Lets face it, as Black girls, what to put on our heads at night has been an ongoing discussion for so long that most of us have given up and just take a guess at what will work best. Usually, we read the packaging at the beauty supply store to help us decide or we go based on what some website has told us about their product and why it will work. For some of us, our choices have led to frayed edges and split ends. We enviously look at social media photos wishing we had “her hair”. But getting a clearer picture of WHY our hair isn't what we want is the best way to improve it. What you sleep with at night is part if that discovery.
So to clear some fog I want to break down 4 common types of fabrics and rank them for you from the not so great to the best so that you can make an informed decision about your hair and what will ACTUALLY work for you.
4. NYLON - Cheaper Head ties
Nylon is a synthetic fibre that was created in the 1930’s by DuPont that is stretchy and can fit your head well in the form of a head tie. However as a non natural fibre it doesn't have any moisture retaining properties and is completely drying. Remember back in the day when our moms used to cut up pantyhose and use it as a head tie? Yes… well ummm thats where stockings got the name “Nylons”…so in other words its bad for your hair (and for the ladies still putting stockings on their head at night - and you know who you are - please stop it. It encourages breakage because of its rough texture - so I rate this one the lowest on the list. Its just a no-go ladies!
Pros - Inexpensive and has enough stretch to fit your head well
Cons - Made of synthetic fibres and generally has a rougher texture which encourages hair breakage and splitting
Cost - $ fairly inexpensive
3. COTTON - Mostly used in pillowcases
Cotton is a natural fibre that keeps cool in hot environments. Good pillowcases that are make of cotton keep us cool at night while sleeping because they absorb moisture. This is the very thing however that makes it problematic on Black hair. Using only a cotton pillow case will strip the hair of needed moisture and create dry strands. In addition to that, turning back and forth on your pillowcase at night will cause breakage on the ends of the hair. Because its a natural fibre its slightly higher on the list but not recommended overall. If you're using a cotton pillow case I suggest using it in combination with a head tie made of Satin or Silk. Cotton comes in various qualities and I’m by NO MEANS saying not to sleep on a cotton pillowcase (heck, I do!) but used ALONE its not a great option for black hair. Hence its #3 spot on the list.
Pros - Natural fibre that breathes well and keeps cool
Cons - Will dry out the hair and deplete it of moisture
Cost - $ - $$$ the varying qualities of cotton make it hard to pin down to a cost range. More expensive cottons (like bamboo) can, well… be just that - expensive!
2. SATIN or Charmeuse (made from polyester) - head ties and pillowcases
Now let me make this crystal clear: SATIN IS NOT A FABRIC. Neither is Charmeuse. They are types of weaves that create the sheen (or shine) that you see when you look at it. Both weaves can be used on polyester (which is the most common) or on silk (silk can be woven various ways to create a variety of finishes). Poly-Satin head ties or pillow cases are smoother to the touch thereby creating less friction on the hair as you sleep and move. However because its a synthetic fabric, it can become hot and induce sweating in the scalp. Most head ties that say they're Satin are made from Polyester - keep that in mind! It’s not some “magical” fabric thats going to fix all your hair issues. But because of its smooth finish and relatively expensive price is a great option for a head tie. Its probably best not to use it as a pillow case if you get hot easily since as I mentioned already it can cause sweating and that will create skin issues down the road (but that conversation is for another day). Because Polyester Satin has a “silky” finish and its more affordable then silk, I give it the runner-up position.
Pros - Smooth finish is good for staving off breakage and dryness and is affordable
Cons - Is made of synthetic fibre and can retain quite a bit of heat and is not breathable
Cost - $ - $$$$ - will range from cheap to expensive. The variations in price may be based on the marketing of the brand, and its source country. Today thanks to technology Polyester (expecially from Japan) can look and feel just like pure silk and can be just as expensive. However I don't think its likely that these expensive polys will be used in pillowcases or head ties.
1. SILK (Woven in a Satin or Charmeuse Weave) - Head ties and pillowcases
So here is the creme de la creme of fabrics for both pillowcases and head tie fabrics (among a variety of other things but for this article lets keep it at these two uses). Silk is a natural fibre made from silk worms and they produce long smooth fibres that create one of the most sought after fabrics on the planet. Because it is natural it breathes very well and actually can regulate temperature (if you're hot its cooling and if your cold it can warm you up!) it makes for the perfect fabric for maintaining healthy Black hair. Used as a pillowcase alone works as well overall as the smoothness of the fabric will help the hair retain moisture and prevent breakage. As a caveat to using a pillowcase alone without a head tie, I will say having your hair directly on the pillowcase will cause some of your hair products to transfer onto the fabric and then onto your skin - and needless to say… that’s bad. As a head tie, 100% silk has no natural stretch so it makes it difficult to actually stay put! I don't know about you but when mine comes off at night, I’m waking up to put it back on and that can get annoying! Its common now to see Silk blended with other fabrics that have stretch such as Lycra - this is a plus when it comes to staying on your head! The main drawback is that its costly which makes manufacturers shy away from making things like pillowcases and head ties because most customers just wont pay what it will cost to sell at the retail level. But its my number one choice for hair health so its at the top of the list.
Pros - Natural, breathable fibres regulate temperature and help retain moisture while preventing breakage and splitting.
Cons - Its expensive and without a blend it has no stretch (fine for a pillowcase, not great for a head tie)
Cost - $$$ - $$$$ - expensive to very expensive (depending on its source country and weave)
Remember ladies, these are options and theres nothing better in life then that! Many of these fabrics can be blended with other things that improve their qualities thereby giving you the best of both worlds (as I mentioned about the stretch silk). I personally like having a cotton pillowcase and silk or poly-satin head tie (depending on the day). I wish you a lifetime of healthy beautiful hair! Stay curly lovelies!
About the Author - Natasha Patten
Blue is a fresh, innovative branch of the fashion industry. As an Image Design company, Blue encompasses the areas of Makeup Artistry, Fashion Design, Wardrobe Styling and Consultation.
With a degree in Fashion Marketing and a Certificate in Pattern Drafting both from Ryerson University and a diploma in Creative Makeup Design from the Toronto School of Make Up Art, Creative Director – Natasha Patten has more then a decade of experience and education working in the beauty and fashion industries. As an educator, her experience was gained at Bryan College of Applied Health and Business Sciences in the Faculty of Esthetics as the instructor for Makeup and Cosmetology course. Professionally, Natasha has worked as a makeup artist for the TV industry spanning over 10 years, working for various networks and shows with a variety of hosts and directors, and has done hundreds of weddings and special events with clients of every nationality. She also has experience with wardrobe styling for TV and personal wardrobe styling and consultation.
Her class “The Anti-Makeup Lesson” to teaches the basics of makeup knowledge and application to women of all backgrounds. As a clothing designer, Natasha has taken her years of experience and education in crafting custom clothing and has launched Blue - a ready-to-wear outerwear collection for men and women that has garnered the attention of notable artist Kardinal Official and other well known personalities. She continues to act as Creative Director of Blue Image Group and is currently designing new seasons of the collection.