Silicone gel (Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer)

What is it? Silicone gel is basically gelled cyclopentasiloxane. It has all the slippy goodness of cyclopentasiloxane with added viscosity.

Mine is from TKB Trading and the SDS states it is comprised of 90–98% cyclopentasiloxane and 2–10% of the gelling ingredient (Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer).

INCI Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer
Appearance Crystal clear, viscous gel
Usage rate 0–100%, though I generally start around 10%. Usage is similar to Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes, but with added viscosity.
Texture Incredibly silky smooth and slippy, with wonderful skin feel and soft powderdry dry-down.
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Very fast
Flash Point 76°C (169°F)
Solubility Oil, silicones
Why do we use it in formulations? Just like cyclomethicone and other cyclo-siloxanes, silicone gel adds wonderful slip to our products and helps reduce tackiness. Small concentrations add a really gorgeous, expensive-feeling skin feel. Higher concentrations of cyclomethicone help “lighten” products, speeding up dry down/absorption speeds. Because silicone gel is viscous, it can also add body and viscosity to our products, depending on the concentration used.

Learn more with this encyclopedia entry: Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes.

Do you need it? Generally no, but if you are interested in making high-end colour cosmetics I definitely recommend it.
Refined or unrefined? Silicone gel only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Silicone gel is an easy way to add silky viscosity and luxurious slip to our formulations.
Weaknesses Silicone gel is not widely available—I’ve only found it in the USA and Australia.
Alternatives & Substitutions Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes would be the best place to start, though you will lose the viscosity of the gel. Depending on the formulation this might be ok, or you may need to replace that viscosity with something else.
How to Work with It Silicone gel should be cold-processed due to its low flash point; if you need to heat it, do it slowly, carefully, and briefly!
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, silicone gel should last at least three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks There are 22 different products on UL Prospector with this INCI, but from reading the descriptions they vary in viscosity, so the INCI doesn’t tell the whole story.
Recommended starter amount 50g (1.76oz)
Where to Buy it My silicone gel is from TKB Trading, and if you want to be certain you’re getting the same product I have I’d recommend purchasing it from them if you can. Making Cosmetics carries a product with the same INCI, but from the photos it is far thicker (solids are listed at 20% vs. 2–10% for TKB’s product)—if you have that, I’d just it at about half the rate and make up the difference with more cyclomethicone. LotionCrafter also has an INCI-identical product; they describe it as a “clear fluid gel”, and from the photos it looks like it might be the same as (or very similar to) the product sold by TKB Trading.

New Directions Aromatics Australia also has an INCI-identical product; it looks similar to the Making Cosmetics product.

Some Formulations that Use Silicone Gel

Coco-Caprylate

What is Coco-Caprylate? Coco-Caprylate is an ultra-light, fast-absorbing medium polarity natural ester and emollient. It functions like an oil in our formulations but is much lighter.
INCI Coco-Caprylate
Appearance Clear, thin liquid
Usage rate 2–25%
Texture Lightweight, smooth, oil/cyclomethicone-like
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Fast
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Coco-Caprylate is oil-like, but ultralight. I love it in many things, but I find it especially shines in cosmetics and haircare, where we want oil-like emollience, but without the weight and greasiness that oil can bring to formulations. It also works wonderfully to lighten up anhydrous formulations.

Coco-caprylate can be a good cyclomethicone alternative in situations where the success of the formulation does not depend on cyclomethicone’s volatility (ability to evaporate quickly). This means coco-caprylate typically will not work as a cyclomethicone alternative in waterproof cosmetics or in ultra-light hair oils.

Do you need it? No, but it is great. I would highly recommend it if you have type 1 or 2 hair and/or if you enjoy making cosmetics. It’s also very useful to have on hand if you prefer to avoid silicones.
Refined or unrefined? Coco-caprylate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Coco-caprylate is an excellent lightweight naturally derived emollient and cyclomethicone alternative.
Weaknesses Depending on where you live, this ingredient can be hard to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions Other lightweight emollients like Neossance® Hemisqualane and C12-15 alkyl benzoate are good options. After that, I’d try squalane or fractionated coconut oil. You could also try blending fractionated coconut oil with some cyclomethicone to get the lighter feel of coco caprylate, though keep in mind that cyclomethicone is volatile, so you don’t want to heat it. I recommend checking out the table on page two of this document for ideas!
How to Work with it Include coco-caprylate in the oil phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, coco-caprylate should last at least two to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can purchase both coco-caprylate and coco-caprylate/caprate. BASF sells both; they have one coco-caprylate product (Cetiol® C 5) and two coco-caprylate/caprate products (Cetiol® LC and Cetiol® C 5C). Cetiol® C 5 and Cetiol® C 5C appear to be indistinguishable from one another, while Cetiol® C LC is a bit heavier and more viscous. You can compare them with the table in this document. Both C 5 and C 5C are described as being good cyclomethicone alternatives, so if you’re shopping for this ingredient and find coco-caprylate/caprate described as a good cyclomethicone alternative I’d go ahead and get that and use it interchangeably with coco-caprylate.
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Coco-Caprylate

LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 (natural dimethicone alternative)

What is it? LexFeel™ N350 is a natural dimethicone alternative manufactured by INOLEX Inc. LuxGlide N350 is a product with identical INCI sold by Crafter’s Choice. It appears that LuxGlide N350 is the Crafter’s Choice brand name for LexFeel™ N350 as the INCIs are identical it is not listed independently in UL Prospector (the Crafter’s Choice URL for this product ends in “LuxFeel-N350“). I have yet to find a product named “LexFeel™ N350” sold to home crafters—they all seem to be called LuxGlide N350.

INOLEX has an entire line of LexFeel™ products, with different products designed to function as alternatives for different silicones. The LexFeel™ N series (N5, N20, N50, N100, N200, and N350) all have the same INCI but are intended to be alternatives for different silicones, so make sure you aren’t just matching the INCI with this ingredient.

INCI Diheptyl Succinate (and) Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer
Appearance Semi-viscous clear liquid.
Usage rate I’ve seen widely varied ranges. Crafter’s Choice states 0.5–3% on their product detail page, while Wholesale Supplies Plus mentions 5–30% in this article. I have not found any information about maximum safe usage rates; some INOLEX sample formulations for their LexFeel™ N series use LexFeel™ N ingredients at 80%+ of the formulation.
Texture Smooth, slippy, rich.
Scent Faint, vaguely chemically
Approximate Melting Point LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 is liquid at room temperature.
Solubility LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 is oil soluble.
Why do we use it in formulations? LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ serves a similar role as dimethicone 350 in formulations. It improves skin feel, enhances shine, reduces tackiness, can reduce greasiness, and can be used to wet/disperse pigments in colour cosmetics.
Do you need it? No, but it is a useful silicone alternative if you wish to keep your formulations silicone-free.
Refined or unrefined? LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 only exists as a refined product.
Strengths LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ is an easy, natural alternative to dimethicone 350.
Weaknesses I don’t find LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ to be quite as slippy and rich as dimethicone 350.
Alternatives & Substitutions Dimethicone 350 would be the easiest alternative.

You could also try rich, slippy oils as an alternative (something like oat oil), though these will not offer the same level of de-tack-ifying and skin smoothing. The importance of this is very formula dependent, and I also find perceptions of stickiness/tackiness are very personal. If you’re not very sensitive to stickiness (or just plain ol’ don’t mind it) you are less likely to notice the loss of silicone in a formulation.

How to Work with It LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ can be included in the heated phase of your products, but it does not need to be heated.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, LuxGlide N350 should last approximately one year.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Check out this article from Wholesale Supplies Plus to learn more about this ingredient.
Recommended starter amount 30mL (1fl oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. In the USA, LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 can be purchased from Wholesale Supplies Plus. In Canada, LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 can be purchased from Windy Point Soap

Some Formulations that Use LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350

Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes

What is it? Cyclomethicone is an ultra-light volatile silicone ingredient. “Cyclomethicone” is a generic/broad term for one or more cyclic siloxanes, primarily cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), and cyclohexasiloxane (D6). Learn more here.

There are other cyclic siloxanes (D3–D7) but D4, D5, and D6 are the primary ones for cosmetic use. Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), and cyclohexasiloxane (D6) are sold as isolated ingredients, but I’ve only ever found cyclopentasiloxane (D5) available to homecrafters.

If you check product datasheets you might find out that the “cyclomethicone” you’re looking at is almost entirely cyclopentasiloxane (D5). Check the datasheets from your supplier to learn more about the specific products you’re looking at. For example, this datasheet for the cyclomethicone sold by Windy Point shows it is 99–100% cyclopentasiloxane (D5), with a small amount of cyclotetrasiloxane (D4).

