If you have curly, textured hair and want sleek, shiny straight hair without a chemical relaxer, a silk press is exactly what you need. Every curly-haired girl knows that it’s important to tread lightly when it comes to heat because curly hair tends to be on the drier side and therefore more susceptible to breakage. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in a silk press while still protecting your curls.
Gone are the days of having to spend hours and a ton of money applying chemical relaxers to textured hair to achieve a silky straight look. The silk press is the safest way to straighten your hair without applying potentially harmful chemicals that may irritate your scalp, cause breakage and damage your curls.
The best part about having curly textured hair is that you get to mosey between the worlds of afros, twist-outs, top-knot buns, braided protective styles and straight hair whenever you see fit. A silk press is the perfect hair look for those days when you want to take a little break from your curls and coils. Before we dive into how you can safely protect your curls during a silk press, let’s first dip our toes into what exactly a silk press is.
What is a silk press?
A silk press is the process of straightening curly textured hair using a blow dryer followed by a flat iron. Silk presses are done on hair that is curly, natural and not chemically processed with a relaxer. If you’ve recently transitioned to natural hair, you know that one of the hard-and-fast rules of being a naturalista is to steer clear of excessive heat styling, which is why silk presses are perfectly healthy for your hair if done in moderation. It’s best to get a silk press during winter, fall or spring months because the humidity of summer months will cause your hair to revert back to its curly state and not maintain the straight, silky texture. It’s also best to do no more than three or four silk presses per year to avoid damaging your beautiful bouncy curls.
“One can receive a silk press every three to four months to maintain the health of their hair and to retain length without heat damage,” said celebrity hairstylist Le'Ana McKnight of West Hollywood’s Stylist Lee Studios.
What sets a silk press apart from a chemical relaxer is that it won’t alter your curl pattern the way a chemical relaxer will. When done frequently over time, chemical relaxers can permanently damage and loosen the pattern of your curls which can ultimately only be repaired by doing a “big chop” a.k.a. cutting off all of your hair right down to a buzz cut. So if you’re looking to safely achieve the straight hair look, while maintaining your curl pattern, the silk press is the best look for you.
“What the silk press did is give us back our power and also remind us of the magic within our hair and our skin. The updated press has movement, shine, body, and bounce" said celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen of the Ursula Stephen The Salon.
How is a silk press done and how can you protect your curls?
In order to do a silk press, you’ll need the following tools:
- A heat protectant spray
- A hair mask
- A blowdryer
- A flat iron
- An overhead/bonnet hair dryer (optional)
- Plastic wrap (optional)
The first step you want to do before doing a silk press is to make sure your hair is freshly washed with a sulfate-free shampoo and free of any product buildup. Excess product buildup will leave your hair stiff and motionless instead of soft and bouncy.
The reason you want to be sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo is because shampoos with sulfates will leave your curls extremely dry and coarse. After shampooing your hair, apply a hair mask for 15-20 minutes, which will hydrate and replenish every inch of your tresses. If you have overly dry and/or damaged hair, you want to be sure to apply a Length Repairing Hair Mask, which will help to repair split ends, reduce frizz and provide an extra blast of moisture to your hair cuticles.
During winter months natural hair textures become especially dry due to frigid temperatures and common accessories such as wool hats and scarves so a hair mask is a must-have for the winter season when your hair starts to shed more than usual.
After applying a hair mask for 15-20 minutes, you’ll need to rinse it out using lukewarm water. After rinsing, allow your hair to air dry until it reaches a damp state. Once your hair is on the damper side, you’ll need to apply a moisturizing leave-in conditioner to get your hair just a tad bit softer and leave your curls extra hydrated. Next, you’ll need to apply a heat protectant spray to protect your hair from heat damage before using any heat styling tools. The heat protectant will help to protect your curls by creating a barrier between your hair and the blow dryer and flat iron, seal in moisture in your hair cuticles and help smooth out frizz.
