I Tried Sleeping on a Silk Pillowcase to Fix My Hair

Maybe cotton is not the fabric of our lives

02.09.17
Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Man Repeller-5 v.2

When my sister told me silk pillowcases were healthier for hair than cotton ones, my ears perked up through the tangly mop atop my head. I was intrigued, as sleeping happens to be the majority of my hair care routine.

I’ve always had a lot of hair. When I was little, the women at Supercuts used to call everyone over to give it a feel. “This is crazy,” they’d all marvel. “Where is it all coming from!?” (There’s more than meets the eye.) I’ve been apologizing to hair stylists for over a decade for requiring more time and product than their respective schedules and inventories could handle. They’re always asking assistants to get more foil (again) or apologizing to the next client.

When I put my hair in a ponytail, it sticks straight out of my head like a tree trunk; I break hair ties constantly. It requires nearly a palmful of shampoo to wash and over 12 hours to air dry. It’s also fairly coarse and prone to knotting. It took me years of blow-drying and straightening (oh, the hours) before I settled on bi-annual keratin treatments and a beauty strategy that essentially starts and ends with sleeping. It’s all I can handle.

Here is my routine in full:

1. I wash my hair at night a couple times a week with New Wash (that’s it — no conditioner), preferably before 9 p.m. so that it’s mostly dry by the time I get to work the next day. Then I sleep on it.
2. Most mornings, I add Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil to the ends to make it feel piece-y.
3. On days two/three/four, I utilize B&B Pret-a-Powder dry shampoo.

The products are all orange by chance.

Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Day 1 Silk Man Repeller-5

I’m lucky that I aesthetically prefer messy, unkempt hair — I’d be in real trouble if I died for Blake Lively’s situation — but I do sometimes worry that mine’s so sloppy it calls my hygiene into question or just generally looks gross. Here it is, freshly clean, after sleeping on a cotton pillowcase:

Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Man Repeller-6 v.2

And behind the scenes…

Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Man Repeller-3 v.2

Looks a bit frazzled. This is typical and begs the Q: Is cotton for suckers? What about those cotton commercials featuring a shiny-haired Zooey Deschanel on a bike? Was it all a lie?

It was time to investigate.

First, I procured a silk pillowcase by Slip. According to its website, Slip is the answer to “a secret that hairdressers and movie stars have known for decades.” (DECADES!) “Cotton grabs your hair and twists it at the root throughout the night, damaging hair and causing bed-head in the morning…Cotton [also] draws moisture from your hair, drying it out,” Slip says. I also got a NIGHT Pillow, which is made of 95% Mulberry silk. Mulberry silk, has “never before been used in bedding and is sourced from couture wedding gown suppliers” (excusez-moi?) and acts as a “delicate treatment to your hair fibers” to avoid “stripping of essential oils and breakage.”

I promptly placed them side-by-side on my bed, felt rich and then told my roommates and cat to steer clear (some of whom listened). I then proceeded to sleep like I imagine Angelina Jolie sleeps. And the next morning? Krista (our photographer) gasped when she saw me. GASPED! Granted, she’s really dramatic and tells everyone they look good all the time and thus is not to be trusted, so thank G for photographic evidence. Here’s how my hair looked after sleeping on a silk pillowcase:

Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Nahman Man Repeller-1

And the back of the bus:

Silk Pillowcase Test Haley Nahman Man Repeller-3

It’s a big difference, right?

silk pillowcase test side by side haley man repeller v.4

(Lucky for our imagery team, I basically wear pajama tops to work — very on-brand for this piece.)

Not kidding though: My hair is visibly smoother and shinier, feels softer and is waving more evenly. It almost looks like I blow dried it, or at least ran a straightener through it for a sec. It’s kind of unreal! The silk pillowcase rumors are true; it’s not just a marketing ploy.

For the messy-haired among us: Maybe give it a try.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Hayley my hair is v similar to yours…could MR do a piece on keratin treatments? I did a few in college and don’t remember why I stopped.

    • Harling Ross

      Me too! I’ve been thinking I should get one this summer. What kind of story would you like to see on MR?

