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How does Silicone Foundation Work?

By Douglas Bonderud
Updated May 21, 2024
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Silicone foundation is a type of makeup that works by applying a shining and smoothing agent to the facial skin, as well as a moisture sealant. Essentially, it is used as a base to smooth and even skin lines and tones. This type of foundation is often favored for a long-lasting or specialized look, as it tends to produce a smooth and unblemished canvas from which to begin applying other makeup.

The two main silicone-based derivatives in this type of foundation are cyclomethicone, which produces the shine and smoothness, and dimethicone, which functions as the moisture sealant. Silicone foundation is typically used by women with normal to dry skin, as it holds in moisture. It typically is avoided by women with oily skin, as it will prevent excess moisture from escaping.

It is the dimethicone in silicone foundation that causes it to act as an emollient, which means it is intended to prevent moisture loss when applied. This is accomplished by sitting on top of the facial skin and preventing moisture from escaping. Emollients give skin a smooth, soft feel, which is one reason that silicone foundation is preferred by women with drier skin. While many makeup foundations and primers will also contain a moisturizer that will penetrate the skin, emollients remain on the top of the skin to complete their function.

Silicone foundations are applied in either liquid or cream form, often without the need for any use of water. This allows for a single layer to be applied evenly or for multiple layers to be blended together if need be. As with any base-layer makeup, silicone foundation can be applied using a brush, sponge, or the fingers, and it is used to coat the face before applying other makeup such as blush or eye shadow.

Makeup that is silicone-based is used for both primer and foundation purposes, both to the same effect. One thing to bear in mind when using any silicone foundation product is that silicone products are occlusive, meaning that they trap moisture beneath the skin and prevent it from breathing as easily. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly clean the face each day and allow the skin time to renew itself.

Silicone foundation can come in formulas with or without oil. It will often claim to lack the emollient properties associated with oil-based makeup. Any silicone-based foundation product which contains dimethicone or similar derivative such as cetyl dimethicone will, however, have the properties of an emollient.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Jul 01, 2011

I like to use a silicone primer gel for special occasions like weddings or parties. I have combination skin, so I don’t like to use it all the time because I’m afraid it would lead to breakouts. Plus, the stuff is kind of expensive. However, it’s nice to have on hand for dress-up occasions.

I have found a silicone primer gel that prepares my skin for the foundation and stabilizes my makeup for as long as 12 hours. That’s what the tube claims, though I’ve never worn makeup for that long. I always wash it off as soon as I get home.

Besides silicone, this gel contains aloe vera and moisturizers. I put a small drop in the palm of my hands. Then, I lightly massage it onto my face before I apply my foundation.

By kylee07drg — On Jun 30, 2011

When using an eyelid silicone primer, it's best to buy the kind in the tube. If you use the kind in the pot, you could easily infect it with bacteria by dipping your finger into it again and again. If you use a bottle, it will be hard to get every last drop out.

Eyelid primers are great for preventing eyeshadow from sticking in the crease of your eyelid. They also keep the shadow from melting away and disappearing during the day, as eyeshadow tends to do.

The best application method is by a dry cosmetic wedge. This will keep you from pulling the delicate skin around your eyes, which leads to wrinkles.

By orangey03 — On Jun 30, 2011

I have read that Hollywood makeup artists use silicone primer to make the stars look their best. One artist even said that it was like spackle for the face! She also said that most of the stars on the red carpet would look dreadful without it!

Silicone primers can help even those who have had a rough night look bright in the morning. They can cover up acne scars and enlarged pores that tend to make the face look older.

The primer goes between your skin and your foundation. The flawless look it creates can help just about any face.

By ceilingcat — On Jun 29, 2011

@starrynight - Your post totally reminds me why it's so important to do a little bit of research before trying new makeup. I've been considering silicone foundation makeup myself and I think it might be the right choice for me. I have fairly dry skin so a foundation that holds moisture in would probably be a good choice for me.

Still, I think I will try this out on a day where I don't have to go anywhere, just to make sure it looks all right. I don't want to have a makeup disaster like your friend did!

By starrynight — On Jun 29, 2011

This article is a hundred percent correct about silicone make up primer not being meant for oily skin. A friend of mine who has oily skin tried silicone foundation and it was a total disaster! She told me her skin looked so awful that by mid-day she was in the bathroom trying to get the foundation off with water and paper towels. It also took a few days of washing her face for her skin to return to it's normal mild level of oiliness.

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