" BRB International BV, Issued: February 2017 "
The Silicone-Free claim as a cosmetic ingredient.
The “Silicone free” claim, made in certain personal care products, has
gained momentum solely as a niche marketing tool to suggest such
formulations are somehow safer, more healthy or offer enhanced
environment credentials than otherwise. In fact, such misinformation is
pedaled through blogs and social networks with vested interests rather
than through rigorous scientific premise.
Mintel presented a view on silicones in 2014 that consumers in Germany, France, Italy and
Spain don’t know much about silicones and 10% had never heard of the ingredient and
therefore in a weak position to make any sound judgments.
Silicone as a cosmetic ingredient.
Silicone is a catch-all word for one of the most useful and broadest classes of raw materials
used across all sectors of the personal care industry. Since the 1950s, this class of additives
has imparted desirable multifunctional effect and represents a key go-to solution based on
performance-price considerations. It is estimated that over 50 percent of all new cosmetic
products launched contain at least one silicone.
Silicones as petroleum derivatives?
Often formulators and consumers mistakenly believe that silicones are
petrochemicals derived from oil. In fact, silicone science starts with sand, also
known as silica or quartz, composed of two of the most abundant elements on earth: oxygen and silicon.
Are silicones natural?
Silicones do not grow on trees, but neither do most ingredients termed
“natural” used in a cosmetic formulators laboratory. Most of them have
been highly processed and refined resulting in a sizeable environmental
footprint. Naturals are perceived as safer, but what constitutes “natural”?
There are no industry standards or agreed definitions within current
legislation, only significant debate. Indeed “naturals” present their own drawbacks as assay
and commercial position can be highly impacted per harvest. By contrast, the optimized
process routes to synthesize silicone from sand enable consistently tight physical and
chemical specifications making life easier in the lab.
Are silicones arming the ozone layer?
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the family of chemicals harming the ozone layer, no
silicones. Chlorine gas disrupts ozone formation in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, which is
where the damaging reactions occur. Silicones do not contain chlorine, which means they
cannot contribute to this disruption.
Do Silicones contribute to smog?
The chemicals that contribute to urban smog are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These
include acetone, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, methacrylates, and ethyl acetate; such
compounds are formulated into fragrances, nail and hair products, and some cleansing
formulations. Silicones should be considered as inorganic, therefore cannot be described as
smog contributing VOCs. But the legislation is not everywhere the same.
In Europe, Low linear siloxanes and cyclic (D4, D5 & D6) are considered from the Council
Directive 1999/13/EC of 11th March 1999 as organic and in certain cases seen as VOC.
In the USA, the same products - Volatile methylsiloxane (VMS) - are exempt from VOC
legislation because laboratory experiments at the University of California demonstrated that,
in contrast to other organic compounds of similar reactivity, the breakdown of VMSs in the
the atmosphere does not lead to the formation of ground-level ozone (CES, 2005b).
Are silicones biodegradable?
Although silicones aren’t biodegradable in the traditional sense, they do degrade in the environment, breaking down into water, silica and/or silicate and carbon dioxide. The degradation trigger for low molecular-weight silicones, including Cyclopentasiloxane, is sunlight and oxygen. Heavier weight silicones aren’t susceptible to degradation by UV, oxidation or ozone, instead, they seek solid, water-free surfaces, adsorbing preferentially onto the biomass formed in effluent
treatment plants. This sludge, as it is known in the water treatment industry, is ultimately
incinerated. When deposited over soil, mineral clays catalyze the breakdown of the silicone’s
polymer backbone. This can take weeks and months if the soil remains wet, but if the soil
dries, it can take only days. Inspection of soils treated with high concentrations of silicone
showed a negligible impact of microorganism activity, nor harm to plant germination and
Do Silicones bioaccumulate in humans and other animals?
Silicones do not bioaccumulate as they are too large to pass through cell membranes—a key
the requirement for bioaccumulation.
Are silicones safe?
Extensive research has been conducted by, and on behalf of, the silicone industry to qualify
and document the use and properties of this class of raw material within their intended
cosmetic application. A body of evidence exists within the public domain reinforcing our
assurance that silicones in personal care are safe for the environment and human use.
Is D4 forbidden in Personal Care applications?
Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) is classified in the EU as a reprotoxic substance, category 2, although
officially, it can still be used for Personal Care applications when accompanied by a
toxicological evaluation. In practice, the European Personal Care industry is stepping back
from D4, adopting self-imposed impurity limits of max 0.1% in end products. BRB is
continuously improving its products, aligning them to this specification limit but
acknowledges D4 is still widely used in Personal Care applications outside Europe.
Do silicones suffocate the skin?
Most silicones do not allow liquid water to penetrate but are breathable,
allowing oxygen, nitrogen and water vapors to transport easily through them,
into or out of the skin. Some silicones are cited to reduce transepidermal
water loss (TEWL) which is a leading cause of skin dryness and dehydration.
Do silicones clog pores on the skin or scalp pores and cause breakouts?
Silicones are highly resistant to oxidation, resulting in non-comedogenic properties. They do
not go rancid and, as they are non-irritant, they are non-acnegenic. They are
also hostile to bacterial or other microbial growth. However, silicones may
increase the penetration of some ingredients, such as common irritants
including fragrance or known pore-cloggers for example, lipid-rich plant oils;
these than the actual culprits behind breakouts and blackheads.
Do silicones cause irritation?
Silicones don’t irritate the skin. They actually lower or eliminate irritation
because they enhance the spreading and leveling of ingredients during
application. This in-turn prevents pocketing and minimizes percentages of
potentially irritating forms of cosmetic and drug ingredients. These include
alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid, strong emulsifiers and surfactants,
benzoyl peroxide and organic sunscreens.
Are silicones allergens?
Silicones are too large to enter the skin and react with the immune system, so they can’t
trigger an allergic reaction. In fact, they’re so biologically inert when in contact with the
skin, silicones are now replacing latex, a common allergen in adhesives, gloves and a wide
array of other items. Silicones are also used on open wounds because they shorten healing
time and do not promote bacterial growth.
Do silicones prevent moisture from entering/exiting hair?
Silicones are impermeable to water and bacteria, but they are permeable to water vapor and
air. This property allows the hair to “breathe”.
Do silicones buildup on hair and is difficult to remove?
Silicone deposition levels and the impact on hair volume depend upon the product and
quantity used. In any event, where silicone deposits are suspected, they can be easily
removed after one application of a clarifying shampoo.
Silicones are often one of the main ingredients in “oil-free” products such as anti-acne
treatments, sensitive hypo-allergenic skin lines, scar treatments, healthcare, and medical
devices, therefore applied to the skin at its most sensitive. The reason? Silicones are chemically
inert and never irritate or cause an allergic reaction on the skin. They are not occlusive, so
they permit the skin to breathe and they do not close pores. This breathable character
protects skin from urban, external aggressions and permits skin to regenerate.
" BRB International BV, Issued: February 2017 "