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Does Silicone Clog Pores? What You Need to Know

Does Silicone Clog Pores? What You Need to Know

Photo by Moose Photos

Photo by Moose Photos

Silicone is a much-debated skincare ingredient in the beauty community – some rave about its ability to mattify and smooth the skin, while others complain it clogs pores and leads to acne breakouts. And it’s an extremely common ingredient found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup primers, and more. When you look at a skincare product ingredient list, I’d confidently say there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll find some form of silicone on it. So what’s the deal? Is silicone bad for your skin? Here’s what the experts have to say.

“Cosmetic-grade silicon is a safe component to many skin care products,” says Manhattan Beach, CA dermatologist Nina Desai, MD. 

The most common form of silicone found in beauty products is dimethicone. Since is has a very fluid property, it gives products a silky, smooth texture which allows them to spread nicely across the skin. It’s the ingredients that fills in pores and softens the appearance of fine lines.

Additionally, silicones provide a protective barrier over the skin and help the skin retain moisture. It’s commonly used in diaper rash cream and even has been found to soften scar tissue, so you’ll find it in many scar creams and products.

While that all sounds great, this same barrier quality does have a downside. “While Silica naturally helps the skin retain moisture, keeping it looking supple and youthful, you are also trapping bacteria, sebum, and other impurities,” says esthetician and product formulator Bella Schneider.

Dimethicone is not water-soluble which makes it hard to remove and can lead to build-up on the skin and hair, says cosmetic formulator Annalisa Branca. In my experience, hair products targeted toward curly haired individuals are often silicone-free. And there are even products that help remove this build-up from the hair, like DevaCurl Buildup Buster ($28).

As to whether silicone clogs pores, this is where the experts are divided.

“[Silicones] can be imagined like a net. They form a “breathable” semi-occlusive layer and do not clog pores,” says Branca.

Whereas cosmetic product developer Ginger King and Hermosa Beach, CA dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD, agree that some silicones can cause congested skin and clog pores. And because it can trap bacteria, serum, dead skin, and other impurities on the skin, Schneider claims it can make an existing acne problem worse.

The verdict? Cosmetic-grade silicones are completely safe to use on the skin. However, if you’re acne-prone or notice more clogged pores than usual after using a product with silicone, you might want to steer clear of it.

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