Silicones are commonly found in skincare products, and they can come in a variety of different structures reflected in their name. If an ingredient ends with -cone, -conol, -siloxane, or -quioxane, then it is most likely a silicone.
Are silicones safe?
The good news is that when it comes to topical use of skincare, silicones are generally harmless, they are typically used to improve the texture of products and/or act as an occlusive which can benefit the skin. Or at least that is what the cosmetic industry would like you to be believe, but there is another side to this story.
So what’s the harm?
The bad news is that the annual world production of siloxanes alone has reached over 10,000,000 tonnes, with more than 50% of all new cosmetics launched in the last 10 years contain at least one type of a silicone. Consequently, they have been identified as emerging persistent toxic compounds because of their widespread use, the properties of high volatility and low water solubility. The impact of methylsiloxanes on biota and the ecological environment has become a matter of great concern today.
Siloxanes are the most commonly used silicones in cosmetic products, and according to the ECHA Annex XV Restriction report, the different types of siloxanes meet the criteria for identification as ‘persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic‘ (PBT) and ‘very persistent very bioaccumulative‘ (vPvB) substance. Recent studies have shown some harmful effects on the health of living beings and they may also cause damage to the environment.
Concentrations of siloxanes were found in the blood plasma of fish, birds and mammals. Their toxicity corresponds to reproduction category 2, and is based on both aquatic and mammalian studies. This means that they have an adverse effect on sexual function and fertility, or on development of animals, and is suspected human reproductive toxicants.
According to the European Union, all siloxane emissions originate from the use of wash-off personal care products, and are considered to have the highest environmental risk for these substances. Siloxanes are also classified as Potential Hazardous Air Pollutants.
Even though topical use of silicones is not harmful, once washed off, they end up in our waterways, and consequently end up in bloodstream of animals, which is confirmed to negatively impact their sexual function, fertility and development. Additional siloxanes are suspect to be toxic to human reproduction.
As such, Esoterance completely avoids the use of all silicones in our products.
Guo W, Dai Y, Chu X, Cui S, Sun Y, Li Y-F, et al. Assessment bioaccumulation factor (BAF) of methyl siloxanes in crucian carp (Carassius auratus) around a siloxane production factory. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2021 Apr 15;213:111983.
Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. Opinion on cyclomethicone octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (cyclotetrasiloxane, D4) and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (cyclopentasiloxane, D5), SCCS/1241/10 [Internet]. Brussels: European Commission; 2010 [cited 2021 Nov 3]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_029.pdf
ECHA. Annex XV restriction report, proposal for a restriction, version number 1.1, 2015 [Internet]. Bootle: Health & Safety Executive; 2015 [cited 2021 Nov 3]. Available from: https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/9a53a4d9-a641-4b7b-ad58-8fec6cf26229
Wang D-G, de Solla SR, Lebeuf M, Bisbicos T, Barrett GC, Alaee M. Determination of linear and cyclic volatile methylsiloxanes in blood of turtles, cormorants, and seals from Canada. Sci Total Environ. 2017 Jan 1;574:1254-60.