How to Straighten Your Natural Hair

Look, I love my natural curls as much as the next person. And while twist-outs and jumbo topknots will forever be a part of my style rotation, I’m always down to switch things up when it comes to my hair. That’s why I’m a fan of getting a silk press every once in a while—it’s just a nice change of pace if YFM. You can trust me when I say this: If you’re interested in straightening your natural curls, a silk press is your best bet. Seriously, there’s minimal heat damage and it won’t damage your curl pattern like a Keratin treatment or a relaxer would.

Interested in learning more? I thought so. Ahead, I reached out to Kerry Joly, a NYC-based hairstylist, to get all the deets on the styling process.

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What is a silk press?

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If you’re a ’90s baby, you probably remember—no matter how hard you try to forget—your parent using a stove, lots of oil, and a rusty hot comb to straighten your hair in the kitchen (aka a press and curl). A silk press is the improved version of that technique, says Joly. Using a combo of hot tools and products, a silk press allows you to transform your hair from super curly to silky straight, without the pain and heat damage that comes from an old-school press and curl.

How do you do a silk press?

You’ve got two options when it comes to getting a silk press: You can go to the salon for a professional treatment, or you can DIY it at home. Either way, the process is basically the same, says Joly, and usually involves the following six steps:

Step 1: Cleanse with a moisturizing shampoo

A good base is key when it comes to slaying your silk press, and that starts with your shampoo. Joly recommends opting for a sulfate-free shampoo that will hydrate your hair without stripping your curls dry. P.S. You need extra-clean hair to make sure there’s no lingering residue or oil buildup, so wash your hair at least twice, says Joly.

Step 2: Work in a deep conditioner

If you want your silk press to reach its full potential, you definitely need to follow your shampoo with a deep-conditioning treatment. The best deep conditioners are packed with hydrating oils that help protect your hair from frizz and breakage, says Joly, while also improving the look and texture of your hair. Let the conditioner sit in your hair for about 30 minutes and then rinse it with cool water to seal your cuticles, she says. This’ll help lock in all the good ingredients and allow your hair to lay flatter.

Step 3: Apply a smoothing heat protectant

This is a nonnegotiable, says Joly. A heat protectant creates a barrier between your hair and any hot tools you use on it, saving you from the effects of heat damage (like dry texture, breakage, or an effed-up curl pattern). Don’t forget this step, k?

Step 4: Blow-out your hair

You can go about this two ways: Either give yourself a blowout the traditional way, with a round brush and a blow dryer, or you can use a hair-dryer brush, which combines the two tools in one easy step. Joly prefers using the first option on her clients, but if you’re doing this at home and you legit suck at blowing-out your hair, a hot brush makes it a billion times easier.

Step 5: Layer on a light serum

Before you hit your hair with a flat iron in step six, smooth on a lightweight hair serum. Not only will it seal in more hydration, says Joly, but it’ll also help you get that silky, straight, and bouncy finish you’re going for.

Step 6: Flat-iron your hair

Last, but definitely not least, it’s time to straighten your hair. To get an extra-smooth finish, Joly says to go with a flat iron that has titanium plates—they’re perfect for natural hair. Not only do they help distribute heat more evenly than most flat irons, but the plates legit glide over your hair, making it look and feel like silk. Think: You shouldn’t need to pass through any sections more than once.

How long does a silk press last?

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Typically, a silk press will last you about two to three weeks, says Joly, depending on how well you take care of it. To extend the life of your silk press, wrap your hair with a silk scarf before bed to help maintain moisture and keep your style smooth. Joly says you should also avoid putting water or steam on your hair—they’ll derail your style, and can cause your hair to revet back to its natural state.

So if you’re super active or really into working out, there’s a high chance that you’ll end up sweating out your silk press (I know, ugh). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it done, but just know that it might not last as long as it would otherwise.

Is a silk press bad for your hair?

Nope, silk presses aren’t bad for your hair—so long as you follow the steps to a T (I repeat: do not skip out on heat protectant). If you’re worried about the health of your hair, though, it’s always a good idea to see a professional before you try any DIYs. BTW: According to Joly, silk presses are way less damaging than chemical treatments, so if you’re trying to straighten your hair, it’s definitely a safe option. Just make sure you wait three weeks in between each styling session to minimize heat damage.

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How much does a silk press cost?

This depends on where you are in the country, which salon you go to, and how experienced your stylist is. But in general, according to Joly, a professional silk press will cost you anywhere between $55 to $95. Which, not bad, TBH.

The final verdict

IMO, if you want to make your tight curls super straight and sleek, you can’t really go wrong with a silk press. There’s minimal heat damage (when it’s done correctly), it’ll last you a couple of weeks (if you take care of it), and if you decide to have a stylist do it, it’s not crazy expensive. Truly a win-win.

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