What Are the Different Uses of Silica Powders?

Maggie J. Hall

Many industries and manufacturers commonly use silica powders alone or in combination with other ingredients. The mineral has moisture absorbing and thickening properties. These characteristics make silica useful in construction materials, cosmetics, and some foods.

Silica powders are used in some laundry detergents.
Silica powders are used in some laundry detergents.

Silica is one of the most common minerals on the planet. It is a component of sand and quartz along with other minerals. Manufacturers obtain natural silica by mining and grind the substance into granules or fine powders. Some companies make synthetic silica, but both types commonly start with silica sand. Both natural or synthetic silica powders are frequently found in non-food products.

Some makeup products contain silica, which is thought to be hypoallergenic.
Some makeup products contain silica, which is thought to be hypoallergenic.

Microscopic diatoms, which are hard-shelled skeletal remains of single celled plants, also contain silica dioxide. These remains exist in salt and fresh water beds. These types of silica are frequently referred to as amorphous silica. They are frequently ground into granules or a fine powder, sometimes called silica flour. Diatomaceous earth silica may be used in food or non-food products.

Packets of silica gel are used to absorb moisture in medications.
Packets of silica gel are used to absorb moisture in medications.

Quartz powders or glass powders are silica sand heated to extreme temperatures and melted. Artisans and manufacturers mold and shape the molten material. When cooled, the substance becomes glass. Paints, plastics, polyvinyl chloride glue, and corrosive resistant coatings all contain silica powders. In some of these products, the silica acts as a thickening or hardening agent.

Some cleansers and detergents contain silica powders. The granulated mineral scrubs surfaces by means of mechanical abrasion. Silica detergents might be used for washing clothes, dishes, or be found in general powdered cleaners. Abrasive action is also desired in some toothpastes, which contain diatomaceous earth silica as one of the ingredients. When used in hand cleaners, the abrasive nature of silica may cause rashes or other skin irritations.

Silica cosmetics contain the silky translucent powder to absorb skin oils. The mineral is thought to be hypoallergenic and some believe the substance reduces the visibility of facial lines and wrinkles. Consumers may purchase silica powders and add the substance to lawns or soil to increase moisture retention. Some believe the powdered form also deters or eliminates insect pests, though inhaling the product may lead to serious lung inflammation or possibly cancer.

Food and pharmaceutical industries commonly use silica powders for the mineral’s ability to absorb up to 50% of its weight in moisture. Food grade, or the diatomaceous earth form of silica powders, is commonly used as an anti-caking agent in coffee creamers, powdered foods, and seasonings. The self-contained gel packs frequently found in medications and over-the-counter supplement bottles usually contain some form of silica.

Inhaling silica powders may result in lung inflammation.
Inhaling silica powders may result in lung inflammation.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


They put little packets of silica in supplements because it keeps the capsules and tablets dry, making it last far longer than usual. Without the silica packets, I think the expiration dates would be much shorter. In the past, they used to put cotton, does anyone remember when cotton would come out of aspirin bottles? But silica works better, so they've replaced cotton with it.

I don't think silica needs to be used in everything, but this is one instance where it's very useful.

The same packets are included in things like bags and purses and some clothing items for the same reason.


@burcidi-- I think silica is added to toothpaste to make it flow more easily.

I don't know about the type and quality of silica used in toothpaste, but I've read that silica supplements and inhaling mineral silica powder is dangerous for health.

I'm assuming that it's not a major risk as long as the toothpaste is not swallowed. But I'm not an expert on this subject at all.


I just saw silica in the ingredient list of my toothpaste. Why is it added to toothpaste? Is synthetic silica dangerous for health?

Post your comments
Forgot password?