Should I get a silk press or will it damage my hair?

Lianne Bruney from ProTress examines the pros and cons of the silk press

Image: Shutterstock

A silk press is a hair straightening technique that doesn’t involve chemicals and, if done correctly, can achieve results that are more impressive and potentially less harmful than relaxers. So, if you’ve been seduced by YouTube demonstrations of the ‘Silk Press’ and witnessed the effortless transformations of thick, natural curly hair, into long, silky tresses and you fancy giving it a whirl, there are a few things to consider to avoid disappointment, hair damage and/or hair loss.


Prepare your hair – Clean hair is an essential part of the preparation for ensuring that you achieve the glossy, straight locks you desire from the Silk Press process. For best results, use clarifying shampoo to cleanse your hair.

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Clarifying shampoos, unlike regular shampoos, cleanse your hair from product build up, hard water minerals, excess oil/grease and environmental pollutants which, if not removed, could potentially cause damage to your hair when heat from the silk press process is applied. After you have shampooed your hair, condition your hair with a smoothing conditioner. Using a smoothing conditioner helps to flatten the hair cuticles, which will limit damage to hair during the straightening process, as well as enhancing the silky, straight look of your hair. Once you have rinsed the smoothing conditioner out, towel try your hair and apply leave in conditioner.


Image: Shutterstock

Now that you have thoroughly prepared your hair for the Silk Press, the next step is to blowdry your hair. Blowdrying helps to straighten the hair pre-iron. The straighter you can get your hair by blow drying the better, because it will reduce the intensity with which you will need to use the straightening irons, reducing the possibility of heat damage. Adopting good blow dry technique should also flatten the cuticles, making hair straight and silky in appearance.

Use heat protection serum  

Once you have achieved straighter locks, through blow drying, it’s time to take your hair to the next level of straight and silky. But before you proceed with the straightening irons, it’s important to coat your hair with a protective serum. A protective serum will protect your hair from heat damage.

Should I use a flat iron or a steam iron for the final step?

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Once you have applied the serum you can proceed to straighten your hair in small sections with a flat iron or a steam iron. Steam irons are considered to inflict less damage to your hair because they infuse warm moisture into the hair shaft whilst the hot plates straighten the hair. Flat irons, on the other hand, use dry heat to straighten the hair which sucks the moisture out of the hair shaft, making hair dry and more prone to breakage.

Benefits of silk press

• Your hair will look great

• There’s no denying it, if done correctly, your hair will look amazing.

• No chemicals

The silk press is a hair straightening technique that doesn’t involve chemicals and, if done correctly, can achieve results that are more impressive and potentially less harmful than relaxers.


Silk press (unlike other natural hair techniques such as, rod sets, twist outs and braid outs) is low maintenance with regards to aftercare. The bedtime regime simply requires you to wrap your hair. However, washing your hair or applying water to your hair should be avoided to maintain your straight locks, because once water is applied your hair will revert to its natural curls.

The downside of silk press

Heat damage – If you have been on the natural hair journey long enough to achieve growth of five inches or more, it is likely that you will crave a little variety with hairstyling, which is why a silk press would be so appealing. However, the main side effect of the silk press, especially if done frequently, is heat damage. Although you may have applied the heat protective serum to your hair to prevent heat damage, this will not eliminate the risk of damage.

Heat damage occurs when keratin (hair strands) is melted by the heat applied, causing hair to become permanently altered in shape (usually straight), never returning to its natural curl pattern. Heat of around 215-235 C is likely to cause keratin to melt. Once the shape of the keratin is altered, the hair becomes dry and limp, because it loses its elasticity, which makes hair more prone to breakage. Therefore, regular silk presses are not advised.

Hair breakage

Because your hair is always growing, the contrast in textures between your curly roots and straight ends can cause hair to break where the two textures meet. This might become increasingly evident upon combing your hair. To avoid breakage once your visible curly roots appear, wash your hair to restore your natural curls.

Product build up

Because afro hair is curly, it is naturally dry because the sebum that your scalp produces cannot flow all the way down the hair shaft. Once you have silk pressed your hair, your temporary straight locks allow sebum to flow straight down each hair strand, making hair appear unnaturally greasy. Because it is advisable not to wash your hair for the duration of the Silk Press, (which is typically 2 weeks), you will not be able to wash out the excess product build up for the duration of the hair style.

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