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 to promote hydrating and gliding benefits.
“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, that means when it comes to skin care, it can range from very thin, liquid to thick, gooey-honey-like molasses. While many ingredients are polarizing on different skin types, Wong says dimethicone is a rather bland ingredient that most people’s skin won’t negatively react to.
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. Dimethicone is the one to credit for a smooth glide, says Wong.
Dimethicone can help lock in moisture
It’s “fantastic for any sort of moisturizing,” says Wong. “It’s good as an occlusive that can help seal water into skin and an emollient that can smooth out skin,” she adds. Due to this ability, it can even be used to improve the water-resistance of sunscreen, notes Fu.
Is dimethicone safe to use in skin care?
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. It’s a pure synthetic vs. your much more complex plant-based waxes and oils,” says Lu.
Expert-recommended products with dimethicone
“Lightweight moisturizers featuring dimethicone are really where this ingredient shines,” says Lu. Her favorites include Mr. Reliable Lightweight Moisturizer ($42) and Belif The True Cream Aquabomb ($38). Dimethicone is also a staple ingredient in skin-protectant products such as scar gels, notes Lu. The ingredient is in CeraVe’s popular Healing Ointment ($11). Wong recommends Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream ($24) and Clinique Moisture Surge ($28) for a moisturizer with dimethicone.