As the winter season sucks out all the frizzifying moisture from the air, more and more curly-haired gals from all around are trading their natural textures for the classic silk press.

Though the silk press has been around for a while, some of the basic questions regarding its origin, preparation, maintenance, and effects of the hairstyle are still topics that many naturalistas have yet to know.

But for the gaps of knowledge we might have on the silk press there’re people like Prinshell Williams, Hair by Prinshell founder and North Carolina-based natural hair stylist whose years of slaying the hairstyle have made her an expert on the topic. With the proper preparation, execution and maintenance, Williams believes that silk presses can be as long-lasting and non-damaging as any natural hairstyle.

What’s a silk press?

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“A silk press is basically straightening your hair without the relaxer,” says Williams. “A lot of people don’t call it a silk press, but there are different techniques.”

As compared to the standard press and curl technique, silk presses emphasize body and sleek shine, according to Williams. Silk presses apply less heat than the press and curl, giving the hair more movement.

“It’s overall the way that it comes out with the amount of body and shine it has,” says Williams. “The way that you press (and curl) and it’s all stiff and doesn’t move, pretty much like satellite hair where it doesn’t move at all. But the silk press in my opinion is just straightening the hair and still allowing it to have the amount of body.”

Where did the silk press originate from?

The silk press’ origins aren’t clear, but the straight iron that many use to execute the style has been around since the nineteenth century. No individual can receive all the credit for inventing the silk press, but according to Williams, the style gave women who wanted straight hair without perming an option.

“The silk press started when women weren’t getting relaxers and wanting their hair straight,” says Williams. “Now that women are going towards the natural hairstyles, they still want that straight, sleek look.”

What’s the best way to prepare for a silk press?

First, Williams makes sure that all of her silk presses are done on extremely clean hair.

“You don’t want a lot of oils or a lot of buildup on the hair,” says Williams. “You want to make sure the scalp is really clean and clear so that there’s not a lot of smoking once you start the process with a flat iron.”

Next, Williams applies a water-based rather than serum heat protectant to her clients’ hair.

What’s the best way to execute a silk press?

Hair stylists and naturalistas might all disagree on the best approach to perfecting a silk press. For Williams, she takes a pain-free approach to executing the style. She never detangles while blow drying, and she makes sure the hair is completely dry before straightening.

“Always detangle in sections, blow dry in sections, and then you’ll straighten in sections,” says Williams. “That’ll result in a pain-free silk press.”

How long does a silk press last?

The average time to maintain the hairstyle differs from person to person, but Williams says that her clients can keep their silk presses in tact for three to four weeks. Making sure to wrap and pin curl the hair each night is what Williams says is best to wear the hairstyle to its full potential.

“I usually tell my clients to alternate between wrapping and pin curling if they want to maintain that bouncy look,” says Williams. “For clients that have really long hair past their bra strap, I tell them to put their hair upside down in a very loose ponytail, and then they can pin curl the ends of that ponytail.

To maintain the hairstyle, you shouldn’t apply extra heat when going home and avoid moisture if possible.

What are the best products for a silk press?

A cleansing shampoo, conditioner, and lightweight leave-in conditioner give the silk press shine without weight, says Williams. Personally, she uses Nairobi’s Detoxifying Shampoo, Pamper Soft Shampoo, and Humecta-Sil Moisture Replenishing Conditioner. However, the straightening tool that you use to do the hairstyle doesn’t matter at all.

“I always tell people to use a titanium flat iron that has a temperature dial so that you can change the temperature between each client,” says Williams.

Do silk presses damage the hair?

The short answer: it’s the technique, not the heat.

“I want a lot of naturals to understand that heat is not the enemy,” says Williams. “It’s more of the way the heat is applied. (Naturals) just need to be very knowledgeable about the stylist they’re going to to receive a silk press and make sure that they ask questions.” 

Are you considering a silk press this winter? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!