Monday, May 30, 2016

Detergents Which Remove: Silicones

If you're not already aware of it, and I assume you are if you're reading this, some people avoid silicone-based ingredients in hair care products for various reasons. Some people get a slick, fake-hair feeling in their hair, or a heavy, limp feeling. Silicone build-up's feel (if your hair gets any at all) depends on which silicone you've been using. If you don't use shampoo - you wash your hair with conditioner for example - your hair is more likely to accumulate silicones because you are not washing them off with detergent between applications. If you used them very rarely though - would it matter?

Don't avoid silicones if they don't cause problems for you. For real. Silicones are reversible. They wash out. You'd think they were permanent, based on some of the bad press they get. They can even be removed with non-detergent ingredients if you dare not let a single bubble near your hair (blog post about that is coming up soon).

"Silicones" refers to a group of synthetic emollients that are used in products for their lubrication (in wet and dry hair), shine, and increased flexibility. Silicone ingredients do not soak in to the hair because they're too large, so they stay there on the surface, doing their job, adding shine and lubrication.

Lubrication prevents friction and tangles and help hairs line up neatly with their neighbors - an effect that also increases sheen (shine).

You can find a list of silicones in this post. Dimethicone is a common silicone in conditioners, anti-frizz serums and shampoos, for example.

If you're usually a silicone-avoider but want to use them occasionally, or you just love them, but your hair needs to start with a clean slate occasionally, this post is for you. As emollients (synthetic oils), silicones need a detergent to remove them, should you want or need to do that.

Some detergents are better at "de-greasing" than others, so they'll do a much better job at removing silicones. Anionic detergents typically are the better de-greasers. Anionic detergents make lots of foam. The polar end of the detergent is negatively charged, that's where the name "anionic" comes from.

Look for these detergents in a shampoo to remove silicone accumulation. Keep in mind that if you have some build-up in your hair that you attribute to "silicones" - it may be more complicated than you realize. You may have hard water residue in your hair. Or conditioner build up as well, or residue from a styling product. Stay tuned for a post about what to use to remove those as well!

Anionic detergents common in shampoos: These detergents remove silicones alone or (for the milder ones) in combination with others.
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (the milder of the sulfates - milder than "lauryl sulfate")
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate (the milder of the sulfates - milder than "lauryl sulfate")
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium coco sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • C14-16 Olefin sulfonate or Sodium C14-16 Olefin sulfonate
  • Sodium carboxylate (soap)
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate (mild)
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (mild)
  • Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (mild)
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (mild)
  • Sodium lauroyl glutamate (mild)
  • Sodium cocoyl glutamate (mild)
  • Sodium lauroyl Sarcosinate (on the milder side)
  • Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate
  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate (mild)

Amphoteric detergents common in shampoos: These likely help remove silicones, especially in combination with anionic surfactants but may work alone or with non-ionic detergents also. These detergents tend to make a formula milder.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Coco betaine
  • Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine
  • Lauryl hydroxysultaine
  • Sodium cocoamphoacetate
  • Sodium Lauroamphoacetate


  1. Did you left Sodium Coco-Sulfate out, because of its similarities to SLS or is it not as good at removing Silicones?

  2. The problem I have with silicone is that it keeps my hair from absorbing moisture from other products.. and since mine is so fine even the mild surfactants capable of removing it can really dehydrate it so I'm fighting for moisture from both sides. My hair is so much more consistent since I took it out of my routine.
    Regarding build up.. one sneaky ingredient I learned to avoid were polyquats, you seldom hear anyone discuss them but they are a definite problem for me.

  3. Amodimethicone tends to leave build up. There are other functionalized silicones that wash out more easily - you are right in that all silicones are not the same.

  4. Just want to say that I love your blog. It's really hard finding more scientific answers to my questions about hair care. Thanks.

  5. Hi !
    I wanna ask about saponified coconut oil can it remove silicones ?and is it safe for hair ?

    1. Hello Wala'a,
      Saponified coconut oil is "coconut oil soap." It should remove silicones. Soaps sometimes leave "soap scum" behind when used with hard water and that can feel like a residue also.

  6. Do Coco-Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, and Alcohol also remove silicones?

    1. Hello Sera,
      Coco glucoside and Decly glucoside will not do as good a job of removing silicones if they are the only detergents present. They are mild and not very good at de-greasing hair. But these detergents may remove a little silicone residue, just like they can remove some oil residue, but may take a second washing to do a thorough job. Alcohol as a solvent can help liquefy oils so they are more easily removed.

  7. How about sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate? It's the main ingredient after water in my Davines Love curl shampoo and I read that it's one of the mildest detergents but the conditioner from the same line has dimethicone and even amodimethicone further down the list. Will the sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate wash them out? There's also sodium lauryl sulfoacetate which you listed but it's like the 5th ingredient. I haven't experienced residue from these products but I'm trying to figure out how it's gonna be in the long run. A person in my fb hair group pointed out that it has lye by the end of the list with some oils, so that could also help wash it our maybe? Please help me

    1. Hello Kit Kat, That is a mild detergent which is anionic and the shampoo you mentioned should be useful for removing silicone residue. That shampoo does contain Sodium hydroxide (lye) - that is commonly used to correct pH in a finished product. In the case of Sodium hydroxide, it is used to raise pH in a product which has a too-low pH. If the pH isn't just right, the product can not only be less-than-desirable for hair and skin, but the preservative might not work effectively - which would be very bad.

  8. Wendy, you always provide great information. Could you please suggest a shampoo that will remove silicones that does not contain Sodium Chloride and is color safe. (I use Henna monthly). I thought I read somewhere in your blog that you use Suave Clarifying Shampoo. Thank you.

    1. Hello Garner, Most shampoos will remove silicones provided 1) They do not also contain silicones, and 2) The shampoo contains a detergent other than Decyl glucoside. Decyl glucoside hypothetically is not especially as good at removing silicones as some other detergents because it is not a strong de-greaser.
      Many "sulfate-free" shampoos will also not contain Sodium chloride. The reason for that is that Sodium chloride thickens anionic detergents, and it will only thicken them when the concentration is sufficiently high to carry out that thickening trick. A shampoo lower in anionic detergents (which also tend to be stronger ones), will not thicken well with Sodium chloride. And it it is also more likely to be a milder shampoo. Thus - milder shampoos or "sulfate free" shampoos are less likely to contain Sodium chloride. Suave Daily Clarifying would do the job well - and inexpensively. It's pretty concentrated - I used it way back in high school. You could dilute it with water and it would still likely do a good job removing silicones. Good luck - W

  9. hello ws,i have a question.ive seen on the web that some pages put Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate like a milder few information about that generally.i always use your blog for information,but i see you listed here like a strong that wright?