Next, you want to begin to prep your hair for the silk press process. You should start by sectioning off your hair into four separate sections (two sections on the top of your head and two sections at the bottom of your head), using scrunchies or hair clips. Sectioning off your hair instead of blow drying it all at once will allow you grab small sections and be able to precisely straighten out your hair. After you’ve divided your hair into four individual sections you’ll want to start from one of the back sections and take out about an inch of hair out of your scrunchie or hair clip and start blow drying your hair. Repeat that process until your hair is entirely dry and as straight as you can get it using a blow dryer.
Once you’ve blow dried your hair, you’ll want to put the top part of your hair back up and separate the back section only. Starting from the back section, you’ll want to get as close to your roots as possible and start flat ironing your hair. Getting close to the roots will help your hair be soft, flowy and bouncy. Since you’ve already blow dried your hair to get it nice and straight, you want to make sure you only do one pass of the flat iron to your hair to protect your curls from being heat damaged. Doing multiple passes over time will lead to hair breakage because it will deplete your hair of the natural oils it produces.
After you’ve flat ironed your entire hair, you can do a doobie wrap, (which consists of wrapping your hair in a circular motion) on your hair and hold it in place using a plastic wrap to continue to protect your hair from heat then sit under an overhead or bonnet hair dryer for 15 minutes to seal the silk press in. This will also help your silk press to last longer.
After 15 minutes you can unravel your hair from the plastic wrap and spritz a little finishing oil-based hair spray and voilà, your hair is silk pressed and slayed. Want to add more volume to that beautiful silky hair? Clip on a set of hair extensions to give your hair that extra dose of body to make it bigger and better. If your hair is on the shorter side, check out our TikTok tutorial on how to blend hair extensions with shorter hair.
How long does a silk press last?
Typically a silk press will last for around 2-3 weeks. Luckily there are ways to make your new do last longer. Below are some maintenance tips on how to keep your silk press looking perfect.
How to make your silk press last longer?
Do protect your hair before bed
Remember that doobie wrap you did to seal in the silk press? This is exactly how you want to continue to wrap your hair up every night before going to bed. You can also pin curl your hair using bobby pins if you’re looking to do a wavy haired look. Once you’ve doobie wrapped or pin curled your hair, you should tie a silk/satin scarf and/or bonnet around your head to protect it from drying out and becoming frizzy as you toss around while you are asleep. Consider also purchasing a silk or satin based pillowcase because cotton pillowcases cause friction that leads to your hair becoming dry.
Do stay away from water
If you have curly hair then you know that getting your hair wet is going to cause it to revert back to its curly state and when you have a silk press you want to maintain those straight locks for as long as possible. This is why it’s important that you stay away from water. When showering, be sure to protect your hair by wearing a bonnet and shower cap to keep your hair from puffing back up again. You also want to avoid hot saunas as the humidity will also cause your hair to curl back up again. On rainy days, you want to be sure to wear a hat (try wearing one lined with satin instead of cotton) and always carry an umbrella around.
Do trim your hair
Hair with split ends will tangle up in a heartbeat because the splits will make their way up to your roots. Think of when you get a hole at the bottom of your favorite pair of stockings and that tear travels upwards and ends up completely ruining that pair of stockings. That’s exactly what happens to your hair when you have split ends. This is why it’s super important to trim your hair after getting a silk press. Trimming your hair will also make it fuller and fluffier and most importantly, your hair will be healthier than ever.
Don’t keep flat ironing your hair daily
Once you’ve gotten a silk press, you want to be sure not to continue flat ironing your hair on a daily basis. Continuing to flat iron your hair daily after getting a silk press will be just as damaging as a chemical relaxer and can cause your curl pattern to be completely destroyed over time. Instead, if you see that there’s a section of your hair that is curling up again, simply apply a dollop-sized amount of hair gel to slick your hair back into place.
Don’t overuse hair styling products
As we mentioned earlier, excess product buildup causes your hair to become stiff and motionless which is a no-no when it comes to maintaining a silk press. Using too many products will weigh down your hair and cause itchiness in your scalp, which can lead to breakage.
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Written by Ashley Inkumsah