Can a silk pillowcase improve your hair and skin?
I tested popular ones to see what the hype is about.
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There are three types of people: those who sleep on silk pillowcases and attribute their healthy, split-end-free hair and smooth skin to them, those who are skeptical to how sleeping on silk could possibly have such life-changing benefits, and those who have never even heard of the trend.
For a long time now, I’ve been in that middle camp. As a beauty enthusiast, I’m intrigued by any new fad that could lead to better skin and hair, but as Reviewed’s beauty expert, I keep a critical eye, even after trying four of them myself. Let’s get everyone caught up on what’s what with silk pillowcases.
What do silk pillowcases claim to do?
Silk pillowcases are popular for their touted beauty benefits, which are mainly attributed to the fact that the smooth material should prevent friction against the hair and skin, as compared to the typical fabrics used in bedding, namely cotton and polyester. Proponents claim the slick texture keeps hair from tangling, frizzing, and splitting at the ends, and reduces tugging at your skin that leads to fine lines and wrinkles. The popular brand Slip even claims that silk pillowcases keep skin more hydrated than cotton, as it doesn’t draw away and absorb moisture like cotton does. I’ve also heard rumors that these pillowcases prevent acne, as they hold less bacteria.
Do silk pillowcases do what they claim?
If you were to rub a cotton pillowcase against your head and a silk one, you’d likely see changes and be able to verify that the silk works better for gliding. While the efficacy of the silk pillow varies depending on your hair type, the slick texture could result in less tangles, frizz, and probably breakage—though the latter is difficult to isolate and measure.
The likelihood that silk pillowcases might prevent wrinkles and moisture loss is trickier to determine, which is why I enlisted the help of Allison Britt Kimmins, a Philadelphia-based dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC. “There is evidence that [silk pillowcases] can help improve skin moisture by preventing excess moisture [from] becoming trapped into the pillowcase that can cause irritants and bacteria to form,” she says. “By preventing the formation of unwanted bacteria or other substances, silk pillowcases can prevent skin irritation and unwanted acne breakouts.” So, the answer here is a cautious yes.
As for reducing signs of aging, Kimmins says silk may be gentler, but that doesn’t necessarily prevent wrinkles: “The way we sleep on any pillowcase is the most important determinant of whether or not we develop more wrinkles. If you are a side sleeper, keep in mind that you will have more wrinkles on the side in which you sleep. Sleeping on your back can help improve wrinkles and acne.”
What’s it like to sleep on a silk pillowcase?
I tried three popular silk pillowcases and one popular polyester satin one: the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Pillowcase for $19.99, the Brooklinen Mulberry Silk Pillowcase for $59, the Slip Silk Pillowcase for $89, and the Bedsure Satin Pillowcase for $9.99.
All of the real silk pillowcases felt great on my skin and hair, which is the most important element. I expected them to feel cold on my cheeks or to stick to the moisturizer on my skin, but instead, they all felt room temperature and did not interfere with my skincare products at all. I occasionally went to bed with wet hair and thought I might wake up with my hair still damp because the pillowcase claims not to absorb much moisture, but my hair air-dried fine. Really, nothing made one pillowcase more memorable than another in terms of texture or benefits. I only tested the pillowcases for about two weeks, otherwise I may feel stronger about which one to use to achieve healthier hair and skin, but from my brief stint with them, they all seem equally adequate.
What is the best silk pillowcase?
The Alaska bear, which costs about $30 to $60 less than the other real silk options on this list, is my favorite after testing. All three real silk cases felt similar with only slight differences in texture that didn’t impact my overall experience, so I naturally favor saving some money. But the final selling point was the zipper on the opening edge of the Alaska Bear. This feature keeps the silky case from slipping around on my pillow and it was a welcomed touch. The others, even the pricey Slip, did not have closures, which meant the case could—and did—slip off of the pillow.
Next, I’d rank the one from Slip because it’s a bit longer, so it fully covers my pillow even when jostled around. Last, I’d choose the Brooklinen, because it wasn’t quite big enough in its standard/queen size to cover my pillow how I’d like it to—you could see the actual pillow on the side.
Are silk and satin pillowcases the same?
When you research silk pillowcases to purchase, you’ll also see satin ones pop up, boasting lower prices and the same benefits—that’s why I also tested the Bedsure case. I consulted Reviewed apparel staff writer Jamie Ueda, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and apparel and textile design, for an explanation of the differences between these two seemingly similar materials. Silk is a type of fiber, which comes from the silkworm, she explains. Satin, however, isn’t a specific material, but rather a weave used to make fabric from any number of types of fibers. “Because of the way it’s woven, satin material gives a shiny and smooth appearance," she says. “But satin can be made with silk or another fiber, like polyester.” And polyester doesn’t have the same characteristics or feel of silk.
If you find a satin pillowcase, don’t let its shine fool you. Make sure you check what fabric it’s made out of, and if it’s not silk, don’t assume it’ll offer the same benefits. The Bedsure satin pillowcase I tried is made of polyester and I can attest that, while it’s a cheaper way to get in on the trend, it’s not the same feel at all. It has a similar slickness to real silk ones, but the texture feels rougher, scratchier, and similar to dress-up clothes you may have played with as a child. It’s possible you’ll notice some benefits because the satin weave mimics the slickness of silk and polyester also isn't very absorbent, but for $10 more, you can get a real silk one from Alaska Bear that I guarantee feels better.
Are silk pillowcases worth it?
As for whether this means you should invest in a silk pillowcase, there’s no harm in it. “The main benefit to sleeping on a silk pillowcase is less bacteria and particles trapped in the fabric that can lead to irritation and acne,” Kimmins says. “For patients who suffer with dry skin and hair or acne, a $30 pillowcase may be a good investment to find out whether [it] will improve their skin condition.”
After my tests, I recommend spending even less than that and going with the $20 Alaska Bear silk pillowcase. It gives you everything you want out of a silk pillowcase but at a better price—but you can’t really go wrong with any as long as they are made of real silk, and not polyester.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.