      • I think it would be nice to understand better what the process does to your hair, how much it cuts down on “styling” time, how often you have to do it, before/afters and maybe trying it on women with different kinds of hair?

        • Haley Nahman

          Oh I could write ESSAYS on keratins. I will pitch something!

          • Harling Ross

            can’t wait for this 5-part series hales

          • magicalhat

            Oh, I’d love to read about it. I have the same experience with hairdressers, they always say I have enough hair for three heads… And I just can’t afford the number of cuts I’d need to keep it manageable. Something more durable would be ideal!

          • Isn’t repeat Keratin treatment bad for your hair? Does it involve making hair super straight using harsh chemicals. Would love to read an MR’s take on this treatment. By the way, my hair is ditto like your’s Haley.

            http://www.bythewear.com

          • kneelbeforetigers

            I’ve gotten about 5 or 6 keratin treatments now, and my hair is heathier, shinier and grown more than EVER. IN. MY. WHOLE. LIFE. As an Af-Am woman who gave up relaxing 2 years ago, my hair is now down to boobs straight and at my shoulders when curly. And I hacked off a good 4 inches in May. Keratin has changed my life!

          • Pandora Sykes

            ME TOO

          • Samantha Jones

            I swear by Pravana Perfection treatment. Hard to find salons that do it and more expensive but soo much better for your hair.

      • Lb

        I would like to see the perspective of not only an expert of keratin treatments but also someone that is critical of them. Also understanding what it does it your hair

      • Saryah

        I have thick, curly hair and my stylist has been trying to get me to do a treatment but I have reservations. I would love to see how it looks on different hair types!

  • Andrea

    this is amazing but was it a comfy sleep?

  • T-Fierce

    This headline WINS.

  • Charlotte

    I have a silk pillow case from Gingerlily and it’s incredible. It takes some time to get used to (or at least it did for me. I gave one to my mum as a gift and she got used to it immediately). It makes such a difference. Not only for your hair. I bought one for my skin. Cotton can be harsh and wrinkles. You know those lines when you slept really deep? No more.

    • Charlotte

      PS. Please tell me about New Wash! I have been following their Instagram account for such a long time and I’ve been stalking them to start selling it in the Netherlands (or Europe). What is your experience with it? I read Yasmin Sewell uses it. I mean… that woman has some seriously great hair!

      • Kimberlee

        I know others really like it–and their PR people are uber aggressive on blogs, but New Wash gave me dandruff.

      • Haley Nahman

        I love it!! It’s the best shampoo I’ve ever used, totally fixed my damaged hair (I literally gasped a la Krista) but you have to use SO MUCH OF IT!! So it’s costly

  • Carla

    Welcome to a black girl’s world lol. That’s a must for all girls actually, works magic! Also the silk feel better on you skin.

  • Emily Graham

    what kind of keratin treatment do you get/where do you get it? i’m shopping around!

    • Haley Nahman

      My fave fave fave kind is cadiveu, but I can never find that kind anywhere!! Haven’t found it in New York but there are def a couple places in SF that do it.

      Diff brand keratins are vastly different! I’d always lean towards “the strongest one” a salon has…because a weak keratin is the worse. Too strong, I can work with.

      • kneelbeforetigers

        I use Keratin Complex, and it is STELLAR. The maintenance products are also top-notch, including the ridiculous deep conditioner. 10 minutes on my hair and it’s like silky heaven.

  • Chandra

    Glad you guys are finally catching on. Woman of color have been doing this for years.

    • lateshift

      yeah, I guess everyone else is pretty stupid. Congrats.

      • lateshift

        (btw my grandmother has been doing this since the 1940s. She’s not a woman of color. But yeah, this one white girl is a stand-in for all white girls, so: good comment.)

        • Savvy Sleepers

          Yes, we totally agree this is a beauty secret passed down for generations.

  • agoraphabulous

    Do you need to hand wash the pillowcases?

    • ESW

      My mother in law uses a silk pillowcase, and she just washes it normally.

