The Real Difference Between Silk Presses And Flat Irons

Even beauty aficionados can mix up the meanings of different products, tools, and techniques, like how to tell the difference between toners and essences or curling irons and wands. When it comes to hair specifically, another one of the more confusing ones is the difference between silk presses and flat irons. The nuances may be small, but it's always important to understand the purposes and characteristics before you try something out — especially in terms of beauty.

Putting it simply, the main difference is one is a tool and the other is a treatment. A flat iron, or straightener, is the tool, and its skills go beyond what its name says. You most likely already have this mechanism at home to straighten out hair as well as curl, wave, and crimp it. A silk press on the other hand, is a technique or method that uses a flat iron, and is usually done in salons. It incorporates several steps, and its mainly used to take people who have natural hair from curly or coily to straight.

Hairstylist Le'Ana McKnight told Byrdie, "The term silk press has been around forever, but the method received its name from a play-on-words: using a pressing comb and having the ability to see an individual's hair go from a coily to a silky look in one sitting without the use of chemicals or hair smoothers."

Is a flat iron or silk press best for my hair?

Both flat irons and silk presses utilize two panels of heat to flatten and lengthen out hair. Depending on the price you pay, a straightener can have special settings, protective coatings, and even steam capabilities. A flat iron can be used on its own without products — though adding in a protectant or serum is highly recommended — and a silk press uses a flat iron among other tools and products to straighten the hair. This process often goes in an order similar to this: wash, blow dry, cut, then press (via Byrdie).

While heat damage is a valid concern, using a heat protectant and spacing out the times in which you subject your hair to a straightener or get a silk press can keep this at a minimum. In fact, in many ways, silk presses can be a safer and healthier alternative from other traditional methods of straightening hair, like relaxers, which can have negative consequences, especially if used improperly (via Teen Vogue). Whether you choose to get a treatment or DIY it yourself at home, it's a matter of choosing what's best for your hair.