Silicones go by different names (dimethicone is one of the best-known) and are modified into numerous different formulas in order to perform the specific role expected of them—waterproofing, retaining moisture, adhering colour pigments, protecting our hair and imparting smoothness, and making the application of skincare products feel silky—no tugging on the skin as it is spread on, and no oily, sticky feeling. They give our deodorants that velvety feel, allowing them to dry quickly, and they keep water-resistant sunscreens on our skin, even when we sweat or get wet.
First introduced to beauty products in the 1950s, silicones are derived from a natural product called silica (basic sand), but undergo extensive chemical processing before being added to our beauty products.
David Suzuki lists siloxanes (forms of silicone) on his Dirty Dozen list of ingredients to avoid when purchasing personal care products. An Environment Canada review in 2008 concluded that certain siloxanes (D4 and D5) may pose a risk to the environment and have the potential to accumulate in aquatic organisms.