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Water Soluble and Non-Soluble Silicones: What You Need To Know

Silicones are one of the main ingredients that we are made aware of on our natural hair journey. Learn what they are and if you need them.

These polymers are one of the main ingredients that we are made aware of on our natural hair journey. Since they play a pivotal role in preventing hair reversion, providing slip, protecting against heat damage, imparting shine and reducing frizz; silicones have been seen as a favorable ingredient among hair product manufacturers.

Should You Use A Conditioner With Silicones To Detangle Natural Hair?

So, why have silicones maintained such a bad rep within the natural hair community (including myself)? Let’s take a look at the different types of silicones found in hair products and the problems they pose…

What Are Silicones?

Silicones are plastic-like polymers that are used in hair products to lubricate, condition and add shine. They are usually identified by names that end in “-cone,” “col,” “conol,” or “-zane,” which makes them easy to spot on product labels. Typically, silicones are used to coat the hair shaft in order to prevent frizz, smooth the cuticle and protect against thermal damage from heat styling tools.  The two most common forms of silicones found are non-soluble and water soluble.


Non-soluble silicones are synthetic materials that cannot be removed or penetrated with water, which can be inadvertently damaging to the hair. These polymers can only be removed from the hair shaft by washing with clarifying shampoos or shampoos with harsh sulfates. These types of shampoos, although sometime necessary are drying to the strands. The problem with non-soluble silicones is the fact that they seal the hair shaft completely, allowing no moisture to penetrate the hair shaft until the silicone is washed out.


This causes the hair to become dry and brittle, causing damage and breakage. Non-soluble silicones should be avoided, especially for us curly/coily hair-types, but the one good thing about them is that they work to prevent reversion and thermal damage if you’re considering straightening your hair. If you do choose to use non-soluble silicones, be sure to thoroughly cleanse the hair at least once a week and follow up with a deep conditioner so that the strands do not become dehydrated. Some non-soluble silicones that are typically found in hair products include:

Water-Soluble Silicones

Water-soluble silicones can be penetrated by and dissolved with water, which makes them easier to deal with. The good thing about these silicones is the fact that they don’t cause build up, can enhance moisturizing properties, can add humectant qualities, allows moisture penetration, and are easy to remove. It might be beneficial to look into trying out water-soluble silicones if you’re looking to reduce frizz and impart more shine to your locks without running the risk of dehydrating your locks.


Water-soluble synthetic materials can be used to straighten the hair, and will still protect the shaft from heat damage, but the will not prevent moisture from penetrating the shaft, which will cause the hair to revert. However, if you are doing the curly-girl method, co-wash regularly, or are prone to dry hair, water-soluble polymers can actually help impart and retain moisture into the hair shaft, making it very curly-friendly.   If you’re interested in giving products that contain water soluble ingredients a try, here are the ingredients to look for:

Now you know the difference and how these materials have a place in a Natural’s hair care regimen. I try and steer clear of them because my hair loves them for about two days and then they begin to cause build-up. I only try and use them before washday and know I’ve got to use my SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow And Restore Shampoo whenever I do.


Check out my new book Natural Hair For Beginners


Leave a Reply


  1. April 4, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    Hi Sabrina- I break the cardinal curly girl "rules" 🙂 I use one silicone based product, Herbal Essences Hello Hydration. I love this conditioner so much that I don't let the silicones bother me. I don't even use shampoo to remove it and so far so good. No product build up! I know that others don't have as much luck so of course everyone should do what works for them

    • April 10, 2016 / 5:57 pm

      Do not feel bad. I love a good silicone from time to time as my hair feels silky and had mad movement. The only thibg is i get build-up so i make sure to use around washday. Tha ks for shari g!