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Dimethicone in Skin Care: Experts Answer All Your Questions

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When you think of your favorite moisturizers to apply, based strictly on the feeling, you’ll likely notice something in common on each bottle—the presence of dimethicone. I was surprised to learn the ingredient is in most of the moisturizers in my repertoire in order to infuse them with top-tier hydrating and gliding benefits. While many ingredients are polarizing, especially when it comes to certain skin types, dimethicone is a pretty straight shooter that almost anyone could benefit from.

What is dimethicone?

“In the most straightforward chemistry sense, dimethicone is a type of organosilicon polymer (polymer chains that contain both silicon and carbon),” explains cosmetic chemist Gloria Lu. Not straightforward enough for you? Cosmetic chemist Michelle Wong, PhD breaks it down to “a liquid silicone ingredient that can come in a range of viscosities.” According to Lu, when it comes to skin care, it can range from a very thin liquid to thick, gooey-honey-like molasses.

The lightweight, silicone-based polymer is often used as a skin protectant in skin-care products, says board-certified Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. “After petrolatum, dimethicone is the second most common moisturizing ingredient and is found in all different types of moisturizers including ointments, creams, lotions, serums, sunscreens and lip balms,” says CeraVe partner and board-certified dermatologist Mark Strom, MD.

Dimethicone is most commonly known for “its ability to form a protective barrier on the skin, which helps to lock in moisture and prevent water loss,” says medical director at Curology and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Tolpinrud. She notes that in addition to skin-care and makeup products, it’s often found in hair products to provide smoothness and shine.

Is dimethicone harmful to skin?

“The FDA considers dimethicone to be safe for use on the skin at certain concentrations,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. Wong even refers to it as a rather bland ingredient that most people’s skin won’t negatively react to. “Dimethicone is gentle and non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), making it an effective and safe moisturizing ingredient for use by all skin types on the face and body,” says Dr. Strom. 

While there is currently no evidence to suggest dimethicone is harmful to the skin when used in appropriate concentrations, Dr. Tolpinrud notes that “as with any skin-care ingredient, some individuals may have individual sensitivities or allergies, so one may consider discussing adding this ingredient to their routine with their dermatologist.”

Is dimethicone natural?

Dimethicone is not considered a naturally occurring ingredient. It is a synthetic substance that is derived from silica, a naturally occurring mineral, explains Dr. Tolpinrud.

What are the benefits of dimethicone?

Dimethicone makes skin care feel good

“Regardless of the type of dimethicone used, it’s typically added to skin care because it feels awesome on the skin!” says cosmetic chemist Victoria Fu. She explains that it has a signature silky finish that doesn’t leave the skin tacky or sticky. Dr. Strom adds that it’s “what helps a skin-care product spread easily onto the skin and contributes to the ‘slip’ or ‘glide’ felt upon application.”

Dimethicone can help lock in moisture

“Dimethicone is fantastic for any sort of moisturizing,” says Wong. “It’s good as an occlusive that can help seal water into the skin and an emollient that can smooth out skin.” Due to this ability, dimethicone can even be used to improve the water resistance of sunscreen, notes Fu. It works by coating the skin and “forming a barrier that reduces water loss and provides the skin with softness and coverage.”

Dimethicone has emollient properties

Due to dimethicone’s emollient properties, it can help soften and soothe skin, says Dr. Longwill. It can also alleviate dryness and roughness, adds Dr. Tolpinrud. Furthermore, it “helps condition the skin, improving its softness and flexibility,” says Dr. Strom.  

Dimethicone can help skin appear smoother

Dr. Tolpinrud says dimethicone can create a temporary smoothing effect on skin, making it appear smoother with a more even texture.

Dimethicone can protect skin

“The barrier formed by dimethicone can protect the skin from environmental factors,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. When in a skin-care product, dimethicone can help protect against things like wind, cold weather and pollution.

What are the drawbacks of dimethicone?

While the name might sound menacing, Wong says dimethicone is a very safe ingredient. Lu even calls it “vanilla,” noting that it’s great for those with sensitive skin. “You’ll sometimes even find it in ‘sensitive skin’ products because it’s a pure synthetic vs. your much more complex plant-based waxes and oils,” says Lu.

Yet, as with any skin-care ingredient, “some individuals may have personal sensitivities or allergies to this ingredient,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. “Dimethicone is a commonly used and gentle moisturizing ingredient, and only exceedingly rarely a cause of sensitivity or allergy. Those who do experience any sensitivity or irritation from dimethicone-containing products should definitely consult a board-certified dermatologist.”

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CeraVe Healing Ointment ($22)

Dimethicone is staple ingredient in skin-protectant products such as scar gels, notes Lu. When it comes to skin healing, Dr. Strom recommends this ointment.

BUY ON TARGET – $22

BUY ON AMAZON – $20

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Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb ($38)

“Lightweight moisturizers featuring dimethicone are really where this ingredient shines,” says Lu. She notes that the Aqua Bomb is one of her favorites.

BUY ON SEPHORA – $38

BUY ON AMAZON – $38

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Mr. Reliable Lightweight Moisturizer ($42)

Another favorite of Lu’s is this moisturizer that took over two years for her and Fu to create as they tried to cram in all the best actives. Dimethicone appears alongside ceramides, niacinamide, silymarin, bisabolol, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and pre-biotic lactobacillus ferment.

BUY ON CHEMIST CONFESSIONS – $42

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cosmetic-confessions-mr-reliable
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Curology Barrier Balm ($17)

“The Barrier Balm contains humectants, emollients and occlusives to protect dry, sensitive skin from irritation while promoting a healthy skin barrier,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. “It features dimethicone 13 percent to help form a barrier on the skin to minimize water loss.”

BUY ON AMAZON – $17

BUY ON CUROLOGY – $17

curology-balm
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Clinique Moisture Surge ($29) 

If you haven’t tried Clinique’s iconic Moisture Surge, which promises up to 100 hours of hydration, Wong recommends adding it to your collection.

BUY ON SEPHORA – $29

BUY ON AMAZON – $29

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CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($20)

This cream features “dimethicone to help seal in moisture and protect the skin barrier from outside irritants while simultaneously improving skin’s smoothness and flexibility,” Dr. Strom says of this highly recommended product.

BUY ON ULTA – $20

BUY ON TARGET – $18

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