Silk Press Vs Flat Iron: What Is The Difference? 

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What is the difference between a silk press and flat iron? If you want to achieve silky smooth straight hair, you’ve most likely asked yourself this question.

A smiling woman is straightening her long brown hair with hair straightener

While there may be some overlaps between silk press and flat iron, they are not the same. The key differences between the two will help you determine which is better suited for your hair type and goals.

To further settle the silk press vs flat iron conundrum, here’s what you need to know. 

Is Silk Press the Same as Flat Iron?

Silk press and flat iron are both used in the world of hair straightening. They are both instrumental in making hair smooth, silky, and straight. However, they are not the same.

Silk press refers to a traditional hair straightening technique, whereas a flat iron is a tool used to straighten hair.

The silk press technique is typically used on 4a to 4c hair types, which are more textured and dense. Straightening with a flat iron can suffice for those with fine and thin hair. 

Here are some key differences between a silk press and a flat iron. 

Silk PressFlat Iron
CategoryHair straightening technique — straightening is just one step in the entire process. Hair straightening tool — straightening is just one type of hairstyle you can achieve.
Target Hair TypeNatural hair — thicker and denser texture with tightly coiled curlsAll hair types
Temperature420 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit250 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit 
LongevityAround three weeks or longer, depending on maintenanceAround two to five days or until hair is washed
FinishSmooth and silky finish but with a higher chance of hair damage. Hair also has bouncy movement.Relatively smooth and frizz-free but with less chance of hair damage. Hair may feel a bit stiff in texture.
ProductsShampooing, deep conditioning, and applying heat protectant are crucial before the blow dry and silk press. No products are required, but using a heat protectant is highly encouraged to minimize heat damage.
How Often Can You Do It? Three to four times a year. Doing it too often may permanently alter your curl pattern.Experts recommend one to two times a week at most, with proper care and maintenance to prevent heat damage. 

What Is a Silk Press for Natural Hair?

Silk press is a hair straightening technique with rich cultural significance. It dates back to the 1890s, particularly among African-American women to transform their natural, tightly coiled hair.  

A traditional silk press involves the use of a hot comb. The tool is heated on a stovetop to achieve temperatures of about 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then the hot comb is “pressed” onto naturally curly hair to make it silky, smooth, and straight.

However, the sound of hair singeing or the hot comb potentially burning your nape can be fear-inducing for many.

This has led to different hair straightening techniques over the years, including chemical relaxers, which have their pros and cons.  

Recently, though, the silk press technique has seen a resurgence. The main advantage is that this hair straightening technique doesn’t use chemicals that could damage and permanently alter your hair. 

With this temporary hair straightening technique, you can quickly revert to your natural curls whenever possible.

Best of all, we now have modern hair tools — such as the flat iron — that can achieve the same results. Since flat irons have temperature control, they can achieve pin-straight locks while minimizing potential heat damage. 

Flat Iron vs Silk Press

A flat iron is a hair tool with two flat plates that emit heat. As such, it can be used to silk press natural hair. However, not all flat irons are suitable for silk press. A silk press flat iron has one main requirement: high heat.

Most flat irons in the market have a heat range of 250 to 425 °F. You’ll need a professional-grade tool capable of 420 to 450 °F to silk press hair.

High heat is necessary to loosen tight coils and give straightened hair a smooth and shiny finish.  

Another difference between silk press and flat iron is that flat irons can do more than straighten hair. Depending on the shape and size of the flat iron, it can also be used to achieve wavy, curly, and voluminous hairstyles.   

Silk Press vs Straightening

The silk press process is more than just straightening hair. It usually involves the following steps: 

1. Cleanse

Experts recommend washing hair around two to three times to remove all residue and buildup. You need to have clean hair to minimize heat damage. 

2. Deep Conditioning

Next, natural hair is deeply conditioned for at least 30 minutes. Boosting moisture is vital to minimizing heat damage. Deep conditioning also helps detangle and smoothen out curly hair, allowing for a quicker and more seamless silk press. 

