Does Using a Silk Pillowcase for Hair Truly Make a Difference?

Here's what you should know if you're trying to find the best pillowcase for hair health.

Hair Health Hotline
Getty Images.

Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

There are plenty of reasons you might decide to invest in silk pillowcases that have absolutely nothing to do with hair. They're a relatively affordable way to add a small luxury to your home, and they can offer a lovely sensorial experience every time you head to bed. But on top of all that, silk pillowcases are known as a superior choice to cotton options in terms of their effects on hair and skin health.

Your choice in pillowcase may seem like a pretty inconsequential factor in your hair's health, so maybe you'd like a little more context before buying into the buzz surrounding silk. Here, hair restoration surgeon Alan J. Bauman, M.D., A.B.H.R.S., founder, CEO, and medical director of Bauman Medical Group, shares the details on using a silk pillowcase for hair health.

Q: Do silk pillowcases really help hair health? I've been using a cotton pillowcase for years and am wondering if I really need to switch.

A: Switching from a cotton pillowcase to a silk option can benefit your hair, since silk is less likely to dry hair out and cause friction, according to Dr. Bauman.

If you need a refresher, silk is a natural fiber that's made from the cocoons of silkworms according to an article in the journal Polymers. Typically, raw silk is boiled in soap and water to soften a gummy component called sericin, which in turn unravels the fiber. This process results in thin strands that are woven together to create a yarn, which can be used to create silk fabric, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Benefits of Silk Pillowcases for Hair

An advantage of switching to a silk pillowcase is that they're less likely to dehydrate your hair, says Dr. Bauman. "Cotton pillowcases can absorb the moisture in your hair, dehydrating the strands," he says. While cotton is hydrophilic (read: it readily absorbs moisture), silk is naturally hydrophobic (meaning it tends to repel water), according to a study published in the journal PLOS One. When hair lacks moisture, it looks drier and is more prone to breakage, says Dr. Bauman.

What's more, sleeping on a cotton pillowcase creates more friction on your hair compared to using a silk pillowcase, which can damage the cuticle (the outermost protective layer) of your hair, says Dr. Bauman. By "roughing up" up the cuticle, cotton may contribute to frizz and unmanageability, he says.

Hair Health Hotline
Courtesy of Alan J. Bauman.

How to Promote Healthy Hair While You Sleep

Investing in a silk pillowcase can improve your hair's health for months to come, and the pillowcases are beneficial to every hair type, according to Dr. Bauman. But if you're looking for a less expensive route, satin pillowcases are equally beneficial to hair health, he notes.

Whether or not you decide to switch to a silk pillowcase, there are other steps you can take to minimize the hair damage you incur while you sleep. If you have a cotton pillowcase, you can wear a silk or satin protective scarf so that your hair won't be exposed to the cotton, says Dr. Bauman. You can also consider applying a light moisturizing product (e.g., a leave-in conditioner) before bed if your hair feels dry, he says.

It's best to avoid sleeping with your hair wet or in a tight ponytail, says Dr. Bauman. Tight hairstyles can cause breakage (the elastic can tug at and weaken your hair) and, when worn repeatedly, hair loss from tension. Hair is more fragile when wet, so tossing and turning on your pillow with wet hair can lead to breakage as well.

Your hair's health isn't strictly a reflection of the products you choose to apply. Using a silk pillowcase for hair and making other tweaks to your routine can help you limit damage and frizz.

Have a hair health question you want answered? Send your Q to for a chance to have it featured in a future installment of Hair Health Hotline.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles