- A Brief History of Silk:
- What is silk made of?
- Why is silk good for your skin and hair?
- What does silk do for skin?
- What does silk do for hair?
- What is the difference between cotton and silk?
- What is the difference between silk and satin?
- Why does it matter if I choose poly-satin over silk?
- How to shop for silk:
- What is momme?
- Washing and drying:
A Brief History of Silk:
There are many reasons silk is one of the finest and oldest fabrics in the world: it is natural, durable, luxurious, renewable, and biodegradable. Silks can be made with a multitude of colors from the softest shades to the most vibrant jewel tones and everything in between. Silk can be used to make anything from skin and hair care products, fabrics for lingerie, clothing, linens, upholstery, and rugs.
In China, silk production dates back to Neolithic times, that’s around 6000 years ago, give or take. At one point in the history of making Chinese silk, it was only to be farmed and produced by women. It was considered so fine that it was only to be worn by the imperial family.
Silk has been found in many ancient cultures including the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. It has usually been associated with wealth, refinement, luxury, and sensuality.
During World War II, Japan was the world’s number one producer of silk. When their global supply was cut off, we found ways to replicate it with other fibers like nylon and polyester. China is now the global leader in silk production making it is easily obtainable and far less expensive.
What is silk made of?
Silk fiber is collected from the cocoons of silkworms. The cocoon is usually boiled to unwind the fiber and then it is spun into thread and woven into cloth.
Why is silk good for your skin and hair?
The silk cocoon fiber is made up of 18-19 amino acids. Our skin and hair are also made up of about the same amount of amino acids.
|Top Five Amino Acids in Silk||Top Five Amino Acids in Human Hair|
|L-Alanine (34.36%)||L-Cysteine (17.5%)|
|Glycine (27.23%)||L-Serine (11.7%)|
|L-Serine (9.58%)||Glutamic Acid (11.1%)|
|L-Valine (3.49%)||L-Threonine (6.9%)|
|L-Threonine (2.00%)||Glycine (6.5%)|
|Info source||Info source|
You can see silk and hair both have high concentrations of the amino acid serine. Serine when hydrolyzed (broken down) is used for hair and skin care products because of its moisture retention qualities and skin adherence properties.
Silk proteins are widely used in haircare and skincare products because they bond with keratin helping retain moisture and strengthen your hair and skin.
What does silk do for skin?
Silk is hypoallergenic, no matter how you use it, in creams or clothing. An investigation conducted on patients with atopic dermatitis has shown promising results: wearing silk, after just one month, is effective in reducing symptoms of atopic dermatitis (dandruff, redness, swelling, itching, and sleeplessness).
It is believed that the silk fiber is so smooth it prevents the irritation of skin conditions that are worsened by rough fibers like cotton, wool, and synthetic materials. Being able to control these symptoms with clothing and sheets, as opposed to medications, provides a side-effect free solution.
More benefits of wearing and sleeping on silk:
- Provides and retains moisture,
- Some UV protection,
- Enhances the synthesis of collagen,
- Reduces inflammation during wound healing,
- A skin barrier that prevents viruses and bacteria from irritating the skin,
- Since silk doesn’t pull moisture and oils into its fibers, like cotton does, it may even help with acne.
What does silk do for hair?
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase:
We spend 6-9 hours a day with our head on a pillow…that’s a long time to cause friction, breakage, frizz, and loss of moisture.
- Prevents tangles
- Protects against frizz
- Prevents split-ends
- Helps with scalp conditions such as dandruff and plaque psoriasis
- Helps with hair loss
- Regulates heat, keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer
- Hypoallergenic sleep
- Retains moisture
- Helps decrease frizz
- Reduces static
- UV and Heat Protection
Look for hair products with hydrolyzed silk proteins or serine in the formula.
What is the difference between cotton and silk?
Silk Pillowcases prevent frizz because the silk thread has no hooks or loops in it, as cotton does, so it doesn’t catch the hair or cause friction.
Silk and cotton also differ in their water retention properties, cotton tends to absorb and retain moisture, while silk absorbs, and wicks away moisture. Cotton stays wet, where silk dries quickly. Silk’s quick drying inhibits bacterial and fungal growth, and balances the moisture of your hair while you sleep.
What is the difference between silk and satin?
99% of satin today is made of polyester. Polyester is a manmade petroleum-based fiber that is essentially a plastic. Silk is a naturally occurring protein fiber made by silkworms.
The long and the short of it is satin can be made out of silk, but not all satin is silk. Satin can be made out of any long filament fibers; including silk, polyester, rayon, and nylon. In the US, satin fabrics are usually made of polyester.
Mostly, the difference between poly and silk comes down to three things: heat, static, and chemicals.
- Natural silk doesn’t hold heat in, but polyester does.
- Natural silk has less potential to create static than poly-satin.
- Polyester contains perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFCs out-gas when in the dryer or heated and can worsen asthma and skin-conditions. They often contain formaldehyde, which can create many types of sensitivities and allergies.
Why does it matter if I choose poly-satin over silk?
One of the most common things I hear when I discuss sleeping on silk is, “I don’t like silk it is too hot, and slick.” That is my immediate tip-off that they haven’t slept on 100% Real Silk. There is a distinct difference and it really does matter.
If you toss and turn a lot, or you are in that lovely peri-menopausal or menopausal phase of life, you don’t need any help with your hot head from your pillowcase.
Remember silk stays cool in summer and warm in winter.
Satin tends to get hot and stay hot no matter what time of year, add a foam pillow to this and you will wake up roasting and sweating.
How to shop for silk:
Look for 100% Mulberry or Natural Silk.
The Price is a Clue:
A silk pillowcase will range in price from around $25 to $100. If your pillowcase is sold for under $10 or $15, it probably is made of polyester, and being sold as “Silky” or “Silk-like” check the label or description.
What is momme?
Simply put it is the weight of the silk. Somewhat like thread count in cotton sheets. Only it is how thick the fabric is and how much it weighs per bolt (100 feet by 45 inches) vs the threads per square inch which measures thread count.
Ideally, you want a pillowcase to range from 19 to 22 momme. 23-25 momme is meant for curtains and upholstery.
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Washing and drying:
This is where most people stop shopping. Most silk instructions will tell you to hand-wash and hang-dry. If you are buying that pillowcase above $40, I can understand why you would want to take this special care. However, that may not be necessary; this is where my favorite cases come in.
I bought my first silk pillowcases in 2017; in November of 2021, we threw the first one away because it tore away from the zipper. I wash mine with my sheets (zipper closed), in warm water, with 7th Generation Laundry Soap & Liquid Softener, in a front loading (no agitator) washing machine. I dry them with the sheets on medium heat. I’ve used this method of washing and only the one has torn and been thrown away in 4 years; I have had cotton sheets that haven’t lasted that long.
The AlaskaBear Silk Pillowcases are my favorite:
- Just over $25.00
- Hidden Zipper Closure keeps your pillow in
- 3 generous sizes
- Over 30 color options to choose from
- 19 momme, thick and durable
- 100% Mulberry Silk
- Silk on both sides (some only have silk on one side)
- OEKO-TEX Certified
- Free matching silk scrunchie (a curly girl bonus)
Silk pillowcases are now as affordable as a quality shampoo or conditioner and every bit as effective.
I hope you found this post educational and helpful.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
- “History of Silk.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Jan. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_silk.
- “Silk Amino Acid.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_amino_acid.
- “Hair Composition.” Hair Composition, https://designessentials.com/hair-composition/.
- “The Benefits of Silk’s Natural Amino Acids.” Manito Luxury Silk Bedding & Silk Sleepwear, 23 May 2017, https://manitosilk.com/blog/the-benefits-of-silks-natural-amino-acids/.
- Hung, Min-Hsung et al. “Influence of silk clothing therapy in patients with atopic dermatitis.” Dermatology reports vol. 11,2 8176. 22 Dec. 2019, doi:10.4081/dr.2019.8176
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