    • Beatrice

      I can’t be bothered hand washing silk pillowcases when I change my pillowcases every few days, but I’ve found an alternative – bamboo pillowcases, they’re super silky smooth and soft, and you can machine wash them too. I got mine from ettitude for only $40 a set !

  • Harling Ross

    Sold. Especially because I woke up this morning and discovered that a family of small birds confused my hair for a nest.

    • Erica

      i love your hair harling!!!

      • Harling Ross

        Thank you, Erica <3 <3

    • Savvy Sleepers

      haha! We can relate to the birds nest.

      xo Savvy Sleepers satin pillowcases

  • BuffyAnneSummers97

    Wait why no conditioner?

    • Haley Nahman

      Conditioner makes my hair too flat! Which I know is counter-intuitive since you’d think I wanted to calm my hair down since I have so much of it, but I hate when it’s flat on top and big on the sides…v helmet-esque. Know what I mean?

      But also with New Wash you aren’t supposed to use conditioner!

  • Ash

    Sounds great, but $80 seems kind of crazy for a pillowcase… Has anyone bought a cheaper one off Amazon and had the same luck?

  • lily

    *orders instantly*

  • Emily Clare

    This is 100% me. So much hair that my salon makes me schedule two appointment times back to back.

    • Haley Nahman

      Omg I should do that! I always feel sooo bad

  • Samantha Lee

    Omg, you’ve convinced me. I’ve been wanting a silk pillowcase (to fix wrinkles in my face?), but that it does this with hair too?? SOLD.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

    • Haley Nahman

      Do you get sleep creases? I’ve heard silk pillowcases are amazing for that!!!

      Also my sister says when she wakes up she can still feel products on her face versus when she wakes up after sleeping on cotton.

  • Rheanonn Clarissa Perez

    i like the messy look the regular ol’ cotton pillowcase gives u!! but both look good. might have to try out that bumble & bumble product for that “piece-y look”. thanks haley!

    frheak.net

    • Haley Nahman

      Love invisible oil for piece-y-ness! If your hair is dirty and knotted and you brush it and add dry shampoo but don’t want your hair to look brushed and dry shampooed, just add the oil. Boom

  • WHOA THAT IS CRAZY!!!

  • Lex

    Wait but like … is the silk just as comfy to sleep on as a cotton pillow? I know that seems like a silly question, but did you notice any differences in that department? It wasn’t too, ya know, slippery?

    • meg

      I think it is just as comfortable.

    • Haley Nahman

      I like it more! It stays cool!

    • Beatrice

      Hmm for me it’s too slippery…i like bamboo pillow cases, they’re a perfect in between option, they’re also super silky smooth and soft, and they’re much cheaper too! I have these light pink ones from ettitude.

  • Carrie

    Yeah! I typically sleep with a satin scarf on my head, but am intrigued by the differences a satin pillowcase can make for your skin as well.

  • meg

    You should try wrapping your hair in silk scarf to sleep in for a few nights, same effect.

    • Haley Nahman

      Interesting will try!

  • kitmcc

    Sold – in fact I just went on the Nordstrom website and ordered one. A political thank you for the removal of the Ivanka Trump line for Nordstrom and a beauty boost all in one sweep! NEVER in my wildest dreams would I normally buy a $100 pillowcase (king) but Trump is driving me to craziness!

    • Haley Nahman

      Yes!!!

    • Love this! I’m basically treating corporations like children/dogs reprimand for bad behavior, positive reinforcement for good behavior.

  • Abi

    Yes – I converted about a year ago and its all true!

  • Yes! I sleep with a silk bonnet anddd a silk pillow case (just in case the bonnet comes off during my crazy sleeping habits).

    • Haley Nahman

      Omg i want to sleep in a bonnet just for aesthetic purposes!

      • Yasmin Leigh

        Our culture isn’t an “aesthetic”. Stop fetishising and appropriating black culture already. It’s not cute. It’s ignorant.

        • Haley Nahman

          You’re right my comment was insensitive. I’m sorry!

