3 Reasons You Should Sleep on a Silk Pillowcase

Bedhead begone! The fabric you sleep on can affect the health of your hair and skin.

Silk pillows Photo: Getty Images

Sleeping Beauty might have been cursed (or blessed?) with 100 years of zzz’s, but the girl presumably had one thing going for her: a silky pillow. Upon awakening, her golden mane remained frizz-free and her skin creaseless. Was the pillowcase the catalyst?

Perhaps, but of course, you don’t need to be a princess to reap the benefits of a silk pillowcase—just at least $30. Whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach, the smooth, slippery surface can be beneficial for a number of reasons.

1. Less Hair Damage and Frizz

The benefits of sleeping on a silk pillowcase are most pronounced for hair, experts say, because the smooth surface reduces friction and thus breakage.

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Certain fabrics, like cotton sheets, can catch the cuticle layer of hair, which is bumpy and shingled, says Brenda Amaral, co-founder of True Hair Education, a program for hair professionals that’s based in Boston. The friction lifts and tears these layers, causing damage and worsening any existing damage. Sleeping on silk helps prevent this friction, she says, especially if you toss and turn a lot and if you have curly hair, which needs extra TLC.

“Curly hair should always be on a silk pillowcase,” Amaral says. This hair type naturally has porosity issues because the cuticle stands up off of the hair strand where the wave pattern is its strongest. “You want to be extra sure that you are being gentle with that hair.”

Hair products that are high in pH, such as chemical straighteners, dyes, perms, and some shampoos, can also swell the cuticle and cause it to work like Velcro against a pillowcase, Amaral says. Again, a silk pillowcase would help.

2. More Moisture Maintained

“There is some evidence that when compared to typical cotton pillowcases, less moisture is absorbed with a silk pillowcase,” says Janiene Luke, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at Loma Linda University in California. These benefits are more pronounced for hair, especially curly and textured hair. 

Curly or natural hair doesn’t retain as much moisture as straight hair and is more prone to breakage. Cotton tends to absorb moisture, so it’ll sap what little moisture is in your hair overnight. 

Slugging fans, take note: The same goes for your skin. In a third-party lab test, the silk pillowcase brand Slip compared its product to cotton pillowcases and the results showed that the silk absorbed significantly less face cream than the cotton.

3. Fewer Facial Wrinkles and Creases

The theory is that silk’s slippery surface reduces friction on the skin, and thus reduces the facial wrinkles and morning creases that other fabrics might cause when you sleep on your side or face. 

Luke says that friction can be decreased by sleeping on silk’s smoother surface, but it’s not the first line of defense in an anti-aging skin regimen. This has not been extensively studied in the clinical setting, but Slip’s lab testing with deer skin showed that silk created 43 percent less friction, on average, than cotton.

And while some brands make claims that their silk pillowcases help with acne, Luke says probably not. “Regular changing and washing of your pillowcase is more important, and required no matter which fabric you choose.”

Should You Get a Silk Pillowcase?

If you have undamaged, straight, virgin hair and have had no issues with cotton pillowcases, there’s no need to switch over unless you want to indulge a little. A better upgrade—for your sleep, anyway, might actually be to buy a better pillow (a top-rated one from our lab tests).

Those with curly, damaged, or chemically treated hair might want to give a silk pillowcase a try. If you don’t want to spend a lot, there are more lower-priced options that have silk on one side and cotton on the other side (this also helps prevent the pillow from slipping off your bed).

You can also opt for satin—which is a type of weave, not material. A satin that’s made from synthetic fibers will often be cheaper than silk and still provide a smooth, glossy surface. And a satin-lined cap might do the same things for your hair that a satin pillowcase would.

At the end of the day (or in this case, first thing in the morning), a silk pillowcase might provide some benefits to hair and skin, but it’s not going to be as life-changing as, say, the first kiss from your Prince or Princess Charming.

Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

I cover the intersection of people, products, and sustainability, and try to provide humorous but useful advice for everyday living. I love to dive deep into how things work, and debunking myths might be my favorite pastime. But what I aim to be above all else is a guiding voice while you're shopping, telling you what's a value, what's a rip-off, and what's just right for you and your family.