Dimethicone, a silicone-based polymer, is widely recognized for its versatile benefits in skincare. It serves as a protective barrier on the skin, locking in moisture and shielding against irritants without clogging pores. Known for its unique, silky texture, dimethicone enhances the application of skincare products, leaving the skin with a smooth, non-greasy finish.
What is Dimethicone?
Dimethicone, also known as polydimethylsiloxane, encompasses a broad category of silicones. Silicones are inorganic polymers derived from quartz, silica, or silicon dioxide but due to significant chemical processing, silicones are considered synthetic. Dimethicone has a backbone of silicon atoms attached to oxygen atoms with long bonds that are able to rotate easily. This along with wide bond angles means low intermolecular forces between the atoms and therefore significant flexibility and changing orientation. What that means in a cosmetic product is a unique sensorial property perceived as slippery, silky, and non-tacky. It lowers the surface tension and can bring an elegance to a product. The long bond lengths and spacing between the atoms also means dimethicone has a high gas permeability so dimethicone creates a porous, breathable film that minimizes water loss and protects the skin from external irritants but won’t clog pores or hinder penetration of most ingredients in a formula.
While the INCI or standardized name for the material in a product is “Dimethicone” it doesn’t give crucial information into the properties of the material such as the chain length (degree of polymerization) or viscosity, often noted in centistokes (cst). Dimethicone can be volatile and evaporate off the skin at room temperature, aiding with slip and sensorial properties. This includes low viscosity dimethicones like 0.65cst. Dimethicone at a higher viscosity such as 350 cst can be used as an OTC skin protectant and acts as a breathable barrier on the skin that is not volatile.
Dimethicone Uses in Skincare
Dimethicone is a commonly used ingredient in skincare products to not only aid in the sensorial aspects of a product but to provide skin benefits. Due to its large molecular weight it doesn’t penetrate the skin or have a biological mechanism of action. This is ideal as it forms a barrier on the skin’s surface to keep in water and protect it from irritants without causing irritation. By creating a protective layer on the skin, dimethicone helps to keep the skin hydrated, soft, and supple.
In addition to its protective properties, dimethicone also has a smoothing effect on the skin. It has a lightweight texture that spreads easily and evenly over the skin, filling in fine lines and pores, and leaving the skin with a silky-smooth finish. This smoothing effect can help to improve the appearance of the skin by providing a more even and flawless complexion.
Dimethicone Benefits for Skin:
Dimethicone is a versatile ingredient that offers a range of benefits to the skin.
Skin Protection: Dimethicone acts as a gas permeable barrier on the skin's surface, helping to prevent water loss and protect the skin from external irritants.
Moisturization: By preventing water loss, dimethicone helps to keep the skin moisturized and hydrated. This is particularly beneficial for those with dry or sensitive skin.
Skin Smoothing: Dimethicone has a silky texture that leaves the skin feeling smooth and soft. It is often used in cosmetics to give them a luxurious feel and to help them spread more easily on the skin.
Anti-Aging: Dimethicone can help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by filling in surface texture.
Improved Spreadability: Dimethicone is an excellent emollient that can improve the spreadability of cosmetic products on the skin which can help enhance its efficacy. In pharmaceutical products, dimethicone can be used to distribute active ingredients.
Scar Prevention: Many scar gels are primarily composed of dimethicone as it has been shown to reduce hypertrophic scars and keloids. It reduces the texture, color, and height of scars. The hydrophobic barrier helps regulate temperature and increase hydration of the site which impacts the collagen deposition.
How Does Dimethicone Work?
Due to its unique structure, dimethicone helps with spreadability of formulas, improving feel and allowing uniform application of a product. This uniform application helps increase the efficacy and bioavailability of a cosmetic product. Sunscreen products, especially those with physical mineral UV filters, often rely on dimethicone to aid in spreadability while forming a uniform layer for optimal UV protection. Dimethicone has a very low surface tension, lower than oils and esters, offering better spreadability and reducing soaping, the whitening you get on skin when the surface tension of your product is greater than the critical surface tension of skin. Silicone replacements can help reduce the surface tension of your product but never as efficiently as silicones. By filling in the gaps on the skin’s surface, dimethicone can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making the skin look smoother and more youthful. The breathable film can reduce transepidermal water loss without impeding penetration of other ingredients in the skin. This also helps shield the skin from environmental stressors like pollution, wind, and cold climate.
Concentration Levels & Recommended Usage for Dimethicone:
Dimethicone is used in a wide range of skincare products, including moisturizers, serums, primers, and scar treatments. Recommended concentration of dimethicone varies by product format and intended function.
For leave-on products such as moisturizers and serums, a concentration of 2-5% dimethicone can be used.
For rinse-off products such as cleansers and shampoos, a lower concentration of 1-2% dimethicone is often used.
