According to Latoya Jones, a silk press is similar to the "press-and-curl" style, traditionally achieved using a hot comb. The Freeman Institute notes that Annie Malone was the first to patent the hot comb in the early 1900s.
Over time the press-and-curl has turned into the silk press. Unlike the press and curl, however, it is achieved with a flat iron. There is no one originator of the style, but it can be inferred that the natural hair movement had something to do with its rising popularity.
Black women everywhere want to embrace their natural hair while having the option of straightening it and regaining their curls when they choose to.
Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madame C.J. Walker, popularized the tool during the early 20th century. However, a silk press is achieved with a flat iron, which originates from Ancient Egypt, where hot plates were used to straighten hair.
Over time, starting in the 19th century, the tong style straightening iron, which we still use today, became popular.
What is a Silk Press?
A silk press involves washing the hair, then using a blow dryer or other stretching method to lengthen the curls to an almost completely straight state. Once the hair has been properly stretched, the hair is flat ironed and styled so that it appears straight and bouncy without the use of relaxers, keratin, or other chemicals.
Silk press and trim | bone straight
How to do a Silk Press?
Typically, in a silk press, the hair is flat ironed using the chase method where a comb is placed under the flat iron and "chased" by it to ensure that the hair is straightened with the fewest passes of the flat iron as possible.
Achieving a silk press requires a long but rewarding process.
- Make sure your hair is thoroughly cleaned. To achieve a lightweight silk press, removing all the buildup in your hair is crucial. Excessive buildup left in your hair will result in your silk press being very weighed down and stiff.
Excessive oils can also damage the hair when being flat ironed and cause heat damage. Heat damage is when your hair will no longer bounce back to its original curl pattern due to the irresponsible use of heat tools. Go in with a clarifying shampoo to clean your hair from root to rip.
- Deep conditioning is key in preventing damage to your hair. You want your hair at its healthiest when getting a silk press. After stripping your hair of all its oils when shampooing your hair, you need to add some moisture back in. Sitting with a deep conditioner under a hooded dryer or heat insulation cap will help your hair prepare for the heat tools.
- You will now want to prepare for blow-drying. Choose a good heat protectant to further protect your hair from the heat tools that are about to be used. Chi Silk Infusion is an excellent heat protectant as it will add softness and shine while aiding in protection from heat tools.
You want to take the blow dryer then and get your hair blow-dried as straight as the blow dryer will allow. The blow dryer will inflict less damage than a flat iron; therefore, if the blow dryer can get your hair almost straight, then the flat iron will only be necessary for a few passes through your hair.
A blow dryer with a comb attachment will get your hair the straightest, but some stylists will use a comb separate from the dryer. Either way, you want your hair to be combed as it's being dried.
- Taking small sections of hair, you want to go in with your flat iron to press out your hair. The thicker your hair texture is, the higher the heat may need to be. However, you should never have to pass through your hair more than twice.
- This step is optional and dependent on the state of your hair. However, if you do need a trim, now is the best time to do it.
Using heat is not advisable on every type of hair. Hair that is already weak, thin, or treated with chemicals or dyes could incur more damage because of flat iron use.
A silk press can start at $60 and go up in price. The style takes approximately 2 hours to complete.
Is A Silk Press Versatile?
Silk press and trim on 4b hair | natural hair silk press
Silk presses are such a great style because they are so versatile. You can wear it in any style you'd like, whether that be down or in an updo. The free-flowing movement of your hair will make it easy to accomplish any other styles you choose.
How Long Does A Silk Press Last?
Silk presses can last for several weeks. Ultimately it is up to the person and how well they take care of their hair. If you wrap your hair every night and sleep with a satin scarf, you can expect 2 to 3 weeks of wear.
Who Is A Silk Press Suitable For?
Silk Presses are ideal for Black women with natural hair. A silk press on natural hair will instantly transform your thick coils into lightweight strands. A silk press can be done on coarse hair textures ranging from 3C to 4A if you're looking for a straightening method that is not long-term or damaging.
There are many hair straightening systems out there, but they can chemically alter your curl pattern. For the natural girl that just wants to switch up her look for a few weeks and then retreat to her luscious curls, a silk press is just the thing for you. Also, the process is very gentle and shouldn't cause harm to sensitive scalps.
When to Wear A Silk Press?
Silk presses can be worn year-round and usually are. However, be mindful in warmer months. If you live in a humid environment, no matter how well-pressed out your hair is, your hair can frizz. In extreme humidity, your hair might even begin to revert to its natural state with all the moisture in the air.
Also, keep in mind that getting your hair wet will cause your hair to revert as well. Wrapping your hair for showers and refraining from pool activity will help the longevity of your silk press.
Pros and Cons of Silk Press
- It's a versatile style. Silk Presses are great styles for the versatility they provide. The lightweight texture it brings to your hair will make achieving any style you'd like easy.
- It's a better alternative than permanent hair straightening systems. There are many ways to get curly hair straight for a lengthy period, but they can be very damaging. Some of them cause permanent damage that can't be reversed. A silk press is the safest way to make sure your natural hair is not permanently tampered with.
- It's a style that can be affected by the environment. Excessive humidity in the hair can make your hair frizz or revert with the water in the air. Also, if it is raining outside, you will want to be extra careful as this can ruin the style as well.
- It's a style that can lead to heat damage. Although the promise with a silk press is that it won't alter your curl pattern, if they aren't done correctly, you can gain heat damage. This can be the case if your stylist uses too high of a heat setting on the flat iron or passes through your hair with the flat iron too many times. Also, excessive oils can cause your hair to fry, giving you heat damage as well. Doing your research on your stylist can prevent this horrible mistake from happening.