Friday, 3 August 2012

Clarifying Hair and Silicone Damage

What are Silicones?

Many people still don't realise that many hair care products contain polymers (including silicones) which sit on the outside of the hair shaft and can create a barrier.  Silicone molecules can be the worst for this because many are not water soluble so cannot just be 'washed off' in one go. You can spot silicone ingredients in products by looking for ingredient names ending in 'cone'.

Silicone Build Up in Hair

If you are using different shampoo and conditioning brands and then following with another styling product - which again contains silicones you could have three different types of silicone molecule on the hair.  Washing the hair with another silicone based shampoo will then add further silicone molecules onto the hair and result in the hair suffering heavy build up.
What is Silicone Damage?

If you use heated styling products such as hot irons you can seal this build up onto the hair, gluing down the cuticle layer, trapping in the silicone and making it difficult to remove.

In some instances a straightening iron can reach such a high temperature that the silicone molecule actually reaches boiling point and melts onto the hair shaft.  Please be aware this is the fault of the straightening iron and not the silicone and quite frankly if you are using a devise which gets so hot it can melt silicone imagine what it's doing to your hair fibres and proteins!

When hair suffers build up and/ or silicone damage, the surface is closed off to hair alteration meaning that colourants, perms, colour removers and even bleaches might not work on your hair.

If you are worried about silicone build up, hair should be clarified once a week to enable the hair to breath and function in conjunction with the products you are applying.

Hair Clarifying Tips

1.  Try using a baby shampoo on every third wash to prevent build up.

2.  Keep conditioner use to only the mid lengths and ends of the hair and use sparingly.

3.  Once a week use a Clarifying product such as Pin Up Clarifying Shampoo.  It's designed for use prior to perms and chemical services but is great for removing weekly build up  finish with the Pre Perm 'Leave In' conditioner as a light hydration product.

4.  For a deep clarifying treatment put two spoons of bicarbonate of soda into a mug of warm water.  After using a Clarifying Shampoo, pour the Bicarb rinse through the hair and comb through.  Leave for 10 to 20 minutes and rinse off.  The bicarb will help to break down any surface residue and over time can help with severe build up.

5.  If you have suffered silicone heat damage, clarifying the hair may not reverse the situation.  I would recommend you refer to Philip Kingsley products for your hair type for at least six months. Philip Kingsley products will not coat the hair any further and (overtime) will hydrate if the residue begins breaking from the hair.

Remember, if hair is very damaged from heated build up, the middle of the hair could be highly fragile.  Whilst it may look shiny on the outside, this shine is often synthetic and if a chemical product is successful in breaking through the build up the hair and entering inside, the hair could break due to its fragile state.  Always strand test before undertaking such treatments.


  1. Hi there, great blog post, but I'm a little bit confused about the plug for the Philip Kingsley products, particularly the Elasticizer. The website clearly states in its 'Key Ingredients' tag for this product that it contains silicone for "Strength and elasticity". Is this a different kind of silicone that won't coat the hair further? The product I'm referring to is at

    1. Silicones as a simple ingredient are not bad, it's how these ingredients are applied to the hair and the types of silicone included in the product.
      Is the silicone sitting on the outside of the hair and building up or has one silicone active gone inside the hair with a protein base to strengthen it? Mixing and matching various brands of products which contain variants of silicones and then not regularly clarifying the hair will cause a silicone build up. High heat is a really unwelcome addition to this type of build up because it can evoke scorching of the hair. Philip Kingsley products are developed with a balance to prevent this type of build up.
      If you read the companies blog more can be explained here

    2. Thanks for the clarification!