Beauty Featured Skin

Curly Hair & Silicones…What’s Really Bad (and Good!)

Curly hair does require special care. While there are lots of great resources online for important daily maintenance and styling tips — using a silk pillowcase, air drying or using a microfiber towel or T-shirt, etc. — we thought we’d add some information from a dermatological and formulation angle and address one ingredient in particular that has been flagged as “bad” for curly hair: silicones.

Is Silicone “Bad” For Curly Hair?

Several curly hair bloggers recommend no silicones in hair products. The bad rating seems to be based on the idea that silicones are not water soluble and therefore build up in curly hair. This is stated to be a concern for curly hair in particular because, as it is not washed daily, the silicones become saturated and weigh down the hair’s natural curls. When this happens, one then needs a “clarifying” shampoo to fully wash away the silicone buildup, and clarifying shampoos are too drying for curly hair.

This assumes two things: 1) something false about silicones (which we tackle further below), and 2) something true about many clarifying shampoos (they can indeed be too drying for curly hair…but there is more to this as well).

Diving Into Silicones

1) Allergenicity: Silicones are not allergens. This is notable because silicones are everywhere. The risk of allergenicity increases significantly when an ingredient is very common. Nickel, for example, is the top contact allergen and part of the reason why is its ubiquity (it’s found in almost every metal). Despite silicones being widely used in many products, the reports of contact allergies to them are extremely rare, and they are not in published allergen lists (these lists are based on patch tests done on almost 30,000 individuals). Silicone’s hypoallergenciity is important for sensitive skins and scalps, and can help reduce stress on the hair shaft, which is fundamental to curly hair care.

2) Anti-Inflammatory: In addition to not being allergens, silicones are normally well tolerated. Peer-reviewed published medical literature shows that dimethicone-based anti-acne regimens significantly had less erythema and dryness and could be used as a counter-irritant in formulations known to cause erythema and irritation; dimethicone added to sunscreens resulted in less irritation in patients with rosacea who tend to experience more irritation to common topical preparations; and silicones do not show comedogenic or irritant properties. Silicones, therefore, also have several benefits for the skin and scalp, including helping to lessen inflammation.

3) Environmental Concerns: In the case of nanoparticles, the concern is the potential buildup of silicones within the body. Nanoparticles (and this is a concern not just for silicone but for any ingredient in nanoparticle form) are very small molecules and there is a debate about their ability to penetrate beyond the skin to potentially cause harm inside the body. While there is still no definitive study or conclusion, we at VMV Hypoallergenics have chosen not use nanoparticles in any of our formulations. We have made this decision partly because of this concern but also because of another basic rule of hypoallergenicity: the smaller the particle size, the more an ingredient penetrates the skin, and the higher the risk of an allergic reaction. The particle size of silicones (certainly the ones we use) are large at 60 microns. The particle size that is inhaled and gets into the lungs and vessels is <10 microns.

4) Silicones and curly hair: It is highly unlikely that silicones cause buildup. Silicones tend to evaporate quickly (almost as quickly as alcohol), making buildup unlikely. They seem beneficial for curly hair as they provide additional slide, making detangling less risky (preventing the risk of breakage). Possibly more damaging to curly hair are strong detergents and other harsh ingredients, allergens, and irritants that tend to dry out hair, e.g. fragrance, dyes, amido-amine sulfates (e.g. cocamide-dea, cocamidopropyl, etc.) parabens, and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. These do tend to be present in clarifying shampoos…but not all. If you have curly hair and happen to need a clarifying shampoo because of another reason (like styling product buildup), there are options like Superwash that are allergen- and irritant-free, and that are non-drying.

In summary, because silicones evaporate almost as quickly as alcohol, it is unlikely that they’d build up in curly hair, even with infrequent shampooing…which also makes the need for a clarifying shampoo unlikely.


Preventing dryness is fundamental to curly hair care. Dry hair is generally a result of physical injury to the hair shaft. Some common culprits include harsh shampoos such as some anti-dandruff shampoos; frequent hair color stripping and/or dyeing; or regular hair curling, heating or straightening treatments. Very gentle care is required to reduce the stress on stretched hair shafts (the same applies to broken cuticles).

A regularly prescribed technique by our founding dermatopathologist who cares for more extreme cases is:

  • Apply plain petroleum jelly or The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm before shampooing to provide a barrier that protects breaks in the hair shaft.
  • Shampoo hair with a very gentle shampoo such as Essence Clark Wash which is free of ingredients — such as dyes, fragrance, and preservatives — that can potentially break down hair.
  • Use a rich but non-irritating conditioner and virgin coconut oil for repair.

For an at-home deep hydration treatment, try this:

  • Shampoo and condition your hair. As much as possible, do not dry.
  • While your hair is wet, comb Know-It-Oil or Oil’s Well virgin coconut oil through your hair and cling wrap it.
  • Rinse after 30-60 minutes.
  • Let air dry.

Read more about how hypoallergenic helps dry hair and dry scalp. And try this for a great (hypoallergenic) hair pomade!

Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)


Try This DIY Dry Hair Pomade (It’s Hypoallergenic, Too!)

by Oteka Lyons

DIY Fabulous (Hypoallergenic) Pomade

I sometimes (like when the weather gets cooler) experience dry, lack luster hair. Suzanne on our team gave me an idea about using Boo-Boo Balm to help with dry and brittle hair. I love it!

