Dimethylpolysiloxane is most famous as being the main component of silly putty. Who doesn’t love the versatile glob that can be a toy, good exercise, and even made up into a ball and the subject of a game? But what if the components of that amusing little glob were now making up your dinner?

In addition to the various household products containing this type of silicone, it’s numerous entrees at some of your favorite fast food restaurants. Scared yet? Although there is no current research proving that dimethylpolysiloxane causes serious danger to human health. However, the lack of research is itself a question mark. What we know is that this increasingly common additive is anything but natural. More on this in the following article.

french fries in a napkin on a table

These fries are incredibly appetizing… and dangerous.

What Is Dimethylpolysiloxane?

Dimethylpolysiloxane, also bearing the name polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), is a type of silicone. Like silicon types do, this one too has with a wide range of uses. It is a non-biogradable synthetic substance. It’s commonly in use in items such as contact lenses, or medical devices. Even shampoos and conditioners use it (properties in PDMS give the hair a shiny and slippery feel). Here’s a continued list of items using it: caulks, lubricants, adhesives, mold release agents, polishes, heat transfer fluids, aquarium sealant, kinetic sand, silly putty, cosmetics and even breast implants.

In food, PDMS acts as an anti-foaming and anti-caking agent. Its presence changes the surface tension in many liquids allowing for a more uniform appearance. Because of its non-biodegradable properties, PDMS regularly serves as a food preservative. Most often, however, it’s an additive in cooking oils in fast food restaurants. They use it to cut down on oil splatters while food is in the deep-fryer.

Dimethylpolysiloxane is a common ingredient in skin care, household and body hygiene products. It’s also known as dimethicone, which is how it’s often listed on product labels. PDMS is a synthetic type of silicone-based oil. It’s mainly used in beauty and hygiene products as a conditioner, skin protectant and occlusive. Occlusive means that it’s a substance that coats the outer skin layer. Dimethicone gives creams and lotions the ability to glide effortlessly across the skin, and both manufacturers and consumers like this effect. PDMS is also a component of the children’s toy known as Silly Putty. Dimethylpolysiloxane was once commonly used in breast implants, but it has since been partially discontinued in favor of safer alternatives.

Items that Contain Dimethylpolysiloxane

PDMS is typically an ingredient in fast food restaurants that rely heavily on frying or on ready made food such as (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • McDonalds.
  • Subway.
  • Chick-Fil-A.
  • Wendy’s.
  • Jack-in-the-Box.
  • Domino’s.

is PDMS simply an unnecessary ingredient added in American fast food joints to cut corners and cut costs?

  • Taco Bell.
  • Pizza Hut.
  • KFC.
  • Burger King.
  • Arby’s.

McDonalds’ chicken nuggets and french fries in the United States contain PDMS as an anti-foaming agent. Wendy’s Frosties use PDMS to achieve a thicker consistency. PDMS is one of the main ingredients in a cheap butter substitute under the name “Phase Oil”. This mix is also a part of Dominos’ Cheesy Bread Sticks, taking the place of real butter. Interestingly, although most canned beverages do not contain PDMS, many of their fountain drink counterparts do. So that limitless refill at Subway is a proverbial double-edged sword, we presume.

chicken nuggets on a cutting board

You’ll never look at chicken nuggets the same way.

Dimethylpolysiloxane is also found in all manner of personal care and household products. Here are just a few:

  • Fabric softener
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Skin creams and lotions
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen
  • Hair sprays and shine-enhancers
  • Laundry detergent
  • Antiperspirants

Dimethicone forms a plastic-like barrier across the top layer of the skin. This barrier may interfere with normal skin functions like sweating and shedding old, dead skin cells. Dimethylpolysiloxane is a possible skin and eye irritant. It may encourage skin breakouts and aggravate acne is some individuals. This is because it coats the skin, possibly trapping bacteria, toxins and sebum, or natural skin oil, underneath the coating.

Dimethylpolysiloxane, like a petroleum product, may actually worsen dry skin when used over a period of time. This is because both of them only coat the skin, not heal it. Both can interfere with the normal function of the skin’s pores. The skin may feel moisturized, but it’s not. Natural oils like jojoba, meadowfoam, apricot kernel and coconut penetrate the skin and help to heal it. These oils don’t leave an occlusive layer behind.

