What is Cyclomethicone and Why is it in So Many Skincare Products?

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If history is anything to go by, the cosmetic industry doesn’t inspire trust in consumers. From the presence of heavy metals in makeup to companies choosing to ignore contaminants in their products, the cosmetic industry has done a lot to keep inspire skepticism from the general public.

It does not seem to help that most personal care products are not subjected to mandatory approval by the FDA before hitting the market.  Long story short, there are a lot of loopholes to be exploited in the beauty industry which makes every new or synthetic ingredient a glaring red flag until proven otherwise.

An ingredient that has since come under the lens is cyclomethicone. It seems to recurrently appear in skin care, deodorants, and hair care which begs the question; What is cyclomethicone ? and How safe is this ingredient?

What is Cyclomethicone?

Cyclomethicone is a blanket term used to refer to colorless and odorless liquid silicones that are added to cosmetic products to allow them to glide onto the skin evenly. These compounds are made with silicone and oxygen with molecules of carbon and hydrogen.

Cyclomethicones are used in products where the siloxane carrier is required to evaporate shortly after application to prevent tackiness in the product. In skincare, this ingredient facilitates even application and improves the texture of the product while in hair care it is used to facilitate a lustrous finish and bounce.

Why is Cyclomethicone Added to Cosmetic Products?


It may not be as famous as some of the other skincare ingredients out there, but cyclomethicone offers a few benefits to the skin:

Delivers Active Ingredients to the Skin

Let’s start with the main reason cyclocmethicone is used in some of the best skincare products out there – it helps to carry active ingredients over to your skin cells. Cyclomethicone itself has a large molecular size, meaning that your skin can’t absorb it. Instead, after it delivers other ingredients to your skin, it will evaporate away.

Again, this is how it differs from other silicones, which sit heavily on the skin rather than evaporating. This is also why you’ll find the ingredient in products containing a high concentration of actives.

Enhances the Texture of Products

Silicones are loved by skincare brands because of how they give skincare formulas a much more pleasant sensory feel. Cyclomethicone does this too – its base solvent properties dissolve fragrance oils and perfumes to create a well-blended mixture. This is why it’s often found in formulas containing a perfume.

Being a viscosity controlling agent means that the silicone enhances a product’s thickness, while its naturally silky texture allows a formula to become easily spreadable.

Forms a Protective Barrier Over the Skin

If your skin is dry, sensitive, or mature with signs of aging, then you’ll be aware of how important it is to build up and strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. After all, this is what keeps your skin protected from irritation caused by the environment, and also prevents moisture loss.

Products with cyclomethicone help with this. The silicone forms its own protective layer over the surface of your skin. This not only helps to keep the skin better hydrated, meaning that skin cells will function more efficiently, but it also prevents harmful environmental substances from entering your skin.

As an added bonus, it’ll also help with the appearance of aging – fine lines and wrinkles become less noticeable after products with cyclomethicone have been applied, and the skin takes on a soft and smooth texture.

Improves the Appearance of Scarring

Woman's hand with scar

A number of silicone ingredients are currently used to reduce the appearance of scarring, and cyclomethicone is one of them [1]. Although most studies so far have been tested on animals, anecdotal evidence shows that cyclomethicone offers great promise when it comes to treating scarred skin.

Acts as a Conditioning Agent

Being a conditioning agent means that cyclomethicone is able to make both the skin and the hair feel softer and smoother. However, it’s not quite as effective as other ingredients used to condition the skin.

This is because cyclomethicones are volatile silicones that evaporate soon after being applied. That said, once it does evaporate, it leaves the skin and hair feeling silky, rather than heavy or greasy.

Is Cyclomethicone Safe?

There are two aspects to an ingredient’s safety that you need to consider – how it affects your skin and body, and how it impacts the environment.

When it comes to the former, there aren’t any adverse effects to worry about. Research shows that there aren’t any safety issues with cyclomethicones – in fact, they’re far safer than many of the alternatives that could be used instead.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review has also deemed the ingredient to be safe for use in cleansers, serums, creams, sunscreen formulas, and hair care products.

However, environmental safety is another matter. Silicones in general are extremely harmful to marine life. More research is needed to determine just how dangerous they really are to the planet.

Do cyclomethicones help hydrate dry skin?

While cyclomethicone initially forms a protective barrier on your skin to trap moisture, this barrier evaporates soon after you have applied the product. Due to its emollient properties,  some researchers argue that it may end up drying the skin further.

While that is a slight downside for people with dry skin, it is a relief for people with acne-prone and oily skin as it does not clog the pores preventing breakouts.

What is the difference between Cyclomethicone and dimethicone?

Dimethicone is also a silicone that is used to improve the texture and spreadability of a product. Unlike cyclomethicone, this product does not evaporate from the surface of the skin and instead forms a barrier between your skin and the air locking the moisture in and protecting your skin from irritants.

Products with dimethicone as an ingredient are wonderful for dry skin as they prevent moisture from escaping the skin. There has been a lot of back and forth on whether dimethicones could clog pores and while the sitting opinion is that silicone particles are too big to be absorbed into the skin and therefore cannot clog pores, we discourage people with acne-prone skin from using products with this ingredient.

Is Cyclomethicone good for sensitive skin?

If you have sensitive skin, skincare shopping involves combing through ingredient lists to find irritants and rule out products. Cyclomethicone can help reduce contact between the skin and irritants making it safe however, we always recommend doing a patch test when introducing a new ingredient to your routine to avoid losing the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Pretty woman in a casual attire


Is cyclomethicone safe for sensitive skin?

Yes, cyclomethicone is safe to be used on sensitive skin. It could even help to reduce any sensitivities or irritation that you’re dealing with.

Can cyclomethicone clog pores in oily skin?

No, cyclomethicone won’t clog pores – most silicones are non-comedogenic, meaning that they won’t trigger acne breakouts. However, keep in mind that silicones do form a protective layer over your skin’s surface, which could end up trapping dirt and sebum in, therefore leading to breakouts. This can often be avoided if you cleanse and exfoliate first.

Is cyclomethicone poisonous?

Cyclomethicone isn’t poisonous when applied topically to your skin. However, it can be toxic if it’s consumed or inhaled, and it’s considered to be poisonous to marine life.


If you’re worried about the effects that cyclomethicone could have on your skin or hair – don’t be. The ingredient works better than other silicones, and can help with everything from dryness to wrinkles.

However, its environmental impact shouldn’t be ignored. Although more research into this is needed, those of you who are eco-conscious may want to choose other products that don’t contain silicones, as the ingredient group as a whole isn’t great for aquatic animals.

Yes, cyclomethicone may work well as a solvent, and there’s nothing quite like it for making a product easily spreadable, but, in this day and age, it’s important to consider the wider impact that your skincare routine has too.


[1] https://www.dupont.com/content/dam/Dupont2.0/Products/healthcaresolutions/literature/52-1231-01.pdf

Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.