It’s easy to do, and safe for skin and hair!

What You’ll Need:

The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm

Essence Skin-Saving Milk Conditioner

How To “Dew” It:

Step 1. Place a pea-sized amount of Boo-Boo Balm on the palm of your hand.

Step 2. Add one pump of Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner next to the Boo Boo Balm.

Step 3. Rub your palms together until the mixture turns clear.

Step 4. Using the palms of your hands, massage the product onto your hair, working outwards from roots to ends.

Step 5. Style as usual. Your hair will glisten and shine, and feel soft and hydrated throughout the day.


“Skinsider” Tip:

The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm is multi-function. Get the larger 20g jar for use at home, but consider getting the smaller 8g tube to keep in your bag for hair touchups throughout the day, but also as a lip balm and for surprise problems like a paper cut or blister!

Oteka is part of our “Mott-ley Crew” of dew at VMV Hypoallergenics in NYC. As Retail Operations Specialist, she makes sure every client’s visit is a trip to “skinvana.” She is passionate about all things beauty and helping others. She has 1 child, Jason, and thinks the best thing in the world is Love & Happiness. Follow her on Instagram or visit us in NYC for more tips direct from Oteka!


How Does Hypoallergenic Help Dry Scalp & Dry Hair?

“What do I do for dry hair or dry scalp?”

First, we need to understand that the two conditions are different.

Dry Scalp

Dry scalp — itching, flaking, or both — is frequently an irritation. It could be a chronic contact dermatitis or a reaction to allergens in hair products. Some common culprits include allergen surfactants like “amido-amines” (cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide-dea), or other common allergens like dyes, fragrances, or preservatives.

Dry scalp can also be caused by the fungus pityrosporum going on overdrive. It might sound a little gross but a) we need to get more comfortable with the microorganisms that keep us healthy instead of bombing them all to oblivion — check out this awesome New Yorker article on the Human Microbiome Project; b) we all have pityrosporum within our hair follicles (it’s meant to be there); and c) our skins and hair have a nature-perfected balance between diverse microorganisms. Sometimes, such as after using too many “antiseptic” or antibacterial hair products or taking oral antibiotics, this balance gets thrown off. In the scalp, pityrosporum and other healthy microbes usually keep each other in check. With the overuse of “antimicrobial” hair products or after antibiotics (why scientists are moving way from the “napalm” approach to microbes), too much of the bacteria that normally would control pityrosporum get killed off and pityrosporum has too much of a free reign. Then it goes on a bender.

Before you start freaking out about an uncontrolled multitude of mutinous microbes, relax. It’s usually surprisingly easy to improve dry scalp.

  • Choose allergen-free shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products. Essence Clark Wash “Big Softie” Hair & Body Wash and Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner are good options.
  • Ease the dryness by gently massaging an oil or lotion with non-irritating anti-fungals such as monolaurin into the scalp. Try Grandma Minnie’s Oil’s Well. It contains pure virgin coconut oil, which is excellent for hair (it’s an ingredient in so many intensive hair conditioners for good reason) as well as monolaurin, an effective, coconut-derived, non-allergenic, antifungal.
  • Try to steer clear of hair styling products for a while to prevent exposure to allergens as much as possible.

If your dry scalp remains even after switching to hypoallergenic options, you could have seborrheic dermatitis and/or psoriasis. These two conditions are usually very manageable but do need a proper diagnosis and some additional care. While the allergen avoidance described above would still be recommended, you may need some lifestyle changes (stress management, improved diet and exercise), and some specific medicines.

If you don’t see an improvement in your dry scalp with the steps above, consult a dermatologist — ideally one who specializes in contact dermatoses as well as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis — and ask your doctor about getting a patch test. Often, simply knowing exactly what you need to avoid can result in dramatic changes.

Dry Hair

This is physical damage of the hair strand itself and is normally due to an injury to the hair shaft. Such injuries can happen in several ways. Harsh ingredients found in some anti-dandruff shampoos can cause injury to the hair shaft, as can frequent color stripping and/or dyeing; regular hair curling, heating or straightening treatments; frequent blow-drying or other heat styling; styling, particularly with strong-hold products; and pulling of the hair strands (using hair elastics and headbands).

What to do?

  • First, be nice. At this point, it may not enough to use a very gentle shampoo (although that helps, too — see Essence Clark Wash “Big Softie” Hair & Body Wash above). The hair needs real babying to reduce the stress on stretched hair shafts or broken cuticles.
  • Before washing your hair, try giving it a protective barrier. Coat the hair shafts by gently massaging The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm through your hair. Use a wide-toothed comb to improve distribution. This can help keep harsh ingredients or detergents from getting into breaks in the hair shaft.
  • Avoid ingredients that can potentially break down hair such as dyes, fragrance, and  preservatives.
  • Use a very rich but non-irritating conditioner, and virgin coconut oil for repair.

To find a dermatologist in your area, visit or your country’s official dermatological society.

To find a physician in your area who does patch tests, visit

For a customized regimen or consultation, call us at (212) 226 7309.

“Dew” More:

To shop our selection of validated hypoallergenic products, visit Need help? Leave a comment below, contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

If you have a history of sensitive skin, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.

Learn more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.