          • elissa murphy

            Your comment was not insensitive. People complain about being treated different, then when you are honest enough to speak with them as your equal, they go all defensive.
            My mother used both a silk pillowcase and a silk bonnet so her hair would stay in place after paying money she didn’t have to have it styled.
            I, like you, wash my hair at night before bed and let G_d take over after that. However, mine is thinner and baby fine.
            I have read where it helps with spit ends, so I’ll give the silk pillowcase a try. It can’t hurt and my dog will love it.
            Anyway, I like your writing, keep it up.

        • AllieBlack

          A silk bonnet is “black culture”? Interesting theory. Why didn’t anyone mention this to my great-grandmother in 1920s Berlin, when she gave my grandmother a silk night-cap to protect her curls? That beauty advice is among the few specific memories of her own mother that wasn’t too painful for my Oma to share with me; it’s too painful for her to discuss the time before she was permanently separated from her entire family – who were murdered or died in the camps – and sent to England alone.
          Also, speaking of ignorant, nobody here used the words “an aesthetic” except for you. The word “aesthetic” is an adjective, not a noun. It means “visual beauty.” The phrase “just for aesthetic purposes” means “just for the purposes of looking beautiful.”
          I am stunned by the fact that Hayley Nahman apologized to you and thanked you for accusing her of “appropriating” a grooming technique that is unrelated to “black culture”…but of course, this is Ms Nahman’s workplace, and it is not in her job description to stand up to bullies who happen to be among Man Repeller’s readers.

          • Yasmin Leigh

            Oh I’m a bully? Wow. However will I sleep at night.

            I’m not going to even bother trying to explain the connotations between silk pillows, bonnets etc to someone that doesn’t know the definition of basic English words.

          • ZarinaBlue

            I am genuinely confused. I am from the south and every older lady I knew had helmet hair, satin bonnet, sometimes a pillowcase, sometimes just a satin piece of fabric tucked around the pillow. They we’re all older and white, asked my husband, same thing. I have pictures with my great grandmother in her satin bonnet and zip up house dress. I can tell you she wasn’t appropriating anything. I am sure, like most people never inquired what other people wear to bed.

        • H Aspden

          That has to be one of the most grotesquely entitled things I’ve read on the internet this year. Get the chip off your shoulder, Yasmin Leigh.
          Women of all colours, creeds, races, shapes and sizes have been doing this for centuries.
          It’s not owned by your culture and how dare you accuse someone of ignorance, when your own ignorance and bad attitude absolutely reeks of self indulgent posturing.
          Speaking of cultural misappropriation, can someone please tell Beyonce to stop wearing fake long blonde hair, it’s so offensive to white people that black women insist on wigs, extensions and weaves to fake having beautiful long hair. Just be yourselves and stop obsessing over white culture.

          • Chella ZA

            Exactly, stop appropriating white culture… works both ways!

        • Dreyaan

          Lol wow. A bonnet is black culture. That is amazingly stupid. Its black people like you that give us women of color a bad name.

    • Harling Ross

      i want to know more about your crazy sleeping habits

  • Madeline

    But do you have to dry clean it?

    • Savvy Sleepers

      Silk often needs to be hand-washed to help protect it. If you’re still looking, our Savvy Sleepers satin pillowcases are machine washable and more durable than silk, but have the same beauty benefits.

      xo Savvy Sleepers
      http://www.savvysleepers.com

  • Alyssa Blisko

    I have the NIGHT pillow! I was eager to buy it because it looks so good and luxurious. It’s the most comfortable pillow I’ve ever slept on, and my hair has never looked better!

  • Lindsay Slusher

    Um, I am super intrigued by this shampoo you use that requires no conditioner! Also, what brand are your glasses in the “after” photo? They look v similar to a pair of Ray Bans I have been contemplating and you may have just sold me.

    • Alicia Celeste

      NewWash from Hairstory is the best. I have super fine hair (so opposite of Haley) that is normally wavy. Over the years and hormonal changes, my hair became less curly and wavy, but now that I use New Wash my hair is bouncier, always smooth, and got its waves back! Been using it for almost a year. And seriously, you don’t need conditioner.

