If you’ve ever woken up with knotty, tangled hair that feels dry to the touch, your cotton pillowcase might be to blame. This material can rob your hair of moisture and be particularly harsh on thicker or curlier hair prone to frizzing. Cotton pillowcases can even wreak havoc on the skin, leading to early signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles.

As celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin reveals:

“Cotton absorbs moisture, while silk retains it, so when you lie on a silk or satin pillowcase, the oils from your strands are maintained rather than soaked up, leaving your hair nourished rather than dry.”

If you have been waking up to hair that resembles a bird’s nest rather than a healthy-looking do, the solution is easy: A satin or silk pillowcase. In recent years, satin and silk pillowcases, scarves, and hair bonnets have become a must-have accessory in the beauty world, offering brilliant protection from dehydration and breakage. These materials can lock in moisture and prevent friction, which in turn can break and damage hair.

Both materials are breathable, hypoallergenic, and allow hair to retain its natural oils, thus promoting hydration for all hair types.

Here we explore both materials and determine which is the best for excellent hair care. If you’ve ever wondered, “what’s the difference between silk and satin pillowcases?” this guide is for you.

Let’s break down the satin vs silk debate!

Cheerful young woman lying on bed

What’s the Difference?

There are a few essential differences between satin and silk. The biggest one being that silk is a completely natural fibre, and satin is a human-made weave. However, it’s a little more complex than that.


Worms make silk. Yep, you read that correctly! A specialized protein fibre is created by silk moths when they spin their cocoons. The unique fibres are then harvested, and this luxurious, soft fabric is made. Unfortunately, the hatchlings destroy the woven silk, so the cocoon has to be unravelled before this occurs, usually in boiling water. During the process, the silkworm loses its life. It is estimated that around 2500 worms lose their lives to produce 1 pound of silk.

Silk has a rich history and was first discovered in ancient China almost 9000 years ago. To this day, China is the leading silk producer globally, accounting for around 74 % of the world’s silk. While a few insects produce silk, the most popular silk-producing creature is the Mulberry silkworm.

Known for its opulence and luxury, a single thread of silk requires thousands of silkworms. For this reason, it is an expensive fabric and costs more than synthetic fabrics like satin.


While silk is natural, satin is a human-made woven material, often made of a variety of materials, including rayon, silk blends, polyester, and nylon. Known for their glossy surface, satin pillowcases are a popular choice in the beauty world, offering softness and suppleness for both hair and skin. Since it’s so malleable, it will move as you toss and turn, providing great protection.

Bridgette Hill, a professional stylist, praises satin for its movement. Sharing: “Satin is much more forgiving, as it moves with the hair, which reduces the friction between the hair fibre and the pillowcase or surface.”

Since satin is made from synthetic materials, no insects or animals are harmed in the process.

Advantages of Silk Over Satin

Both silk and satin have some tremendous advantages. When it comes to silk over satin, these include:

  • More luxurious and softer to the touch
  • Particularly beneficial to textured or curly hair that is prone to frizz

Advantages of Satin Over Silk

However, satin has some great advantages too. Including:

  • More affordable and accessible in mainstream stores and online outlets
  • Easier to clean thanks to the blend of synthetic materials (can be popped in the washing machine for added ease.)
  • Ethically superior as no insects are killed in the process of making satin. It is, therefore, better suited to anyone following a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Check out our reviews of the Best Hair Dryers and Hair Straighteners

Satin and Silk Advantages for Skin 

As an added bonus, switching from a cotton pillowcase to a satin or silk one also has some fantastic advantages for your skin. This includes:

  • Preventing the formation of fine lines as you sleep
  • Reducing breakouts and skin irritation thanks to their hypoallergenic properties
  • Keeping your skin cool, and let’s be honest, nothing feels better than the cold side of the pillow.

Top tips:

  • You don’t have to replace all of your pillows with satin or silk cases. Buy two pillowcases and rotate them each week on the cushion that you sleep on. The one that directly touches your hair can be satin or silk, and cotton can still be used underneath.
  • If you don’t want to take the plunge and buy a silk or satin pillowcase, opt for a satin or silk hair scarf to wear at night. This will protect your hair and prevent any tangles or breaks.

The Final Verdict

Both satin and silk pillowcases can lock in moisture and protect your hair. Both are breathable and gentle enough to protect your strands and keep that moisture in.

Since both materials feel so soft to the touch, they can do wonders for skin and hair. Your final decision will largely come down to budget, ethics, and hair type.

Satin cases are great for those who don’t want to spend a fortune, prefer to purchase animal-friendly products, and who don’t have significant issues with frizz and breakage. Silk cases have a slight advantage for those with super textures or course hair and might offer some superior protection if the hair is particularly prone to tangling. Both, however, work like a charm.

Both pillowcases are far more beneficial than cotton ones and will undoubtedly improve the quality and health of your hair and skin, promoting shine and volume.

Let us know if you have ever tried a silk or satin pillowcase! How were the results? We cannot wait to hear!