I am obsessed with my natural hair texture. I love how voluminous it can look and how versatile it is to style, but what I don’t always love is how tedious it can be to care for. When my hair was relaxed, years before I grew it out, it was way less healthy, but ultimately, it was super easy to style. No matter how lazy I was feeling or what the weather was doing, I didn’t have to worry or think about it twice. And I miss that—not enough to start relaxing it again but enough to start to try out temporary straightening treatments to alleviate the need to style my hair at home. That is why I started booking in for a silk press.
Simply put, a silk press is a salon service where natural Afro-textured hair is straightened thoroughly, giving a straight, smooth finish. The service isn’t new by any means, but it’s a simple reinvention of the traditional press. Where an old-school press would be done with a hot comb and oil, today’s silk press is created with a hair dryer, a good straightener and humidity-blocking serums. “The key thing that sets it apart from other straightening services is that it doesn’t use any chemicals,” says hairstylist Lorraine Dublin, co-owner of My Hair Bar Salon. It’s my favourite service in-salon because it means I barely have to touch my hair for over a week. Absolute bliss.
In-salon, the service will start with a regular wash and blow-dry before your stylist moves on to the press part. If you have dry or weak hair, your stylist might suggest a moisturising or strengthening treatment while you’re at the backwash, a good idea pre-heat styling. Then, they’ll take your hair in small sections and straighten it, often using a fine-tooth comb to hold the hair taut for the sleekest finish. To seal your style, a shine spray or light oil will be applied. Usually, your stylist will use the straighteners at around 200-degree heat, which can be worrying for maintaining a healthy curl pattern. “Yes, silk presses can cause heat damage if you’re using the wrong hair products and tools,” warns Dublin, who advises booking in with a professional over doing it at home. “At home, you risk using the wrong heat settings on the straightener and doing it too often, which can change the pattern of your curls for good.”
If done properly and safely, the best thing about a silk press is that it doesn’t require chemicals to straighten your curls, but this also means that the style isn’t meant to last long. As soon as any moisture is in contact with your hair, your curls and coils will revert back, so you have to hold off from washing it and ensure you have an umbrella with you at all times until you’re ready to let go of your silk press. Maintaining your press at home also means keeping it smooth at night. “Wrap-set it every night with a silk scarf,” says Dubin. And keeping it dry means staying away from steam, too. “If you’re in the bath or shower or even cooking pasta, make sure your silk press is firmly tucked away in a headscarf, or moisture will get into your hair’s cuticle, expanding it and leading to frizz.”
Your At-Home Kit for Maintaining a Silk Press
If you do attempt to do a silk press at home or need to touch up an area that got wet, you need a fine-tooth comb to pull each section taunt; it’s part of what separates a silk press from simply straightening your hair.
This lightweight wax is a must-have for flyaways and to sleek down any hair that’s curled back around the hairline.
Add a little of this oil to the ends of your hair every few days to keep the cuticle sealed and smooth. The blend of soybean, sweet almond and peppermint oil provides fatty acids and protein for strength and manageability.
Use a paddle brush to smooth your hair before you get it ready for bed whether you plait it and cover with your headscarf or you know how to wrap your hair.
These are the straighteners of choice for many pros doing a silk press, as a titanium plates provide an ever-so-slightly smoother finish than ceramic plates do. This pair heats up to 230ºC across five settings.
Post–silk press, it’s always a good idea to do a deep-conditioning treatment on your next washday to strengthen your hair. This mask contains quinoa protein to fortify and Babassu oil to aid dryness.
If you want your silk press to last more than a couple of days, you need to protect your hair at night with a silk or satin hair scarf. Satin is preferable, as it doesn’t absorb any of the hair’s natural oils. Use this to wrap your hair at night, and you’ll be able to stretch your silk press to 10 days before you need to wash and restyle it.
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