    • Haley Nahman

      New Wash is pretty amazing. Watch the vid on this page!! (omg i sound like a robot ad) http://www.shophairstory.com/www/product/869693000106

      Also the glasses are Zenni! THIRTY DOLLARS INCLUDING PRESCRIPTION. http://www.zennioptical.com/sepulveda-eyeglasses-1125214.html

      • Haley Nahman

        am i walking ad

  • Ayesha

    also if you have a kind friend with a sewing machine, silk from the fabric store is so much cheaper. you can get silk pillow cases for every season!!

    • Seriously. $80 for a pillowcase is Joanne level scamming at it’s finest.

      • kneelbeforetigers

        You can find them for much cheaper. I typically never pay over $20 for a silk pillowcase.

        • Mykel Nairne

          where do you get your silk pillowcases? struggling w my desire for the finer things and the reality of my bank account over here…

          • Savvy Sleepers

            There are many brands online. We also have high-end ultra smooth satin pillowcases called Savvy Sleepers that are vegan and retail for $39. They are machine washable and have the same beauty benefits of silk pillowcases.

            xo Savvy Sleepers
            http://www.savvysleepers.com

          • Chelsey

            I bought my silk pillow case at Sally’s beauty for $10.

  • Thank you for this post! I really want to invest in a silk pillow case. Does it specifically have to be silk, or does satin work as well? They are similar in texture so I’m curious!
    Thanks for sharing your results!
    XX -KK
    http://www.KayleeKarcher.com
    A Beauty & Lifestyle Blogger

    • BuffyAnneSummers97

      Satin is a way of weaving fibres, it’s not a fabric itself. You can have cotton satin, for example. When people think of ‘satin’ they’re usually thinking of polyester satin

  • Michelle

    can you sleep on a silk pillow case with wet hair??

    • DM

      Yes. I wake up to beautifully smooth wavy hair. A silk pillow case is good for acne-prone skin and to prevent wrinkles.

      • kneelbeforetigers

        But you need to wash it more, as the hair oils will transfer back into your facial skin as the build up!

  • Becca

    YOu are speaking to my soul!!!!
    I’ve been with thick/frizzy/tangled(will do anything in exchange for someone to brush my hair)/messy hair my whole life. Definitely going to try this out!

  • Habaloo

    Girl. I’m a believer

  • Kubla

    You are hilarious and beautiful. Need 2 silk pillowcases for when one is wash

  • penny

    I was getting such knotty hair, it was a huge problem. I was spending at least an hour trying to get my hair sorted every morning. A friend mentioned the silk pillow tip and it solved all my problems!

  • WHOA. So glad I read this because we kind of sound like hair twins. Going to buy silk pillowcases right now.

  • Jeanie

    Maybe this is only effective for hair with at least some texture to it. I have Asian straight hair, and though I’ve been sleeping on silk pillowcases for a couple of years now, I see no difference whatsoever. My hair is always smooth though (smooth… and flat,) so I can’t judge it based on that. I was hoping it would help with fallout, but It doesn’t look like it does for me. I only keep them, cause I already paid for them, and they do look nice, haha.

    It would be nice if all the hair tips out there considered hair texture. It took me a while to realize how different my straight, oily hair’s needs are.

  • soniadelvalle

    I also been the object of fascination/horror of stylists for years (“stylists HATE her!”), my hair is like yours but long and wavy which makes it a tad worse, I shall silk up my life.

  • Jessica

    Sold.

  • Rachel Ann Stuart

    Finally made the switch to a silk pillowcase and it’s amazingly different! West Elm’s silk bedding is lovely… and currently on sale! http://www.westelm.com/products/silk-duvet-cover-shams-b1955/?pkey=csateen-silk-bedding&&csateen-silk-bedding

  • Alex

    Why the pillow AND the pillow case? Seems the pillow is already covered in silk?

    • AllieO

      The pillow she chose is really, really expensive. It will be ruined if she uses it without a case… though I’m not sure why a silk case over a regular, non-silk pillow isn’t sufficient.

