Thursday, May 14, 2009

Better crafting through chemistry: Cyclomethicone

Cyclomethicone - how I love thee, volatile, oil soluble liquid-y silicone that makes my skin feel soft and smooth and makes my hair behave. With all your cyclically goodness, I love to add you to hair care, body care, and personal care products! (I'm getting married in 2 days...I think I'm entitled to be a little poetic right now!)

Cyclomethicone - what is it? What does it look like? How do I use it? When do I use it? And why are you getting all poetic about this molecule?

As you can see from the picture to the left, it is a cyclical, rather than linear, molecule. (Hence the name - "cyclo"methicone). I think it's very pretty and would make a really great necklace design. (Dimethicone is linear...)

Cyclomethicone is non-cooling - it will evaporate, but it won't make your skin feel the cooler the way water or alcohol might - and it is colourless, odourless, and non-staining (which makes it perfect for really personal care products, which I'm not going into here as the children might be reading!). It has the consistency of water, so be careful when you're adding it to your creations - it's easy to add too much!

It offers your body care products good spreading, detackification, water sheeting, and transient emollient properties. It is a great way to deliver fragrance as it will deposit it, then evaporate. And for deodorants or anti-perspirants, it will deliver the active salts you want to keep away stenches and bacteria.

Use it at 0.1% to 85% in your creations (I like it about 2%). It is oil soluble, so you can't use it in a toner or other water based creation without some kind of emulsifier. It is great in lotion bars and other anhydrous products to help with spreading and fragrance delivery. It is non-polar, which means it can be used for fragrance sprays with non-polar fragrance or essential oils. (For more information on polar vs. non-polar, please visit my post on the topic.)

Include cyclomethicone in your make up removers or cleansers as it's a great solvent for organic based oils, leaving behind a dry, smooth, non-greasy feeling. It is mild and non-irritating to skin, two things we really want in a cleansing additive!

How does it work in our products? Cyclomethicone is deposited at the surface of the hair or skin and spreads uniformly over the surface, coating the hair shaft or skin. It's going to bring the other ingredients along for the ride, which means your products will glide nicely and coat the desired area with a thin film. It works well in hair care products for this purpose - you'll see it in a lot of styling products because it helps the thicker ingredients used to make hair stiff spread on your hair instead of being seriously tacky!

Detackification (yes, it's a thing) means it will make ingredients like glycerin and honey and all those other gooey humectants feel less tacky, helping them glide over your skin!

The spreading ability is a key feature of cyclomethicone, which is why you see it in so many colour pigmented cosmetics, like lipstick and liquid foundations.

And the evaporation is a key feature. In hair care products, it will help your hair dry faster, which is a good thing for those of us with really frizzy hair. This is why you see it in the anti-frizz sprays: The cyclomethicone helps with the spreading abilities (not that dimethicone really needs the help), helps with wet combing, delivers the active ingredients to your hair, then evaporates, which decreases your drying time (which is a good thing for us frizzy haired girls!).

In fragrance sprays, couple cyclomethicone with another light oil and fragrance...the cyclomethicone will spread the fragrance nicely, then evaporate.

I think the two key features of cyclomethicone is the spreading ability and the evaporation. It shows up to the party, helps all the ingredients you love and adore spread evenly and smoothly, then it vapourizes into the night leaving behind a silky feeling of emolliency.

As I have to stop writing these in depth posts today as there are far too many things to do for the wedding, as well as cleaning up the workshop, tidying away my craft group stuff, packing for the road trip, and are a few recipes in which I use cyclomethicone. Try it in your favourite hair care products, lotions, lotion bars, and other creations at around 2% and see how you like it!

Body care products...

Hair care products

Have fun formulating!

Note: I will be posting while I'm away - I've pre-written a few things and I'll be posting pictures and stories of our adventures on the road - but I won't be continuing this series "Better Crafting Through Chemistry" until I get home on June 7th or 8th.


rayka said...

love your stories about cyclomethicon
my question is *can I add cyclomethicon into a cold process soap* since it is oil soluble or it will destroy the soaponification or it will add some slide to it like clays and if I can in what % really really want to know

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rayka. I admit I'm a huge fan of cyclomethicone in my hair and body products. I forgot to use my anti-frizz spray the other day after my shower, and my hair poofed up so much! Just a reminder to myself why I like it so much!

I don't make CP soap, so I have no idea how it would react. I don't know if it would destroy it - what happens when you add something that doesn't saponify to a soap? - and I don't know if it will saponify as it doesn't have a saponification value.

Sorry I can't be more helpful. I love CP soap - I buy it from experienced people who devote themselves to the art, so at least I get to have some in the house - but I have no idea about the chemistry of making it!

Nedeia said...

Hi Susan!

I just ran over this:

looks like an alternative to cyclomethicone. What do you think of it?

nedeia said...

OK, my story now :)

I have tried for the first time cyclomethicone at 1% in a face serum, squalane based. I love the feeling on the skin, but I am not sure if it is the squalane that I love or the cyclomethicone :)). I have to make a cyclomethicone free tester to fully understand the effects.

I used the serum on my cuticles as well, and I have the feeling that it did not stay too greasy on my hands , or at least it got absorbed quicker than other oils.

Now I really have to try the same serum on my hair, as a dry ends treatments after washing my hair. I know that there is quite some squalane in there, but I am also using it in my hair conditioner, so maybe 10 drops (or less) of the serum rubbed on my hands and then on my ends will work :)

thanks for teaching us about cyclomethicone!

Anonymous said...