Dimethicone can also be used as a formulation aid to improve the texture and stability of skincare products. In these cases, the concentration of dimethicone may be lower, typically around 0.5-1%.
The FDA dictates the level of dimethicone in OTC Skin Protectants be between 1-30%.
Primers and makeup priming products can contain dimethicone at high levels, over 50%, as well as chemically modified dimethicone to smooth skin texture and conceal pores.
Scar treatment products contain dimethicone up to 100% to keep the skin hydrated and limit hypertrophic scars and keloids.
Overall, the appropriate concentration of dimethicone in a skincare product will depend on the intended use of the product, the other ingredients in the formula, and the desired skin feel and texture.
Is it Okay to Use Dimethicone Daily?
It is generally safe to use dimethicone daily in skincare products. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel deemed dimethicone safe and non-toxic. Due to its large molecular weight it sits on the surface of the skin and does not absorb or penetrate the skin barrier, eliminating the risk of systemic toxicity. Dimethicone is a common ingredient in many skincare products, including moisturizers, primers, and sunscreens, due to its ability to provide a smooth, silky feel on the skin and its moisturizing and protective properties.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that every individual's skin is unique, and some people may be more sensitive to certain ingredients than others. If you experience any irritation or adverse reactions when using a product containing dimethicone, you should discontinue use and consult with a dermatologist.
Who Should Use Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is also generally well-tolerated by most skin types, making it a suitable ingredient for use in a wide range of skincare products.
Dry skin: Dimethicone is a powerful emollient that helps to hydrate and moisturize dry skin. It creates a barrier on the skin that helps to lock in moisture, preventing the skin from becoming dry and flaky.
Sensitive skin: Dimethicone is a gentle ingredient that is well-tolerated by most skin types, including sensitive skin. It helps to soothe and protect the skin without causing irritation or inflammation.
Acne-prone skin: Dimethicone is non-comedogenic, meaning that it does not clog pores or contribute to acne breakouts for those with acne-prone skin. It can help to improve the appearance of skin by protecting from environmental stressors.
Aging skin: Dimethicone can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by improving skin hydration and elasticity. It also helps to protect the skin from environmental stressors that can accelerate the aging process.
Overall, anyone looking to improve the health and appearance of their skin can benefit from using skincare products that contain dimethicone.
Who Should Not Use Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is tolerated by most people and skin types and is easily incorporated into skincare routines. However, as with any skincare ingredient, it is important to follow usage instructions and perform a patch test before using any new product to check for any adverse reactions or sensitivity. Individuals who are allergic to silicone or other silicone-based ingredients should avoid using skincare products that contain dimethicone. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms such as redness, itching, swelling, and hives.
What Skincare Ingredients Pair Well with Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is neither water soluble nor oil soluble so cosmetic formulators have to find emulsifiers and ingredients that can help incorporate dimethicone into their product. Dimethicone is clear, odorless, and doesn’t have any ingredient incompatibilities. It can be used with other ingredients to enhance skin benefits.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that helps to draw water into the skin, making it an ideal pairing with dimethicone. Hyaluronic acid helps to provide hydration to the skin, while dimethicone helps to retain that hydration.
Ceramides are lipids that help to strengthen the skin barrier and improve moisture retention. They are often used in conjunction with dimethicone in moisturizers and other skincare products designed to moisturize and nourish the skin.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of pores, and brighten the skin. When used in combination with dimethicone, niacinamide can help to improve overall skin health and appearance.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and green tea extract, help to protect the skin from environmental stressors and free radicals. When used in combination with dimethicone, these ingredients can help to improve skin complexion.
Peptides are small proteins that can help to stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity. When used in conjunction with dimethicone, peptides can help to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Overall, the best ingredients to pair with dimethicone will depend on the specific needs and concerns of the individual's skin.
Are There Any Ingredients that Should Not Be Used with Dimethicone?
Dimethicone is not oil or water soluble. When layering makeup or skincare products over a dimethicone-based product, “pilling” of the product can occur. Some individuals are more prone to pilling than others. It doesn’t impact the skin itself but is aesthetically unpleasing.
If a skincare product containing dimethicone also contains heavy oils, it can result in a greasy or heavy feeling on the skin.
Use skin protectant products with dimethicone like Prequel's Skin Utility Multi-Purpose Skin Protectant Ointment as the last step in your regimen to best maximize skin benefits.
It is important to consider the overall formulation of the product and how all ingredients work together to achieve the desired results. In most cases, dimethicone can be used in conjunction with a wide range of other skincare ingredients to provide optimal benefits for the skin.
DISCLAIMER: All skin care articles are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational. Any reference to a specific patient experience is not a medical suggestion for treatment. Please note that any Prequel products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician advice and/or pharmaceutical product recommendations.