From my research, I’d avoid cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) where possible as Health Canada has concerns about it accumulating in the environment.

INCI Varies; check with your supplier. It’s usually “Cyclomethicone” or a list of the component cyclic silicones comprising that particular product, like “Cyclotetrasiloxane (and) Cyclopentasiloxane”. If you are purchasing an isolated cyclic siloxanes the INCI should reflect that (eg. Cyclopentasiloxane).
Appearance Thin clear liquid
Usage rate I’ve seen widely varying maximum usage levels; everything from 10% to 95%. Check with your supplier for the specific product you have.
Texture Ultra-light, slippy, luxurious.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Very fast
Approximate Melting Point Liquid at room temperature
Solubility Oil, silicones
Why do we use it in formulations? Cyclomethicone adds wonderful slip to our products and helps reduce tackiness. Small concentrations add a really gorgeous, expensive-feeling skin feel. Higher concentrations of cyclomethicone help “lighten” products, speeding up dry down/absorption speeds.

It is commonly used as a diluent in hair oils to create products that don’t leave the hair looking greasy. A small amount of oil will be diluted in a larger amount of cyclomethicone; when that is applied to the hair the cyclomethicone will readily evaporate, leaving a tiny amount of well-distributed oil behind on the hair.

In cosmetics, you’ll find it in all kinds of cream cosmetics, where it provides body to the cosmetic and then evaporates readily after application, leaving behind the pigment without any added oil that would compromise wear time.

Do you need it? No, but if you love making cosmetics and/or have hair that is not very tolerant of oils, cyclomethicone is a wonderful ingredient to have on hand.
Refined or unrefined? Cyclomethicone only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Cyclomethicone is a very versatile ingredient that improves the skin feel of anything I’ve ever tried it in.
Weaknesses The biggest weakness of cyclomethicone (and other silicones) is all the negative myths about it. These myths include the idea that silicones suffocate the skin, cause acne, and are bad for sensitive skin. If you have concerns about silicones, please review these resources:

You certainly don’t have to use silicones in your products if you don’t want to, but don’t avoid it based on misinformation 🙂

Alternatives & Substitutions You can generally use cyclomethicone and cyclopentasiloxane interchangeably. I have both and can’t really tell a difference between the two. You can also try Dimethicone 1.5, which is lightweight and volatile (not to be confused with Dimethicone 350 or other non-volatile silicones).

There are several natural silicone alternatives on the market now, like “LuxGlide” and “LexFeel”. The ones most suitable for replacing cyclomethicone are “LuxGlide N5” and “LexFeel N5”.

You could also try ultralight emollients like C12-15 alkyl benzoate or Neossance® Hemisqualane, but even these lightweight emollients are significantly heavier than cyclomethicone and will create a heavier end product, especially if the cyclomethicone is used at high concentrations to create an ultra-light end product.

Isododecane is similar to cyclomethicone in terms of viscosity and volatility, but I find it is even more volatile. You could try blending it with an ultralight emollient as a cyclomethicone alternative (I’d probably start with about 90% isododecane/10% ultralight emollient).

How to Work with It Include it in the oil phase of your products; it should be cold-processed as it will readily evaporate (and possibly burst into flame) when heated (the flashpoint is 77°C [169°F]).
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, cyclomethicone has an indefinite shelf life. Keep it away from sparks and heat sources as the flashpoint is 77°C (169°F)
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks “Silicones… aren’t biodegradable, but they are degradable – they degrade in the environment, and turn back into silica (sand), carbon dioxide and water.” –Lab Muffin
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Cyclomethicone

Dimethicone 350

What is it? Dimethicone 350 (also known as Dimethylpolysiloxane) is a mid-weight, non-volatile silicone.
INCI Dimethicone
Appearance Semi-viscous clear liquid
Usage rate Up to 80%, though I typically use it in the 1–5% range
Texture Rich, slippy, smooth. Typical of silicones.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Slow
Approximate Melting Point Liquid at room temperature
Solubility Oil, silicones
Why do we use it in formulations? Dimethicone 350 adds wonderful slip to our products and helps reduce tackiness. Small concentrations add a really gorgeous, expensive-feeling skin feel. It helps improve spreading, offers skin protection, and conditions the skin and hair. It can also reduce soaping in lotion formulations. It is also an FDA approved skin protectant.
Do you need it? No, but I do love how small concentrations of Dimethicone 350 allow me to work with higher concentrations of good-for-skin ingredients that can make products feel tacky. It’s also a wonderful, super-easy way to improve slip & skin feel.
Refined or unrefined? Dimethicone 350 only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Dimethicone 350 is a very versatile ingredient that improves the skin feel of anything I’ve ever tried it in. It is non-irritating (suitable for those with sensitive skin) and will not aggravate conditions like Pityrosporum Folliculitis (a.k.a. fungal acne).
Weaknesses The biggest weakness of Dimethicone 350 is all the negative myths about it. These myths include the idea that silicones suffocate the skin, cause acne, are toxic, and are bad for sensitive skin. Dimethicone and other silicones have been studied and reviewed extensively by experts around the world and have been continuously found to be not only very safe, but beneficial to the skin. If you have concerns about silicones, please review these resources:

