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Many of the things people say they like about personal care products – from the silky effect of hair conditioners to the smooth feel of roll-on deodorants– are made possible by silicones.

A person washing their hair

We use silicones in many personal care products, including ‘all in one’ shampoos, hair conditioners and styling products, moisturisers, skin protectants and antiperspirants because they are very effective at conditioning skin and hair. We also use silicones in homecare products.

Although silicones are a man-made ingredient, they are in fact derived from a natural element called silicon that makes up more than a quarter of the Earth’s crust. This element normally occurs with oxygen, to form common beach sand (silicon dioxide). We only use silicones that have been rigorously assessed for safety and we continuously update these assessments with the latest scientific findings.

Your questions answered

Which silicones does Unilever use?

There are more than 2,000 different forms of silicones, including solids, liquids, thick pastes, greases, oils and rubber. The most common silicones we use in personal care products are dimethicone and dimethiconol. The most commonly used silicones in home care products are polydimethylsiloxanes.

Why are silicones often used in hair products?

Silicones make hair feel smooth, soft and moisturised. They also help it feel cleaner and easier to comb, by reducing friction.

Why do some hair products claim they do not contain silicones?

Silicones are used in many shampoos and conditioners to make hair feel bouncy, shiny and easy to comb. However, some people prefer products without silicones, to be more suited to their hair type to avoid a feeling that their hair is ‘weighed down’. Shampoos and conditioners that ‘volumize’ hair may contain little or no silicone. We make some silicone-free hair care products and this is often indicated on the packaging to help people select the products they like.

Are silicones used in home care products?

Silicones are used in Unilever home care products such as laundry detergents and fabric conditioners, some toilet cleaners, scouring creams, sprays, and machine dish wash gels. The silicones used in home care products typically act as antifoaming ingredients.

Are silicones safe for people?

The silicones we use have been rigorously assessed and are safe to use in home and personal care products. Dimethicone, one of the most widely used silicones, is approved by the Food & Drug Administration in the USA.

Are silicones safe for the environment?

We carefully follow scientific discussion about the environmental fate of silicones. There has been speculation that certain silicones build up in aquatic sediment and affect water creatures. However, studies have shown that silicones have little impact on fish and other aquatic organisms that live in sediment, such as worms or insect larvae.

Research indicates that silicones which do not break down in water are removed during wastewater treatment processes. As with all the ingredients we use in home and personal care products, we always monitor emerging scientific research and regulatory developments. If any new information becomes available we assess it. If this information changes our previous risk assessment, we always take action.

How can I tell if a product contains silicones?

We list the ingredients contained in our personal care products on the packaging.

“More than 1,000 studies have been conducted by silicone manufacturers to assess the safety of silicones relative to workers, consumers, the environment and manufacturing processes. The results of this continuous research and testing demonstrate the safety of silicones in their diverse and important applications.”

Silicones Environmental, Health and Safety Center, US
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