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. Whether you have dark brown hair or ash blonde locks, if you love to wear your natural curls straight you’re going to want to learn about this technique.
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.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 to create the signature reflective surface.
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 people with curls types five through eight.
These curl types have very defined curl patterns and women who have them can struggle with shrinkage and frizz. The two-step silk press process allows a stylist to properly stretch the hair before going back and creating a smooth silk-like finish. While silk presses are relatively risk-free when done by a professional, 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.
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 smoothest and longest lasting style. Typically the style can last anywhere from one to three weeks. 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 stylists 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.
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 and damage-free, whenever you apply heat to your strands you run the risk of altering your curls.
If your strands look or feel damaged after a botched silk press, we recommend incorporating a weekly deep conditioning mask into your hair care routine. We recommend the Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Moisturizing Mask. Formulated with cupuacu butter, argan oil, and honey the mask helps restore essential hydration and vibrancy to dry, brittle, life-less. The creamy, intensive moisturizing mask improves the condition of hair without weighing it down.
If the look and feel of your strands hasn’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. 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.”
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: satin 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 satin 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 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, eventually your hair is going to revert back to it’s natural textures. If your edges begin to revert back 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 by using an edge control product like Mizani’s Lived-In Sculpting Paste to smooth your edges down and tame flyaway strands.
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.
Interested in trying a professional silk press? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you!