Silicone, or its derivatives dimethicone and cyclomethicone, are ingredients that are often included in hair conditioners. If you have dry, damaged hair, silicone plays another specific and important role in helping your hair to look its best, even after styling and other abuse.
Silicone is added to conditioner to give it the slippery texture that makes you feel like your hair is being moisturized. If you have dry hair, the silicone in most conditioners makes the hair easier to comb out and adds shine that lasts throughout the day. Silicone is known as an effective moisturizer; in fact, dimethicone is an ingredient typically used in over-the-counter hand lotions, notes The Beauty Brains website.
Not only does silicone help to make your hair look shinier, it can help disguise some of the damage that you suffer as a result of dry hair. Dry hair is more prone to breakage, and silicone serves to fill in some of the divots and dents left as a result of dry, broken hair, Tony Ryan, ICI professor of physical chemistry at the University of Sheffiel, tells the Royal Society of Chemistry. The result is hair that actually looks healthier, despite the damage and dryness.
Hair is made up of keratin, which is essentially a dead protein. Once damaged, hair cannot be repaired in any way, as it lacks the ability to regenerate new protein. Silicone may help dry hair look healthy on a short-term basis, but it cannot heal hair or change the hair's structure or natural texture. You must use silicone on a regular and ongoing basis in order to continue to see its effects.
Some products that typically include silicone, unless labeled as "silicone-free," include conditioner, leave-in conditioner, shine spray and root lifter. Check product labels for silicone, dimethicone or cyclomethicone to ensure that the conditioning product you're purchasing lists a "cone" as one of the ingredients. Look for products specifically labeled for dry hair.
Silicone works more effectively the longer your dry hair is exposed to it, according to a study published in a 2010 issue of "Fibers and Polymers." The study also found the effects were greater when the products were exposed to heat while on the hair. For especially dry hair, try a conditioning treatment. Apply to dry hair, and then place a shower cap over your head. Turn on your shower and sit in the bathroom for 20 minutes in the steam to allow the silicone to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively for the best results possible.