  • Jillian K

    Haley! Just wondering your thoughts about New Wash, does it really work?

  • Jillian K

    Where are the before glasses from? LOVE THEM.

  • Coco

    Haley!!! Thank you for giving me the final push to buy a silk pillowcase!! It magically arrived on Valentines Day (which felt very appropriate) and after just one night of sleeping on it my hair is soooo much smoother! I usually awake to a tangled mess of frizz and waves but not today. Much love!

  • Olympia

    Haley, and girls with thick hair: you should try neoprene hair ties if you haven’t already! They’re a revolution for me.

  • Beatrice

    Silk is great but it’s just too expensive! And most of the time I just can’t be bothered to hand wash them…Found an alternative bamboo pillowcases, they are super silky and machine washable – only $40 for a set too! I have the pastel pink ones from Ettitude and i love them so much 🙂

  • Thanks for providing useful information. I want to have a new hairstyle for the trip in this month. My destination is Vietnam, a lovely country. Hope that you will take beautiful photos with this perfect hairstyle.
    https://indochinadaytours.com/cuisine/vietnam-awesome-travel-food.html

  • rolaroid

    I gotta ask, why no conditioner? It may make your hair softer!

  • oh my god why am i discovering this a month late. apparently we are hair twinz and i need to invest in a silk pillowcase, stat. also, um, new wash works??

  • b_rose96

    I tried this and it worked! I have very similar hair, always frizzy and constantly tangled. I also started using New Wash and I LOVE IT.

  • rachel

    i liked it better before…?

  • chaitanya arora

    hey we are a design and development studio selling peace silk nightwear and pillowcases. Peace silk is what should be used as it does not have the farmfull chemicals conventional silk has. peace silk does everything regular silk does but better as its purest form. soft and beautiful!

  • Shelley Nunez

    Your hair sounds just like mine. I’ve always kept a,short hair style because of how thick and coarse it is. However, the last 2 years I’ve been letting it grow. I don’t blow dry it, as it causes severe dryness, brittle. I learned how to wrap my hair in a silk scarf. It helps tremenously. And good products.

  • Rhona Uí Ríain

    I bought one a few months ago, I have long, fine curly hair that het’s DESTROYED when I go to bed! I actually was so impressed with hoe much it’s helped my hair. It really fucking works!

  • Savvy Sleepers

    Love this post and silk and satin pillowcases can make such a big difference and help protect hair from split ends and breakage. We also have a line of anti-aging satin pillowcases that are vegan and soothing for skin called Savvy Sleepers.

    xoSavvySleepers
    http://www.savvysleepers.com

  • Lauren

    This is slightly off topic but have you ever tried the Aquis Hair Turbans? I heard it also helps to reduce frizz as well as dry thick hair like your (and mine) faster. I want to try it but I read two reviews that it’s not exactly meant for thick hair, wondering what your thoughts are. Thanks!

  • Zeba Noor

    I am so impressed by your article that now I am planning to invest in one such case… Thanks a lot!!

    http://www.heartydiaries.com

  • elizabeth

    It’s so true about sleeping on silk- not only amazing for your hair but also anti-aging and and helps skin retain it’s natural moisture, unlike cotton. I have an entire textiles line made of 100% silk charmeuse, naturally dyed using flowers and leaves, called Leizu. It’s named after the chinese empress credited with the discovery of the silk fiber. Also, women have been sleeping on silk for CENTURIES!
    elizabethfewstudio.com

  • Hi Haley, Nice blog and well explained. Rally, a silk pillowcase in my biased opinion is one of the smartest beauty products you can invest in. These cases keep your hair shiny and frizz-free and won’t absorb your skin’s natural moisture…..http://www.gotoskincare.com/natural-skincare/face-case

  • Thanks for posting information about silk pillowcase for acne problems
    that really helpful for those who dont know about benefits of silk
    pillowcase for acne problems.
    we also provide the same service of silk pillowcase best for your acne problems.For more information contact us and visit our website http://www.dameessentials.com