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Everything You Need to Know About a Silk Press Hair Treatment

Photo by Jemal Countess / Stringer/Getty Images

When it comes to hair straightening methods for curly and natural hair types, the options can feel somewhat limiting. The strong chemicals in relaxers can leave your hair feeling dry, brittle, and prone to breakage; they can also permanently alter the structure of your hair, eliminating the possibility of returning to your natural curl pattern anytime soon. Keratin treatments, on the other hand, are less permanent but can still cause lasting damage to your curl pattern and sometimes involve problematic chemicals like formaldehyde (which is a suspected carcinogen—yikes!).

If you're looking for a temporary, chemical-free way to straighten your hair, let us introduce the silk press. This salon treatment is an ideal way to give curly and natural hair all the benefits of a straightened, relaxed look, without the harsh chemicals or long-term commitment. What could be better?

Read on to learn more about what exactly a silk press is, whether it's right for you, and what you can expect at the salon.

About the Expert:

Sasha Bee Thomas is a licensed master hairstylist in NYC who specializes in extension installation, haircutting, and blowouts.

What is a silk press, exactly?

"A silk press is a chemical-free straightening technique for natural kinky, coily, and curly hair types," says NYC-based hairstylist Sasha Bee Thomas.

Unlike relaxers or keratin treatments, which rely on chemicals to permanently or temporarily alter the structure of the hair, a silk press is essentially a blowout followed by hair straightening—all expertly executed by a styling professional. Throughout the process, you can expect your hair to be washed and treated with products that help to hydrate, smooth, and protect your strands against heat damage.

One of our fave things about a silk press is that it’s an awesome way to temporarily change up your look. Usually have curly hair, but feel like rocking silky straight hair for a few weeks? A silk press could be the answer. Hair damage is kept to a bare minimum, and there are no long-term changes to your unique curl pattern—so you can go back to that beautiful bounce that’s uniquely you.

What do I need to know before getting a silk press?

Here are a few things to keep in mind before heading to the salon for a silk press.

1. Skip the heavy hair care products.

"I always advise clients not to use any oils or heavy products before getting a silk press," Thomas says. "Clogged hair follicles are never good." So don’t be afraid to let your hair breathe a little before heading in for your treatment—the results will be totally worth it.

2. Consider getting a haircut beforehand.

If you haven't been to the salon in a while, it's a good idea to get a trim before doing a silk press. Straggly split ends can inhibit the effortless movement of silky smooth hair—which is a major perk to this hairstyle!

3. If you have a beach vacay coming up...maybe wait.

This is a temporary treatment that will fully reset as soon as your hair comes into contact with water. If you have a vacation coming up where you plan to swim, it might be wise to wait until after you've returned to try a silk press. This way, you can experience the results for as long as possible.

How does it work?

Below, Thomas takes us step by step through the process. Here's what you can expect:

1. Detangle + washing

"First, the hair is washed with clarifying shampoo to remove any product build-up from the scalp," says Thomas. "Next, the hair needs to be deep conditioned. Stylists can either perform a steam treatment or cap treatment with heat from a hooded dryer. The choice of treatment depends on the state of the client's hair."

2. Heat protectant + blow drying

"After the deep conditioning treatment is rinsed out, the hair is blow-dried using a heat protectant," says Thomas. This is typically done in small sections with a concentrator nozzle attachment and a brush. Styling the hair straight during the blow drying process helps to cut down on flat iron exposure, therefore cutting down on the risk of heat damage in general.

3. Straighten

"The final step is using a flat iron to straighten the hair," says Thomas. Working in small sections, the newly straightened hair is polished and perfected. "The result is smooth, bouncy hair with a glossy finish," she says.

How long does a silk press last?

The beauty of a silk press is that it doesn't last forever. Thomas says you can expect the results to last for about two weeks—or until your next wash day or whenever your hair gets wet (whichever comes first).

"Silk press results are temporary," she says. "Exposure to humid weather conditions, sweat, and moisture will cause the hair to revert back to its natural state." If you want to make the hairstyle last for as long as possible, Thomas suggests wrapping your hair nightly.

Is it bad for your hair?

Here's the honest truth: All heat styling does some damage to your hair. However, as far as curly and natural hair straightening methods go, the silk press process is the least likely to cause damage. That's because silk pressing is only done occasionally, it steers clear of harsh chemicals, and it uses nourishing, heat-protecting products throughout the process to hydrate your hair and shield it from as much heat damage as possible.

If you already have dry hair or damaged hair, though, using hot tools will inevitably cause more damage—even if it is minimal. If you're currently experiencing brittle, dehydrated strands from hair dye or another treatment, you may want to wait until your hair's health is fully restored before exposing it to additional heat.

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Article Last Updated September 11, 2020 12:00 AM