3. Heat Protectant

Given the high heat used for silk press, applying a heat protectant is essential, which can minimize potential hair damage. A heat protectant can also double as a leave-in conditioner or hair oil, which helps lock in moisture and smoothen out frizzy strands.

4. Blow Dry

Blow drying is another crucial step in the silk press process. It preps the hair for straightening and smoothening, and it’ll be easier to straighten natural hair using a silk press flat iron.

You’ll need fewer passes, which also helps minimize potential heat damage.  

A cut or trim before the silk press may be encouraged, especially if you have frayed ends. Removing the damaged bits can add more bounce and shine to your straightened hair. 

5. Silk Press

A hairstylist is straightening a woman's curly hair in the salon

Once the hair is completely dry, you can proceed to the silk press. Rather than straightening from top to bottom, it’s better to partition the hair into sections to preserve the silk press.

Start from the back and then work your way to the front sections of the hair. 

Gather 1/2 to one-inch hair increments for each pass of the silk press flat iron. Silk pressing with larger sections will lead to uneven results.

Smaller sections ensure that heat is evenly distributed and allows you to straighten from the roots to the ends.

Hairstylists may use a comb or brush alongside a flat iron to align the hair strands.

Working slowly and steadily to ensure a silky straight finish with each pass is better. Too many passes with the flat iron will only increase the risk of hair damage.

6. Silk Wrap

When all strands have been straightened, the hair is silk wrapped. Apply a finishing spray before wrapping the hair with saran wrap.

After silk wrapping, hair is again blow-dried or placed under a hooded dryer. The heat will shrink the saran wrap, which helps seal the hair and tame any flyaways. It also boosts the silkiness and smoothness of your hair.

7. Maintenance

Silk-pressed hair can last up to three weeks. However, proper maintenance is needed to maintain your pin-straight locks.

This includes the following:

  • Keep hair dry. Water, steam, moisture, and sweat can cause hair to revert to its curls.
  • Wrap hair with a silk scarf at night. This keeps hair smooth and tangle-free while you toss and turn in your sleep. You can also use a silk pillowcase to maintain moisture in your hair.
  • Brush hair in a circular, clockwise motion. This helps preserve your silky straight locks.  
  • Avoid heat. Your hair has already been exposed to a lot of heat. Using heat tools on silk-pressed hair can do a lot of damage.
  • If your hair is already reverting, it’s best to wait it out. Then do a complete silk press again when it’s back to curly. This gives your hair time to recover from any damage that may have been done. 

How to Find the Best Flat Iron for Silk Press

Silk press is usually offered as a salon service. That’s because you need adequate knowledge and experience when using high heat on natural hair. 

Availing a salon service can also be more efficient as professional hairstylists can easily maneuver hair with fewer passes. You won’t have to deal with rookie mistakes that can damage your hair in the long run.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to silk press natural hair at home. Just make sure that you are following the correct process. It’s also good to use the appropriate tools for silk pressing.

Here are things to consider when looking for the best flat irons for silk press.   

Temperature 

Even though silk press requires high heat, the exact temperature will still depend on the texture and density of your hair. As such, choosing a flat iron with adjustable temperature control is important.

If you have thick and dense curly hair, choose a flat iron that can go above 400 °F. 

Type of Plate

There are different plates for flat irons, including ceramic, tourmaline, and titanium. There are even some with steam and infrared capabilities.

For the best flat iron for silk pressing, choose a titanium plate. Titanium has better heat distribution, which allows you to straighten natural hair with fewer passes. 

Titanium plates allow for better results with less heat than using a ceramic plate with higher heat.

Plate Size

Flat iron plates come in different sizes, ranging from 1/2 inch to two inches. Make sure to choose a flat iron with wider and longer plates. This allows you to cover more surface area per pass. 

This is also ideal if you’re silk pressing longer hair as you can complete the process in less time. 

Edge Shape 

A flat iron with curved or rounded edges means you can achieve a wider range of hairstyles. However, if you’re doing the silk press technique, it’s better to stick to the traditional flat iron with straight or sharp edges. This helps you attain pin-straight locks. 

