For years, the only options for curly girls who wanted to straighten their locks were relaxers, press and curls, or wash and sets, but more and more naturalistas are catching on to the benefits of a silk press. This straightening technique promises silky, smooth hair without any of the chemicals we’ve come to expect from older techniques. Whether you want to experiment with a new look or you’ve always loved to wear your natural curls straight, you’ll want to learn about this method.
To get to the bottom of our burning questions, we reached out to NYC-based texture expert and educator Ashley Lee. Lee explained what a silk press is, what you need to know before you get one, and how you can achieve pin-straight locks while minimizing damage to your precious curls.
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What is a silk press?
A silk press is a non-chemical straightening service typically performed 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 think 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. 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."
A silk press is what professional stylists use to create glass hair looks on clients with textured hair. Finishing the service with a flat iron helps create the signature reflective surface.
What is a silk press vs. flat iron?
A silk press is a type of straightening service that involves blow-drying and flat ironing the hair, while a flat iron is just a tool used to straighten locks—it’s as simple as that!
How long does a silk press last?
The style can last anywhere from one to three weeks. Variations in longevity can be attributed to weather, sweat, and whether or not your sleek tresses come into contact with any water. Whether or not you take measures to maintain your silk press at home can also affect how well it lasts—we’ll get into that shortly.
Who is a good candidate for a silk press?
If your regular blowout gives you the sleek and smooth results you’re looking for, you probably don’t need a silk press.
On the other hand, those struggling to create a glass-like finish with just a round brush and a blowdryer are great candidates for silk presses. While anyone can get a silk press, they’re generally reserved for curl types five through eight.
These curl types have very defined curl patterns, and those who have them can struggle with shrinkage and frizz. The two-step silk press process allows a stylist to stretch the hair properly before returning and creating a smooth silk-like finish. Silk presses are relatively risk-free when done by a professional, but it’s important to note that they require a lot of heat. If your hair doesn’t react well to high temperatures, you may want to make an appointment for a consultation with a professional before taking the plunge.
How much money is a silk press?
The price of a silk press depends on a few factors, including your salon’s location, your stylist’s expertise level, and the condition and length of your hair. When all is considered, the service can range anywhere from $50 to $200.
What products and tools are used to achieve a silk press?
Because a silk press is a technique rather than a chemical process, no specific products are used to create the final result. Instead, a stylist will pick products based on the client’s hair type to achieve the smoothest and longest-lasting style. Lee highly suggests layering heat protectant products throughout the service to help minimize heat damage.
Many stylists swear by using Mizani’s Press Agent line during a silk press appointment. They’ll prep hair with the brand’s Press Agent Thermal Smoothing Shampoo, a sulfate-free shampoo that detangles and moisturizes dry, frizzy hair and preps for thermal styling. They’ll follow up your shampoo with the Press Agent Thermal Smoothing Conditioner, a creamy sulfate-free conditioner that helps soften and detangle hair with a melting technology to achieve the ultimate blowout. Plus, it locks out humidity.
Adds Lee: “I [prime hair] before a blowout with 25 Miracle Milk as a leave-in conditioner because it has heat-protectant properties, as well.”
Your stylist will then curate suitable heat-protecting products based on the texture of their client's hair. For naturally looser curls, your stylist might choose the cuticle-smoothing, frizz-fighting Mizani Press Agent Thermal Smoothing Raincoat Styling Serum. For those with tighter and coarser hair, they may opt for the Press Agent Thermal Smoothing Raincoat Styling Cream to moisturize and assist with smoothing. Your salon pro may even cocktail these two products together for a more customized result.
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, the flat ironing step is a breeze.
Can you do your own silk press at home?
Like most hair services, it is usually possible to achieve similar results at home. Still, Lee recommends relying on a professional to ensure your hair looks and feels its best every time.
“Not only do we have the tools, but we also have the proper technique, knowledge, and professional products to give each client’s hair what they need,” she says.
That said, on days you’ll be using excessive heat to smooth your curls hair at home, Mizani’s Press Agent Line is the perfect system to help prepare the hair for thermal styling. Want to further cut down on heat damage? Consider switching to a steam-powered flat iron like L'Oréal Professionnel’s Steampod Hair Straightener + Curling Iron. This innovative multi-use tool features steam and comb technology to smooth hair with 91 percent less breakage* (when compared to Steampod heating plates alone) and 78 percent less damage (when tested against a regular straightener 15 times).
Is silk press good for your hair?
Any service that applies heat to your hair can potentially 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 ensure your hair remains healthy-looking and damage-free, you do risk altering your curls whenever you apply heat to your hair.
If your strands look or feel damaged after a botched silk press, we suggest incorporating a weekly deep conditioning mask into your hair care routine. We recommend the Mizani True Textures Moroccan Clay Steam Mask. Formulated with Moroccan clay, olive oil, and sustainably-sourced coconut and marula oils, this mask adds moisture, definition, and smoothness to waves, curls, and coils.
If the look and feel of your strands haven’t improved after a few deep conditioning treatments, it’s time to make an appointment with a professional to help rehab your mane.
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. Fortunately, 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.”
Since water can reverse all the hard work you underwent to achieve your silky, pressed hair, water-free hair stylers will be a key in your maintenance routine. For a quick refresh, a lightweight oil like Mizani 25 Miracle Nourishing Oil can help keep your hair glossy and moisturized without weighing it down.
A night of tossing and turning can quickly turn your sleek strands into a bird’s nest. Lucky for you, we’ve got a quick and simple solution: silk pillowcases. Cotton can be a deceptively rough fabric that may cause breakage as you toss and turn in your sleep. In contrast, your locks will glide over your new silk pillowcase without a snag in sight.
If you love your current bedding and can’t imagine parting with your precious pillowcases, don’t worry. You can still reap all of the benefits of sleeping on a luxurious pillowcase by investing in a silk or satin head scarf or bonnet to help keep your style intact and prevent any unnecessary roughness caused by your bedding.
No matter how sleek your silk press is, your hair will eventually return to its natural textures. If your edges revert to their natural texture before you’re ready for your next appointment, you can touch up your style at home with a flat iron—just be sure to re-apply a heat protectant before heat styling your hair. Freshen up your style without using heat using an edge control product like Mizani’s Artful Edges Edge Gel to smooth your edges and tame flyaway strands.
Now that you know everything about silk presses, you can rest assured your hair looks silky, smooth, and healthy all year.
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