My Return To Silicones: The Taboo Ingredient That Makes My Curly Hair Look Better

After several years sans silicones, I switched back to a conditioner that contains them. NO REGRETS.
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After several years sans silicones, I switched back to a conditioner that contains them. NO REGRETS.

I have curly hair, and I’m using a conditioner with silicones.

I know, I know, it’s like the first rule of curly hair that you do NOT use silicones under any circumstances, but lemme explain.

When I first tossed out the flat iron and started to learn to love my natural curls, I did a lot of research. I learned all about the “Curly Girl” method that requires the avoidance of sulfate-based shampoos and silicone conditioners in favor of washing your hair with a light conditioner and using silicone-free curl creams and gels to keep frizz at bay. I jumped right in and started washing my roots with a bottle of strawberry Suave.

While washing with conditioner, or co-washing as it's being called these days, has made a hugely positive difference for a lot of women (and curly dudes), for me it was Bad News. My hair started falling out. Like, in massive hairball clumps.

Turns out that while my actual strands loved the extra moisture, my scalp was seriously PISSED. I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo and my hair has been reasonably happy ever since.

But I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that curly hair gospel may well have to be tweaked for my best personal results.

My silicone-free hair. 

My silicone-free hair. 

Flash forward several years, all of which have been happily silicone-free. I was taking a quick post-spin-class shower at my friend’s apartment, and in a pinch, I reached for her silicone-laden conditioner. I was super-nervous at what would happen to my hair, as I was deeply indoctrinated that silicones are EVIL AND MUST BE AVOIDED.

But what actually happened? Glorious, gorgeous, frizz-free curls.

So after that experience, and after a commenter on my second-day curls article shared her own positive experience with silicone products, I decided to give them another go. I picked up Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Conditioner at Walgreens. It contains three different types of silicones, but they are fairly far down the ingredient list, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

Silicones are frequently found in hair products because they coat each strand of hair, to seal in shine and minimize frizziness. The worry with curly hair, though, is that that same sealing action can prevent much-needed moisture from penetrating the hair shaft (insert “penetrate” and “shaft” entendre here) of thirsty curls.

After giving silicones another shot. 

After giving silicones another shot. 

I have to say, though, that in the two weeks I have been using this conditioner, I haven’t had any noticeable uptick in dryness, and since my sulfate-free shampoo still contains some very mild surfactants (the stuff that helps release dirt, oil, and hair products to clean the hair), I haven’t had any silicone buildup. If I were co-washing, though, which relies mostly on friction to clean the hair, I probably couldn’t get away with it.

Thanks to the silicones, the Organix conditioner has given me far less frizz throughout my hair, but I notice it especially in the under layers of my hair, which are prone to fluffiness and tangles, and the crown of my head, where little baby still-growing-out hairs usually give me a halo of frizz.

Silicone free ringlet on the left, and the silicone laden strands on the right. 

Silicone free ringlet on the left, and the silicone laden strands on the right. 

I don’t know if I will keep up with the silicones on a regular basis, but for now, I am pleased with results and will definitely keep whipping out the silicone conditioners whenever I have a special event and I want to have extra sleek spirals.