If you have natural hair and you're regularly pulling out your flat iron or booking an appointment with your hairstylist, you’re likely familiar with a silk press. Or maybe you’re looking for a way to temporarily straighten your curly hair and thinking ‘what is a silk press?’ Either way, you’ve come to the right place. This glossy, bone-straight hairstyle is popping up all over our social media feeds, but the silk press has actually been around for a very long time. Temporarily giving you the slickest, smoothest, straightest strands, without the use of chemicals, the silk press gets its name from the hair straightening technique itself — pressing the hair with a hot tool to make it silky smooth. If you’re looking for a no-commitment way to straighten your strands, read on for everything you need to know about the silk press.
A silk press is a popular hair straightening technique that dates back to the 1920’s. Silk pressed hairstyles came back around in the 90’s, and thanks to social media it’s become increasingly popular again in recent years. In addition to creating a super trendy straight hairstyle, a silk press has several benefits for maintaining healthy hair including the following:
Unlike chemical treatments, silk presses use a flat iron to straighten hair without the use of harsh chemicals or high heat that can damage the hair or irritate the scalp.
So how long does a silk press last? The average silk press can last between seven to 10 days depending on your hair type, how well you maintain it and how active you are in your daily life.
Because a silk press temporarily seals the hair’s cuticle, it can effectively reduce frizz, which is a common problem for people with curly hair.
A silk press is versatile and you can rock lots of different hairstyles with it. Try braid-outs with hair creams for a soft, full-bodied wavy texture, sleek low ponytails, high buns or gelled baby hairs.
The silk press is a healthier option for those with very curly hair who want to straighten it without the use of harsh chemicals or high heat.
It’s important to note that your silk press will look different depending on hair thickness and natural texture. For example fine hair will have a less full finish and very coarse hair is unlikely to go poker-straight. Regardless of your individual strands, preparing them for a silk press begins with the proper hair care in the days leading up to your appointment. Follow these tips to prep your strands before pressing them.
Before your appointment, make sure to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any dirt, buildup, or product residue that can interfere with the straightening process.
In order to keep your hair moisturized and protected from heat damage, use a deep conditioning treatment a few days before your silk press appointment. This adds moisture back into your strands and helps prevent damage from the heat.
It is important to avoid any heat styling or chemical treatments that could add stress or damage to your hair before you silk press. In the days leading up to your appointment, avoid using hot tools including blow dryers, curling irons, or flat irons. Similarly do not use any chemicals like bleach or relaxers.
Avoid using heavy styling products or oils that can weigh down your hair, adding a coating that makes it difficult to straighten. Don’t add excessive product, start slowly and add product as needed.
If your hair has split ends or is damaged, or it’s been more than three months since your last haircut, we recommend trimming it before your silk press appointment. Frayed or broken ends are difficult to press because they have no real shape. Freshly cut strands hold the press better.
When it comes to the silk press process, it’s important for the style's foundation to be done correctly, so each succeeding step protects the hair. Below we break down the steps your stylist will take when pressing your hair.
The first step is a consultation with a professional who specializes in silk presses. There, your stylist will determine the best technique and temperature setting for your hair type and texture.
Next up in the silk press process is a shampoo to remove any dirt, oil, or product buildup that can interfere with the straightening process. A deep conditioning will follow to add hydration before the heat. This will help your silk press reach its full potential.
A heat protectant will then be applied to your rough-dried strands before it’s blow-dried straight in sections. There shouldn’t be any moisture left on your hair. Removing all the water from root to end is an absolute must in preparing it for the flat iron.
Your stylist will then use a flat iron to straighten your hair at a temperature of around 200 degrees celsius. When straightening, your stylist will take super small sections, depending on your hair density, use the tail comb and chase the styler with it.
Once your hair is completely straightened, your stylist may apply a serum or hair oil to add shine and further protect your hair from damage. These finishing touches are maybe the most important step to make sure all of your strands are completely detangled to guarantee smoothness.
Aftercare is a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy, straightened hair after a silk press. By following a proper aftercare routine, you can minimize damage, prevent breakage, and extend the life of your silk press. Follow these tips to keep it healthy and damage free.
For the first 48 hours after your silk press, avoid exposing your hair to moisture or humidity. Your hair follicles are more likely to revert to their naturally curly state when exposed to moisture or humidity. Be sure to use products that fight against humidity to help reduce reverting and swelling. And in times when moisture or humidity can’t be avoided, wrap your silk press.
Just the way you’d cover your hair to preserve your curls, covering your silk press will keep your strands straight, and prevent frizziness and breakage. Wrapping your silk press in a silk or satin scarf or bonnet creates movement memory so that your hair falls beautifully every time you let it down. It also shields your mane from environmental factors like wind, humidity, or harsh weather which could ruin the body and shine of your silk press. On days where you find yourself not wanting, or needing to wear your hair out, keep the headpiece on to preserve the life of your silk press.
It’s important to avoid tight hairstyles like ponytails, braids, or buns, which can cause breakage and damage to your hair. Anything that pulls or tugs at the roots (like tight hairstyles!) can shorten the lifestyle of your silk press.
To keep your silk press bouncy and silky, use lightweight products like hair oil, leave-in conditioner, or serum to keep your hair moisturized without weighing it down. Similarly avoid using too much product, to keep your hair light, and your scalp cool and dry.
The longer you go without shampooing your hair, the longer your silk press will last. A silk press can be washed away, unlike relaxers which have to be cut off or transitioned away. Avoid washing and use dry shampoo to extend the life of your silk press.
A silk press for natural hair is a hairstyle trend that keeps coming back around again. And according to Influencers and celebs on social media, it’s back. If you’re ready to get on board with this trend book an appointment with a professional hair stylist near you. Most salons offer silk press services or a non-chemical straightening service under a different name. And remember that maintenance and aftercare are the key to keeping your silk press looking shiny and healthy. Use only the highest quality hair products like the ones from Davines, and work with your stylist to find the right look and maintenance routine for you.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor