"This feels like silk" is a high compliment that can be bestowed on anything from hair to fabric, and it always has a similar meaning. Describing something as silky is saying that it feels super soft and particularly luxurious, so it should come as no surprise that silk pillowcases are a popular choice for bedroom decor. But as much as they feel fabulous to place your skin next to, silk pillowcases also come with an assortment of benefits for your hair and skin.
We spoke with double-board-certified plastic surgeon Jaimie DeRosa, MD, and hairstylist Raven Hurtado to review the many benefits of sleeping on a silk pillowcase, and we learned that they extend well beyond just making you feel like you've made it in life. Ahead, learn everything you need to know about what this naturally cool material can do for you.
Meet the Expert
Benefits of Silk Pillowcases
While silk pillowcases have the obvious benefit of their soft, luxurious feel, we're here to share the parts you may not have heard yet. In addition to upgrading your moment of leisure, they can benefit your skin and hair as follows:
- Prevents frizz and tangling: DeRosa explains that a silk pillowcase "can prevent knotted and frizzy hair, which can be a problem especially for those with long hair. The tightly woven structure of a 100% silk pillowcase decreases friction between the hair and the material, resulting in less frizzy and tangled morning hair." Hurtado adds that less knots in your hair "will make your morning routine easier."
- Reduces breakage and split ends: Hurtado tells us "silk pillowcases allow your hair to glide around as you sleep," preventing drag and friction. DeRosa adds, "Silk is so tightly woven that it allows hair to move smoothly about its surface without getting caught in between the strings of fabric. This results in less hair breakage and may also reduce the number of split ends."
- Keeps hair more moisturized: "Silk is significantly less absorbent material as compared to satin," DeRosa says. "The reason this is beneficial is that it results in less absorption of moisture into the pillowcase during the night, instead keeping more moisture available to the hair."
- Easier to keep clean: "Silk is hypoallergenic and does not contain chemicals," DeRosa explains. "Unlike satin pillowcases, silk is tightly woven, which means that it will not retain dust, fungi, [and] bed mites, as well as pollen and mold."
- Gentle on acne-prone and sensitive skin: Cotton is prized for being gentle on sensitive skin, but silk may actually be even gentler. If you're prone to acne, the friction caused by cotton or other materials can exacerbate its inflammation, but silk won't: Hurtado notes that the material can actually help to improve your complexion. Silk pillowcases can also prevent itching caused by issues like eczema.
- Less likely to overheat: Because they don't absorb moisture, silk pillowcases are less likely to get damp or wet as you sweat. This means you're less likely to wake up feeling sticky or like you're sleeping on a soaked-through pillowcase.
- Helps with hair product absorption: Hurtado says that for assorted hair products left on overnight, from oils to masks and conditioners, a silk pillowcase will help your hair retain more of the product. "The non-absorbent nature of silk also promotes retention of products within the hair that may have been applied at night," DeRosa explains. "With any non-silk pillowcase, a good amount of hair product gets absorbed into the material, resulting in loss of active ingredients and thereby making it less available for their intended purpose in the hair."
- May help prevent fine lines and wrinkles: The idea that a pillowcase can help prevent fine lines and wrinkles may sound too good to be true, but studies have indeed shown that the pillowcase you choose can play a part in reducing wrinkles. That said, it doesn't look like silk pillowcases have been studied much yet, so the jury is still out on how definitively they can impact your face in the long term.
Satin and Bonnets as Alternatives
If silk is out of your budget or you eschew animal-based fibers, satin pillowcases can be a good alternative. Satin is a more cost-effective material, mostly because it's synthetic. Hurtado explains that satin can be made of polyester, rayon, and/or cotton. Satin has a shinier appearance than silk, and it isn't exactly the same but can still offer some benefits.
Of satin pillowcases, DeRosa tells us that "they also can reduce frizz, but to a lesser degree than silk and not for all hair types, so managing your hair may be a little more challenging with satin." She also notes, "Silk pillowcases are more expensive and require more delicate care, such as hand-washing. With that, they are more resistant to pilling and help regulate temperature while offering moisture-wicking properties." While they aren't quite the same as silk, she notes that satin pillowcases still have more benefits than sleeping on cotton.
Another option that may be less costly than purchasing sets of pillowcases is a silk bonnet. This won't offer benefits for your face the way a pillowcase would, but if your main concern is your hair, it can be a decent option. "A hair bonnet is a good idea to use if you apply overnight hair products and want to keep them in the hair instead of on your pillowcase," DeRosa explains. "It will also create a barrier for the products so they don’t get wasted and soaked into the pillowcase."
Because your face won't be touching the bonnet, it shouldn't get dirty as fast, so you won't need to wash it as often. In turn, it may last longer, even if the initial price isn't all that much lower than a single pillowcase set. And you won't have to worry about your bed sheets not matching your pillowcases, which is also a bonus.
Choosing and Caring for Your Silk Pillowcase
If you know anything about silk, you've likely heard that mulberry silk is the ideal type. "If you want to own the highest quality pillowcase, then get one of mulberry silk," DeRosa says. "This silk comes from mulberry trees, the leaves of which silkworms eat. It is the sturdiest and most durable silk, [and] also the softest, so it is ideal for intensely used items such as pillowcases."
Hurtado tells us that momme is an important factor, too. Momme refers to the density of silk—the denser, the better. She says that you should "look for a pillowcase that has high quality in momme. Most silk pillowcases range from 19-22 momme, [while] 25 momme is best quality. If you see no range of momme in a silk pillowcase, chances are it won’t last you very long."
Be prepared to not just throw your silk pillowcases into the washer and dryer: These require next-level care in order to have longevity. If you do put them in the washing machine, DeRosa recommends the delicate cycle. Always follow the instructions on the label, as some silk pillowcases may not be machine washable at all. To dry, Hurtado recommends hanging your pillowcases and letting them air dry, preferably away from the sun.
Baek JH, Yoo MA, Koh JS, Borkow G. Reduction of facial wrinkles depth by sleeping on copper oxide-containing pillowcases: a double blind, placebo controlled, parallel, randomized clinical study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2012 Sep;11(3):193–200.