Ease of Use

If you’re doing a silk press at home, you want to work efficiently to prevent hair damage. As such, using a flat iron that you can easily hold and maneuver is ideal. 

Good temperature controls and a clear display can also help prevent mistakes that can lead to breakage or burnt hair.

Look for convenience or ergonomic features such as a 360-degree swivel cord, a longer cord, a hinge lock, indicator lights and/or display, a temperature lock, and an auto shut-off feature.

Quality

A close up photo of a hairstylist straightening a woman's hair with a straightener.

The quality of a flat iron becomes all the more critical when you need to work with high heat. A low-quality flat iron may distribute heat unevenly.

The plate coating may also easily wear off, causing pulling or snagging that can lead to breakage. 

Investing in a high-quality flat iron will help you achieve the best silk press results with minimal damage. Ultimately, you’ll get the best bang for your buck (and hair!) in the long run. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is a Silk Press Better Than Flat Iron?

It depends on your hair type and texture. Those with thick and curly hair may achieve better results with the silk press method. 

Meanwhile, a flat iron will suffice for those with thin and fine hair. However, silk-pressing hair comes with added benefits such as added shine and bounce.

Does Silk Press Damage Your Hair?

The main advantage of silk pressing over other hair-straightening techniques is that the process does not use harsh chemicals that could permanently alter your hair. 

When it comes to silk press vs flat iron, the former also provides longer-lasting results. 

Since you’re still applying high heat to the hair, there is potential damage. This is why the silk press technique is more than just straightening.

Shampooing, conditioning, and applying heat protectants are essential to ensure that hair is as moisturized and healthy as possible.

When done correctly and with the right products, a silk press will not damage your hair. 

Can I Silk Press Once a Month?

Yes, you can. A silk press can last about three weeks, if you want it to last thing long. Give your hair a week to rest, and you can do another silk press. However, do note that it is always recommended to avoid using heat styling tools too often.

What’s the Difference Between Blowout and Silk Press?

A silk press uses a flat iron to straighten the hair after it is blow-dried. This will turn textured hair into silky and straight hair. On the other hand, a blowout is simply hair blow-dried with a round brush. 

How to Touch Up a Frizzy Silk Press?

If you just had a silk press and still have frizzy hair, do not panic. There’s still a way to fix it. Watch this video to learn how:

How to Make A Silk Press Last Longer?

Removing moisture from the hair is key to making the silk press last longer. When moisture gets into the hair strands, this can cause frizziness.

So first things first: make sure to wrap your hair with a silk or satin wrap and then wear a shower cap. This will make sure that the hair is protected from any moisture.

Moreover, if you will engage in activities that make you sweat heavily, wrap your hair.

When sleeping, it is also best to wrap the hair to prevent it from moving and creasing. In cases where you do wake up with a slight crease, do not touch it up with a flat iron! 

Instead, apply a small amount of hair serum to your hair and that should fix the crease.

Silk Press vs Flat Iron: Which Is Best Suited For You?

When it comes to your hair, it’s always good to have a solid understanding of the products, tools, and techniques used to achieve specific hairstyles. That’s why explaining the difference between a silk press and flat iron is necessary. 

While both can help you achieve straight hair, you can now see that these two terms are very different. You can now decide which is best suited for your hair needs and goals. 

If you have natural hair that’s typically thicker and textured, a silk press might be an ideal procedure. For thin and fine hair, a commercial flat iron with moderate heat can be enough for straightening. 

Regardless of hair type, make sure to give your hair much-needed TLC when heat styling to keep it as healthy as possible! 

Looking for Ways to Maintain Your Curly Hair?

Authors

  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

  • Anna Mastenbrook

    Amanda Mastenbrook is an accomplished beauty professional and salon owner with a decade of experience in the industry. Educated at NDSU and licensed from Josef's School of Hair Design, she's a master of color and balayage. Amanda founded The Chair in 2015 after launching a successful mobile spray tanning service. Known for her award-winning avant-garde styling and expertise in toning, she continues to redefine beauty standards and client satisfaction through her work.

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