Monday, May 30, 2016

Detergents Which Remove: Silicones

If you're not already aware of it, and I assume you are if you're reading this, some people avoid silicone-based ingredients in hair care products for various reasons. Some people get a slick, fake-hair feeling in their hair, or a heavy, limp feeling. Silicone build-up's feel (if your hair gets any at all) depends on which silicone you've been using. If you don't use shampoo - you wash your hair with conditioner for example - your hair is more likely to accumulate silicones because you are not washing them off with detergent between applications. If you used them very rarely though - would it matter?

Don't avoid silicones if they don't cause problems for you. For real. Silicones are reversible. They wash out. You'd think they were permanent, based on some of the bad press they get. They can even be removed with non-detergent ingredients if you dare not let a single bubble near your hair (blog post about that is coming up soon).

"Silicones" refers to a group of synthetic emollients that are used in products for their lubrication (in wet and dry hair), shine, and increased flexibility. Silicone ingredients do not soak in to the hair because they're too large, so they stay there on the surface, doing their job, adding shine and lubrication.

Lubrication prevents friction and tangles and help hairs line up neatly with their neighbors - an effect that also increases sheen (shine).

You can find a list of silicones in this post. Dimethicone is a common silicone in conditioners, anti-frizz serums and shampoos, for example.

If you're usually a silicone-avoider but want to use them occasionally, or you just love them, but your hair needs to start with a clean slate occasionally, this post is for you. As emollients (synthetic oils), silicones need a detergent to remove them, should you want or need to do that.

Some detergents are better at "de-greasing" than others, so they'll do a much better job at removing silicones. Anionic detergents typically are the better de-greasers. Anionic detergents make lots of foam. The polar end of the detergent is negatively charged, that's where the name "anionic" comes from.

Look for these detergents in a shampoo to remove silicone accumulation. Keep in mind that if you have some build-up in your hair that you attribute to "silicones" - it may be more complicated than you realize. You may have hard water residue in your hair. Or conditioner build up as well, or residue from a styling product. Stay tuned for a post about what to use to remove those as well!

Anionic detergents common in shampoos: These detergents remove silicones alone or (for the milder ones) in combination with others.
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (milder of the sulfates - milder than "lauryl sulfate")
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate (milder of the sulfates - milder than "lauryl sulfate")
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium coco sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • C14-16 Olefin sulfonate or Sodium C14-16 Olefin sulfonate
  • Sodium carboxylate (soap)
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate (mild)
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (mild)
  • Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (mild)
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (mild)
  • Sodium lauroyl glutamate (mild)
  • Sodium cocoyl glutamate (mild)
  • Sodium lauroyl Sarcosinate
  • Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (mild)

Amphoteric detergents common in shampoos: These likely help remove silicones, especially in combination with anionic surfactants but may work alone or with non-ionic detergents also. These detergents tend to make a formula milder.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Coco betaine
  • Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine
  • Lauryl hydroxysultaine
  • Sodium cocoamphoacetate
  • Sodium Lauroamphoacetate


  1. Did you left Sodium Coco-Sulfate out, because of its similarities to SLS or is it not as good at removing Silicones?

  2. The problem I have with silicone is that it keeps my hair from absorbing moisture from other products.. and since mine is so fine even the mild surfactants capable of removing it can really dehydrate it so I'm fighting for moisture from both sides. My hair is so much more consistent since I took it out of my routine.
    Regarding build up.. one sneaky ingredient I learned to avoid were polyquats, you seldom hear anyone discuss them but they are a definite problem for me.

  3. Amodimethicone tends to leave build up. There are other functionalized silicones that wash out more easily - you are right in that all silicones are not the same.

  4. Just want to say that I love your blog. It's really hard finding more scientific answers to my questions about hair care. Thanks.

  5. Hi !
    I wanna ask about saponified coconut oil can it remove silicones ?and is it safe for hair ?

    1. Hello Wala'a,
      Saponified coconut oil is "coconut oil soap." It should remove silicones. Soaps sometimes leave "soap scum" behind when used with hard water and that can feel like a residue also.

  6. Do Coco-Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, and Alcohol also remove silicones?

    1. Hello Sera,
      Coco glucoside and Decly glucoside will not do as good a job of removing silicones if they are the only detergents present. They are mild and not very good at de-greasing hair. But these detergents may remove a little silicone residue, just like they can remove some oil residue, but may take a second washing to do a thorough job. Alcohol as a solvent can help liquefy oils so they are more easily removed.