Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About A Silk Press

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Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Silk Press

09 January 2018
photo of woman with straight hair style
Jelani Addams Rosa

Jelani Addams Rosa

Associate Editor, Hair.com

As an employee of L'Oréal, Jelani brings her knowledge and passion for hair care to Hair.com. Before joining the Hair.com team, she spent time at Celebuzz, Seventeen, and Cosmo for Latinas.

For years, the only options for curly girls who wanted to straighten their locks were relaxers, press and curls, or wash and sets. Recently, a new straightening technique called a silk press emerged, promising silky, smooth hair without any of the damage we’ve all come to expect from older techniques.

To get to the bottom of our burning questions, we reached out to Mizani artist and educator Ashley Lee. Lee explained to us what a silk press is, what you need to know before you get one, and how you can really achieve pin straight locks while minimizing damage to your precious curls.

What is a silk press?

A silk press is a non-chemical straightening service that is typically done on curly or coarse hair. To achieve a silk press, the hair is shampooed, blown out, and then “pressed” with a flat iron. The process results in hair with a smooth and silky finish, which is how the service got its name. If you’re thinking a silk press sounds a lot like a press and curl or even a run of the mill blowout, you’re not mistaken. Lee says there aren’t many differences between the services.

“The name simply indicates that the initial blow dry needs to be followed by a second thermal step to complete the smoothing process,” she explains. “While some blowouts on straight or wavy hair can be done with just a round brush and a blow dryer, the silk press candidate needs the second thermal session to achieve their smoothest look.”

What products and tools are used to achieve a silk press?

Because a silk press is a technique, rather than a chemical process, there aren’t any specific products used to create the final result. Instead, a stylist will pick products based on the client’s hair type in the hopes of achieving the smoothest and longest lasting style. You should get about a week’s worth of wear out of your style—less if you typically shampoo every few days.. Lee highly suggests layering heat protectant products throughout the service to help minimize heat damage.

“When I do a silk press, I use Mizani’s Thermasmooth Line throughout the entire service. I start with the Thermasmooth Shampoo and Conditioner, cleansing and conditioning the hair,” she says. “I prep before a blow out with 25 Miracle Milk as a leave in conditioner because it has heat protectant properties as well.”

Lee chooses her final products based on the texture of her clients hair.

“For clients with naturally looser curls, I may follow this step with Thermasmooth Style & Style Again; for clients with tighter and coarser hair, I usually follow with Sleek Guard Smoothing Cream to moisturize and assist with smoothing,” she explains. “After blow drying and flat ironing, I like to finish with Lived-In Finishing Spray for a matte finish and lightweight hold.”

As for tools, every stylist will use a blow dryer and a flat iron to achieve a silk press—beyond that, any additional tools are up to the stylist’s discretion. Lee recommends using a blow dryer with a concentrator nozzle pointed downwards for a super smooth finish. When the blowout is fairly polished, it makes the flat ironing step a breeze.

"Flat iron temperatures can range from 380 to 430 degrees depending on the hair's density and texture," Lee says. "I do not recommend using heat this high at home. A stylist should determine proper flat iron temperature by thorough consultation."

Can you do your own silk press at home?

Like most hair services, it is usually possible to achieve similar results at home. Lee recommends relying on a professional if you want to make sure your hair looks and feels it’s best every time.

“Not only do we have the tools, but we also have the proper technique, knowledge and professional products to give each clients’ hair what they need,” she says.

Can a silk press damage your hair?

Any service that applies heat to your hair has the potential to cause heat damage. The only way to ensure your hair experiences the least amount of damage possible is to head to the salon and have a professional service your hair.

“A silk press can only damage your hair if it is administered improperly,” Lee explains. “It's important that you seek out a licensed professional to perform this service and that your stylist is well-versed in curly hair. I recommend doing your research and making sure that whomever you visit for this service understands your texture, how to approach it, and—most importantly—how to care for it.”

One of the biggest concerns about heat damage is the fear that your hair won’t revert back to its natural texture when you’re ready to slay your curls again. While your stylist will do their best to make sure your hair remains looking healthy, whenever you apply heat to your strands you run the risk of altering your curls.

How should you maintain your silk press once you leave the salon?

Now that you have the silky, smooth hair of your dreams, you’ll want to make sure it remains looking that way for as long as possible. Luckily maintaining your silk press is pretty simple.

“I suggest maintaining your press by sleeping in pin curls or doing a full wrap of your hair to maintain body,” Lee shares. “While showering, wearing a plastic processing cap underneath a bonnet or silk scarf can protect your hair from humidity and curl reversion.”

Now that you know all there is to know about silk presses, you can make sure your hair looks silky, smooth, and healthy all year long.

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