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Is Silicone the Fountain of Youth?

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the August 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

Though we’ve yet to discover any of the mythical fountains of youth, cosmetic science may have found a tributary. Silicones are one of the saviors of the wilting dermal layers. Commercially available since the 1940s, advances in silicones have improved the material’s efficacy and enabled new silicone combinations in skin care products. The properties of silicones enhance the efficacy of products designed to address the visible signs and symptoms of aging skin.

Skin Care Grows with Silicones

Skin care is the largest sector in the global cosmetics and toiletries market with a value of approximately $56 billion, as reported in GCI’s June 2006 “State of the Industry.” It also is one of the few sectors maintaining strong growth rates, with sales up 6.8%. Euromonitor cites “the continued pre-occupation with antiaging products” as a factor fueling skin care’s growth. Advances in silicone technology are keeping skin care interesting.

In general, silicones exhibit low surface tension, high lubricity, chemical inertness and low toxicity as well as softness-enhancing and non-stick properties—making them useful for a wide range of applications. According to Tony O’Lenick, president, Siltech LLC, silicone compounds are included in skin care formulations to function as wetting agents (providing a glide and “enhanced cosmetic elegance”), to provide a more uniform distribution of ingredients on the skin, lend emolliency, form films and provide a silky feel.

Doug De Blasi, director of sales and marketing, Biosil Technologies, Inc., notes that silicones in skin care can be classified into three major categories: fluids and waxes for aesthetic emollient properties, silicone polymers as delivery systems for other functional ingredients, and silicones that carry radicals while simultaneously providing desirable skin active properties themselves. “(Silicones) are able to absorb skin sebum and act as formulation thickeners and are increasingly important for oil-free claims,” said Isabelle van Reeth, global technology leader for skin care, Dow Corning. “Breakthrough technologies include new emulsions that add value to personal care products and benefit the personal care industry by providing greater flexibility in the enhancement, development and modification of formulations.”

Today, as De Blasi put it, silicones are ubiquitous in skin care.

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