You certainly don’t have to use silicones in your products if you don’t want to, but don’t avoid it based on misinformation 🙂

Alternatives & Substitutions In products where you are using Dimethicone 350 at 5% or less, you could try a higher viscosity version, like Dimethicone 500 or Dimethicone 1000. With that low of a usage rate, the dimethicone will be diluted so much that the thicker version is unlikely to impact the end product much (if a very low viscosity is important to the final product [i.e. if it’s supposed to mist] then swapping in a higher viscosity of dimethicone probably isn’t the best idea).

There are several natural silicone alternatives on the market now, like “LuxGlide” and “LexFeel”. The ones most suitable for replacing Dimethicone 350 are “LuxGlide 350” and “LexFeel 350”. I find the natural alternatives do not offer the same level of slip and richness as Dimethicone 350, so you may want to increase the concentration to compensate.

You could also try rich, slippy oils as an alternative (something like oat oil), though these will not offer the same level of de-tack-ifying and skin smoothing. The importance of this is very formula dependent, and I also find perceptions of stickiness/tackiness are very personal. If you’re not very sensitive to stickiness (or just plain ol’ don’t mind it) you are less likely to notice the loss of silicone in a formulation.

Dimethicone 1.5 is not a good alternative for Dimethicone 350; the 1.5 version is ultra-thin and lightweight, and evaporates quickly. It is much closer to Cyclomethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane than Dimethicone 350.

How to Work with It Include it in the oil phase of your products; it can be hot or cold processed. Check with your supplier for the specific product you have as recommendations can vary.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Dimethicone 350 has an indefinite shelf life.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks The “350” in Dimethicone 350 indicates viscosity. The higher the number, the more viscous the dimethicone. Dimethicone 500 and 1000 are also fairly readily available to home crafters.
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Dimethicone 350

Neossance® Hemisqualane

What is it? Neossance® Hemisqualane is a beautiful non-volatile, lightweight emollient made from plant sugar.
INCI C13-15 Alkane
Appearance Clear liquid
Usage rate Up to 55%
Texture Lightweight, smooth, oil-like
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Fast
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Neossance® Hemisqualane is oil-like, but ultra light. I love it in many things, but I find it especially shines in cosmetics and haircare, where we want oil-like emollience, but without the weight and greasiness that oil can bring to formulations.

Neossance® Hemisqualane can be a good cyclomethicone alternative in situations where the success of the formulation does not depend on cyclomethicone’s volatility (ability to evaporate quickly). This means Neossance® Hemisqualane typically will not work as a cyclomethicone alternative in waterproof cosmetics or in ultra-light hair oils.

Do you need it? No, but it is great. I would highly recommend it if you have type 1 or 2 hair and/or if you enjoy making cosmetics.
Refined or unrefined? Neossance® Hemisqualane only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent lightweight naturally derived emollient.
Weaknesses Can be harder to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions Other lightweight emollients like Coco-Caprylate and C12-15 alkyl benzoate are good options. . After that, I’d try squalane or fractionated coconut oil. You could also try blending fractionated coconut oil with some cyclomethicone to get the lighter feel of Neossance® Hemisqualane, though keep in mind that cyclomethicone is volatile, so you don’t want to heat it. I recommend checking out the table on page two of this document for ideas!
How to Work with It Include in the oil phase of your formulations; Neossance® Hemisqualane can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Neossance® Hemisqualane should last at least two to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Neossance® Hemisqualane is sometimes sold as a stand-alone facial serum at a substantial markup—if you like it, purchase it from a DIY supplier and enjoy some substantial savings!
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Neossance® Hemisqualane