Monday, June 15, 2009

Silicones - environmental impact

Thanks for your responses to last week's question - Why do you avoid silicones?

There are four major reasons...
1. Environmental impact of silicones;
2. Environmental impact of the manufacturing process;
3. Dislike skin or hair feel; and
4. Unavailability of products.

I didn't think about the environmental impact point, so here's a little research I've done...

From the Polymeric Materials Encyclopedia: "A generally accepted conclusion is that methyl silicates and silicone polymers have no known negative environmental impact." (I'll summarize it briefly here, but I suggest you read the article as it is really interesting!) The low molecular weight silicones are so volatile they undergo an oxidative degradation in the atmosphere, completely degrading into water, silicic acid, and carbon dioxide. The higher weight silicones will end up as sludge in waste water treatment plants, but will degrade when used as fertilizers to water, silicic acid, and carbon dioxide.

From The Principles of Polymer Science in Cosmetics and Personal Care: (Summary) Due to extremely low water solubility and high vapour pressure, silicones are not found in any appreciable extent in soil or water, and they may actually reduce the creation of ground ozone. They don't contribute appreciably to the creation of greenhouse gases. Toxicity to water creatures is limited and the corresponding risk is low (they really don't define what these words mean...)

I found a press release from Dow Corning talking about the environmental impact of silicones, but I'm excluding this one because it is going to be self-serving.

From Silicone Surfactants: I swear they read and summarized the Polymeric Materials Encyclopedia, but they pretty much say the same thing as that book...which apparently came from a study entitled "Final Report from Statewide Air Pollution Research Center, University of California, Riverside, to Dow Corning Corp., November 1992.)

So on the surface it would appear that silicones are considered safe for the environment.

What about how they are manufactured? So far I've found nothing...apparently it's a proprietary process and no one will share the information.

Not brought up here, but something I noticed on other sites...Silicones are occlusive, and they are using this word as a pejorative. (Please visit the post on occlusives for more information). I like occlusives - I like to trap in the goodies next to my skin. This does not mean my skin isn't breathing - skin doesn't breathe! - and I don't see the same comments made about cocoa butter or allantoin. Perhaps because the sites I found that make these statements are trying to sell you on their version of all natural. My opinion - yes, dimethicone can be an occlusive and is approved by the FDA as same, but I like this feature!

Yes, they can weigh down your hair, and I've noticed (anecdotally) that too much cyclomethicone makes my hair feel greasy, so really that's a personal choice that comes down to skin or hair feel.

If you can't get them, then that's going to limit your use! I know there are so many surfactants or exciting water soluble oils I want, but ordering from the States just costs too much with the high minimum orders, the shipping, the duties, and the like.

The lovely thing about making our own products is we can choose whatever philosophy we want and we shouldn't have to explain ourselves as long as our products are preserved well, protected from rancidity, and formulated with our ingredients used in safe levels. (If you're selling things and making claims, then I'm going to demand an explanation!) I ask the questions I do because I'm interested in the philosophical bent of others - I can't learn if I don't ask. So thanks so much for your contributions to this question - it made me think! And I love thinking (little girl likes brain!)

My quote of the week from Alex Trebek (courtesy of A.J. Jacobs in "The Know It All") - "I'm curious about everything. Even things that don't interest me." From can I know I'm interested in something if I don't ask?

What's the next question? Any suggestions?


Heather said...

Me personally... i think the reason silicones are avoided like the plague by some people is due to the whole ANTI-PATENE bad press a couple of years ago.

People were saying Pantene's shampoos and conditioenr were loaded with wax (theyre refering to silicones) or plastics that when you first use it it makes ur hair feels soft and shiny but after a couple of uses....

You get the horrible build up that is almost impossible to remove.

BUT THE WORST negative press was that these "plastics/waxes" would cause hair loss!

(just do a google search on Pantene and Hair Loss...u'll read tons and tons of peoples horrifing comments)

The rumor was that these silicones would hide damage (in a bad way) and further use would coz hair to break (as according to them it drys out the hair)...

Anyway, that was the rumours...(not my words).

Anyway, i fell for that rumour and avoided silicones for the past 4-5 years!!!..

Till this year, where i just used a conditioner containing dimethicone and just fell in love with all things silicone.

My opinion is that silicones should be used in moderation ...

I think that main important thing is that the shampoo your using SHOULD NOT HAVE ANY SILICONES.....(to effectively remove any silicones from hair and avoid build up)...

But conditioners , serums, leave-in, styling aids....with silicones....Use till your heart content (some need loads of silicones some need just a little...)

Nothing protects from thermal/heat styling tools like a silicone serum (with Phenyl Trimethicone) !

I just love them !...makes my hair soooooo soft using just a smallllll amount on wet hair...

I think ppl (consumers) need to educate themselves and realise the silicones should not be confused with lipids/oils..etc

Silicones is used exactly like u said in the post, for barriers, conditioning, softening..etc

and oils, proteins..etc are used for moisturizing and as emollients..etc

Though, I LOOOOVE silicones (and oils)...i MUST say i HATE Pantene...i proudly (or stupidly) still avoid pantene like the plague....I honestly felt it did cause my hair to start breaking at an unusual rate and it would always be weighed down full of build up....i dunno what's in the formulation that causes the hair loss.....for me it's the shampoo so im thinking maybe the SLS/ALS combo with the high pH drying out the hair?

Plus their shampoo and conditioners ARE silicone rich im assuming daily use WOULD lead to build up?

I dunno....but i am deff an educated born-again Silicone Lover !

Heather said...

oh and they did say stuff about pantene (silicones) preventing your hair to breathe LOOOL...

I find many african americans or people with relaxers avoid silicones because they beleive that it tends to dry the hair out ...indirectly by preventing moisture...

So they use coconut and other oils for moiture and conditioning...

Pure Lauren said...

I find this topic coverage AWESOME! It is so good to see someone cut through the BS.

To Heather, regarding the comment about shampoo without silicones in it being used to remove the silicones...I just have to point out that when I am working with silicones, I use a lighter weight silicone to wash up my tools. so it could still be helpful to use a silicone to dissolve a silicone (like dissolves like and all that jazz) :) I have to point out this is just a theory as I do not work with hair care products myself. Just wanted to share another side of the discussion.

Thank you Susan for your wonderful research!