass through but blocks water from evaporating. Ultimately, this leads to skin and hair that is hydrated and smooth.

The film formed by phenyl trimethicone not only protects the skin from moisture loss but also prevents moisture penetration. This property is useful for the formulation of sun protection products. In addition, phenyl trimethicone can help dissolve UV-filters and increase the sun protection factor or SPF of a product.

The last function of phenyl trimethicone is as an anti-foaming agent. This ingredient has the ability to inhibit the formation of foam even if the product is shaken.

What Is The Controversy Over Phenyl Trimethicone?

There’s some controversy that surrounds silicones as a class of ingredients. Despite being safe for use, there are some claims that argue that silicones, create immune issues, sensitize and suffocate the skin. However, these claims have not been proven in any published research.

To dispel these false claims, it’s first important to understand that the large molecular size of silicones prevents them from being absorbed by the skin. If a substance cannot penetrate the skin, it cannot react with cells of the immune system. Thus, silicones are not allergens. Additionally, claims that silicones can bioaccumulate or build up in our bodies are also false. Once again, this is because their large size prevents them from penetrating the skin. If silicones cannot penetrate the skin, they certainly cannot pass through cell membranes, a key requirement for bioaccumulation.

Lastly, it is incorrect to say that the film formed by silicones somehow ‘suffocates’ the skin. As mentioned above, the soft, invisible film that phenyl trimethicone and other silicones form after topical application allows oxygen and other gases to pass through. Furthermore, the film does not block the skin’s natural secretion. Thus, the skin can still ‘breathe’ after topical application of a product containing silicones. 

Is Phenyl Trimethicone Safe?

The safety of phenyl trimethicone has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. The Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that phenyl trimethicone is safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.

References:
Johnson, W et al. 2017. ‘Safety Assessment of Dimethiconol and Its Esters and Reaction Products as Used in Cosmetics’, International Journal of Toxicology.

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