Hi Swift,

Would you know of any green alternative to cyclomethicone & IPM? I am trying to stick to "greener chemicals and stumble upon the following website

What do you think? I have no idea is these would have side effect or restriction depending of the other ingredients you add in your product (thinking of your replica of Neutrogena's Body oil).

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi E! Check out the link on the right hand side of the blog under ingredients for information on silicone alternatives. As for alternatives for my body oil, you'll have to do some research on that topic and see what would work. I'm afraid I just don't have time to research that topic. You can make a blend of 50% sesame seed oil and 49% fractionated coconut oil with 1% fragrance or essential oil and it would be quite nice!

Baron1705 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dahlian said...

Hi Susan!
I'm wanting to create a body butter similar to one I have. The 2nd ingredient is cyclomethicone, right after water. How much do you think I should try? I was thinking 20% like aloe is in many recipes. What do you think? Any thoughts or suggestions?

I love your books and blog. Thanks!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Dahlian. Cyclomethicone is an oil soluble ingredient, which means you'll be using it as you would an oil. You can substitute it for all the liquid oil in a recipe, if you wish. I know you have both the e-books, so might I suggest taking one of the recipes and just substituting cyclomethicone for an oil and seeing what you think. I use 2% in my products, and it's amazing what a dry and powdery feeling it can offer at such a low level. I can't imagine what 20% might feel like. (Okay, that's not true because I've used 10% and found I didn't like it, so I can think about 20%, but that's just my opinion and preference.)

Calum said...

My Kids have got Lice/Nits , all the new treatments seem to consits of dimethicone which I've just purchased , is there any easy way to emulsify it ? will mixing with cyclomethicone ''water'' it down ? I've used the dimethicone on my own hair and it seems ok but hard to wash out. I suppose thats how it suffocates those lovely Nit eggs.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

You can emulsify dimethicone by using some BTMS-50 with it or you can water it down with the cyclomethicone. I have seen mixes that are 50% IPM and 50% dimethicone for lice - I think it's called Resultz in Canada - that are supposed to wash out well. Are you using a proper shampoo to wash your hair? Just wondering!

robyn m said...

Hi! Question time. Since cyclomethicone evaporates do I still need to use a sulphate based cleanser to remove what it leaves behind? Does it leave anything behind or is it completely gone from our hair/skin? I know I have to use sulphates with dimethicone but am curious about cyclomethicone.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Robyn. You don't need to use a sulphate based cleanser to remove dimethicone. You can use any surfactant that is foamy and lathery to do so. You can use anything from the most gentle cleanser to the most harsh and anything in between. It follows that you don't have to worry about which one to use with cyclomethicone. Just use any shampoo you wish!

Just curious...where did you find this idea? And curious why sulphates are singled out here. Is it because of the (mistaken) notion that they are harsh in some way?

robyn m said...

The Internet lied to me again. Lol. No, but throughout the natural hair community, it's been widely said that silicones should be avoided because they cannot be removed without the use of sulphates and since sulphates are harsh cleansers, ( I now know this is a lie also), those with curly hair tend to BAN it. Most use clays ( bentonite and rhassoul) or conditioners to wash their hair. I haven't stopped using my sulphate shampoos though, I just dilute my shampoo with water in a applicator bottle each time. It foams less but gets my hair just as clean. Well, time to spread the word. TO THE INTERWEB!! hehe.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I was curious about pressing shadows with a mixture of cyclomethicone and dimethicone. What percentages do you recommend, and would you expect cyclomethicone to evaporate, leaving the shadow to be slightly crumbly? I've pressed a few shadows, but it's only been a couple days. I'm worried that the CPS will evaporate.

- Nellie

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nellie! Take look at this post on pressing with dimethicone. Click on newer post or older post to see pressing powders with other liquids.

Amanda Dvorak said...

I'm trying to make a very light body fragrance spray. What % should I use this if I include say, fragrance, cyclomethicone, DImethicone, and oil (kukui nut, FCO)? Should I also use IPM? These are the only ingredients other then different oils I have on hand. Thank u

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Amanda. Have you looked up how to make a body mister on the blog? I have a few that are oil based. I think there's a simple one in the Back to Basics series, and I think if you look up body spray, you'll find a bunch.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm not very well studied in chemistry, but from the name I assumed it had something to do with silicone, so I googled cyclomethicone and ended up here. I don't use silicone because it usually requires sulfates to remove it from your hair, and I hears it causes dries your hair thus causing frizzynes. I read in an earlier comment it's a lie, but I don't know... Really? It feels true.

I stopped using it and now my scalp is healthier, I don't have to wash my hair as often and I can't even use sulfates anymore. I guess I was used to it before, but now it burns and causes dryness. You did say cyclomethicone evaporates, but does it leave some kind of residue? What I'm basically asking is can I use a hair oil containing cyclomethicone if my shampoo does not contain sulfates? Getting stuff build up in your hair and not getting rid of it doesn't sound fun, haha.

I like this crafting through chemistry thing, it seems very helpful when you're doing something yourself, thank you for answering already. Cheers, Jasmin:)

Anonymous said...


I apologize if this has been asked but do you think that cyclomethicone would combined well with a carrier oil such as jojoba with a FO/EO?

Thanks in advance.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Why don't you try it and see if it works? That's the best way to learn!

Please put your name on posts...

Lisa said...

Hi Susan, I read your section about soaping effect in lotions. I ended up purchasing dimethicone, and I will be testing that out. I like that cyclomethicone imparts a dry, silky feel in skin and hair products. Do you think I can use cyclomethicone in place of dimeethicone? Will Cyclomethicone help with the soaping effect?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lisa! I wrote a longer answer to your question in today's Weekday Wonderings. The short answer is no, it won't help with the soaping effect!