When used over time, the dimethylpolysiloxane in hair care products may actually cause damage to the hair. PDMS will make the hair shine, but it’s not the natural shine of healthy hair. While dramatic to the eye, it’s really just a chemical effect of an oily coating on each hair strand. Healthy hair shines because each strand’s cuticle, or outer coating, is intact and easily reflects light. It’s not split or broken due to damage. When deprived of moisture, hair strands will become degraded and damaged. Dimethicone seals each hair strand. This means that moisture can’t penetrate it. Neither can conditioners. This will cause the strand to eventually dry out, resulting in dull hair full of breaks and split ends.

Dangers of Dimethylpolysiloxane

  1. PDMS, under high temperature conditions, is known to degrade into compounds that include formaldehyde. This later element, often used for embalming, is a very dangerous carcinogen.
  2. Comparisons of American entree ingredient lists from popular fast food restaurants with that of the equivalent entree in a U.K. restaurant show that PDMS is more commonly found in American fast food restaurants than in overseas counterparts of the same entree. Do fast food consumers in the U.K. like their fries extra foamy? Or is PDMS simply an unnecessary ingredient added in American fast food joints to cut corners and cut costs?
  3. In the past, PDMS was put into use as a fluid to fill breast implants. However, after receiving the “safety concern” label, the practice of using the chemical in the production of breast implants has gone down dramatically. But why hasn’t the fast-food industry caught up?
  4. The FDA listed Dimethylpolysiloxane as a “substance generally recognized as safe in food” in (Sec. 176.200). In this document, defoaming agents are to be used under the pretense that:

The quantity of defoaming agent or agents used shall not exceed the amount required to accomplish the intended effect, which is to prevent or control the formation of foam.

This generic limitation allows for virtually free use of this synthetic chemical in food.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dimethylpolysiloxane

Is dimethylpolysiloxane safe? 

The Cosmetics Database has approved this substance as safe. Because the molecules contained in it are too large to penetrate the skin, there is thought to be little danger of any systemic effect. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that PDMS is a beneficial ingredient for either hair or skin. It can also cause localized skin reactions in sensitive or allergic individuals.

What are some alternatives to dimethylpolysiloxane? 

Moisturizing oils of plant origin are excellent alternatives. This would include shea butter, mango butter, olive oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil and especially jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is particularly compatible with the skin’s natural oils. All oils of plant origin have nutrients that penetrate the skin and help heal it. Most do not aggravate acne. Some of them, such as jojoba, will actually help fight it.

How can dimethylpolysiloxane and other silicone buildup be removed from hair? 

Wash the hair thoroughly with a good clarifying shampoo. Because clarifying shampoos can be drying, be sure to condition well afterwards.

How can dimethylpolysiloxane be avoided in personal care products? 

Read labels carefully. There are many silicones used in personal care and household products. Watch out for methicone, phenyl trimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, dimethicone and dimethicone copolyol. To further avoid silicones, look for products labeled as containing natural ingredients only. All silicones are synthetic.

Is dimethylpolysiloxane biodegradable? 

No. PDMS and all of its chemicals cousins are not biodegradable and pose a possible environmental threat.

Is dimethylpolysiloxane used in medicines and medical products? 

Yes. Some silicones are used in anti-gas products, usually under the name of simethicone on the label’s ingredient list. PDMS is frequently used as a condom lubricant. It may be present in head lice preparations, too.

So What’s to Take from this?

In conclusion, the production process of PDMS uses a combination of many chemicals. These bear the label of less than safe for human ingestion. There is evidence that shows that PDMS, in certain conditions, can break down into more dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, known to cause cancer. PDMS is an artificial substance, and minimal studies exist to verify the safety of its consumption. It’s in use among other unpronounceable ingredients, making up a considerable amount of fast food. Fast food that millions of Americans eat every day. That being said, no authentic research came up with facts that PDMS is a health risk to humans. Moreover, the chemicals in the mix that make PDMS are not risk factors. They’ve not been confirmed to cause any harmful effects on the human body.

fountain drinks rounded up

The good news amidst the foreboding uncertainties of our modern food options is that we have a choice to avoid consuming these potentially harmful chemicals by staying away from the foods that contain them.

The truth is, let’s assume PDMS has no harmful effects on the human body. However, the food that contains it is clearly providing little to no benefit to human health. More than that, when eaten in excess, it can cause huge health issues for an individual. If you are afraid of PDMS and other synthetic substances like it, you can simply choose to eat more wholesome food. What are your thoughts about foods containing substances like PDMS being available to the public? What evidence, either positive or negative, have you heard about this topic? Any factual information is more than welcome.

Images taken from depositphotos.com.