During my high school and middle school days I ruined my hair trying to figure out the perfect straightening method, despite having a perm. I would wash and blow dry my hair and straighten in small sections, but it never turned out right. Every time I got my hair done at a salon, I always wondered what the secret was to the hairdressers getting my hair so smooth, straight, and full of body.
After watching a ton of YouTube videos and experimenting on my now natural hair, I’ve figured out the process to getting the perfect silk press - one that doesn't cause heat damage and isn’t stiff and weighed down.
1.) Shampoo and Conditioner
You always want to start off with clean hair before straightening. This will make sure there’s no buildup on the scalp that makes the hair stiff. You can use a clarifying shampoo or your normal shampoo, depending on how dirty your hair is. If you have type 4 hair (especially high porosity) you’ll want to go for moisturizing shampoos so that when you straighten, your hair won’t be dull and brittle.
Same goes for conditioners especially, and though this ingredient is frowned upon in the natural hair community, you may want a conditioner that has silicones like Silicon Mix ($10). This conditioner is a product many Dominican salons use to help get the hair super straight and frizz-free. It coats the strands with silicone and seals in moisture to decrease frizz while leaving smooth feeling hair. This will also help with the longevity of your silk press as it can keep your hair from reverting.
You might also want to do a deep conditioning treatment so that your hair is at its strongest and full of moisture. This will help prevent any possible heat damage.
2.) A Good Blowout
I think the blowout is the most important part of getting the perfect silk press. The straighter you can get your hair during the blow drying process, the straighter and easier your hair will be to press out. I like to section my hair off in four sections and blow dry in smaller sections so I can get the hair as straight as possible. Before that, I always use a heat protectant. My favorite one at the moment is the Chi Silk Infusion ($15), it leaves my hair feeling incredibly soft and gives it a nice shine after straightening. I use about a dime sized amount for each of the 4 sections because I don’t want to weigh the hair down.
Another key to a good silk out is not using too many hair products. The less products you use, the more movement your hair will have. This is why I stress getting in your moisture in during the shampoo and conditioning process so you won’t have to add any more products.
After applying the heat protectant, blow dry small sections of your hair and take your time. I like to use the tension method as I find it’s quicker for my hair to get straight and is less damaging compared to repeatedly running the brush through the hair with the blowdryer. When the majority of the section is straight, then I focus on the ends and slowly run the paddle brush and blowdryer through so I can get them as straight as possible. If you’ve ever been to a dominican hair salon, you know how straight they can get your hair with just a blow dryer - this is how they’re able to get natural hair silky straight.
If you don’t want to put too much heat on your hair, you can also braid or twist your hair after washing. Let it dry overnight, then stretch it out a bit more with the blow dryer on a lower heat setting. Alternatively, you can blow-dry your hair on cool to avoid using heat while also getting a straighter blowout, it’ll just take a bit longer.
3.) Trim Those Ends
I prefer to trim my hair when it’s straight rather than in its natural state so that I can clearly see the ends and the damage that needs to be cut. It also prevents me from unevenly cutting my hair. If you’ve ever noticed the ends of your hair still look frayed and frizzy after you straighten it, it’s because you need a trim. When your ends are split, the end of the hair is going in two different directions so it won’t lay flat no matter how much you straighten it.
If your hair is in need of a good trim, don’t be afraid to cut some of your length down to get neater hair. It’ll grow back better if you trim the split ends because the longer you let them sit there, the more the split travels up the strand, eventually splitting at the root and breaking off. Now don’t get scissor happy and end up cutting 50% of your hair off trying to get every split end. Cutting off every split end isn’t really possible, what matters is that you get the majority of them.
4.) The Chase Method
After your hair has been blow dried to the best of your ability, now comes the time to straighten the hair. You can re-apply heat protectant before straightening to ensure you don’t get any heat damage, but I usually don’t since I don't want to weigh down my hair. When you straighten the hair, you’ll still want to work in small sections and take your time. Which flat iron you use doesn’t really matter that much, it’s more so about the technique.
Part thin sections and take a brush with soft bristles or a rat tail comb. Comb through the section to get out any knots, then place the flat iron above the comb/brush and slowly drag them down the hair. What this does is ensure that each strand of hair is detangled and spread out so that when you straighten it, the heat is evenly distributed which will result in smoother and straighter hair. The reason I suggested using a brush is because it has way more bristles than a comb has teeth, so it’ll catch every single hair strand and smooth it out before the iron gets to it. I currently use this one and it’s the best tool you can use for a silk press in my opinion.
The best part about the chase method is that it cuts down on the amount of passes needed to get the hair straight. The first time I did a silk press on myself (successfully) I only needed to do one pass to get my hair silky straight. I did a total of 2 passes, one to get the hair straight and one to style the hair afterwards with curls. As far as the temperature for the flat iron, everyone’s hair is different and can tolerate different temperatures. I usually straighten my on 430-450 degrees because I have very thick and coarse hair, plus I’m able to get my hair straighter with one pass.
5.) Wrap It Up Den
Your silk press won’t last if you sleep on your hair, so find a way to preserve it so that it lasts and doesn’t get damaged. You can wrap it, pin curl it, use rollers, use flexirods, etc. but just don’t sleep with your hair out. I did this often when I was younger and always wondered why my hair never looked good. Preserve your silk press with a silk scarf and moisturize every few days with a light oil (because straight hair needs moisture too!) and you’ll never need to go to a salon for straight hair again.
“Erin Dyana is a freelance writer with a focus on pop culture, criticisms, and beauty. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Urban Social TV, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Clementine Zine, and Philadelphia Print Zine. In her free time she likes to create art, watch films, read books, and eat everything in sight."