It’s never been more important to improve the quality of our sleep, thanks to various factors, including the growing ways in which technology plays havoc with circadian rhythms, heightened stress levels – or the dreaded, sleep-disrupting clock changes of British Summer Time.
The good news? Our bodies know how to make the most of our downtime, a perfect example of which is the way in which our skin’s ability to regenerate kicks up a gear at night.
One of the biggest ways in which we can give our skin a helping hand is by investing in a silk pillowcase – unlike cotton, the material won’t soak up night creams and oils, helping it make the most of its night time moisture hit.
The slipperiness of silk also means that the material won’t pull on skin as we shift and turn in the night. Instead, the material will slide against it, rather than tug.
Unlike cotton, silk won’t form stiff creases (the same ones which leave mirror images on our faces in the morning). It’s also a great temperature regulator, drawing excess heat away from the body while keeping us warm during the colder months, thanks to its ability to closely drape the body.
Although there are four main types of silk (mulberry, eri silk, tasar and muga), almost all the silk you’ll come across in the UK is mulberry. This type is hypoallergenic and made from fibres with a coating of a protein known as sericin, which is antibacterial and resistant to mould. One factor prone to more variation is the silk’s momme, which indicates the density (and quality).
Almost all silk pillowcases have a thickness of 19 or 22, although our selection includes a pillowcase with a momme of 25 – somewhat of a novelty and, in our opinion, not particularly necessary.
After hours of testing (which included more than just sleeping) it became clear that, in most cases, anything with a momme of 19 or over provides the desired results we were looking for, which were less skin creasing and increased absorption. Trust us – from this point on, cotton just won’t cut it.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Best silk pillowcases to buy in 2021:
Best for fizz-free hair: John Lewis & Partners the ultimate collection silk pillowcase: £45, Johnlewis.com
Best for crease-free skin: The White Company Audley silk Oxford pillowcase: £50, Thewhitecompany.com
Best range of designs: Slip pillowcase: £85, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best value: This is Silk silk pillowcase: £49.99, Thisissilk.com
John Lewis & Partners the ultimate collection silk pillowcase
Best for: Fizz-free hair
As much as we love the look of a cream, white or silver silk pillowcase, the downside is there’s simply no hiding an errant drop of face oil or an accidental splash of tea, and we don’t think there are enough pillowcases available in darker colours. For this reason, we’re overjoyed that John Lewis & Partners’s 19-momme silk pillowcase is available in several darker shades, including a deliciously inky navy and a gorgeously deep cassis. The design makes it ideal for minimalists – there’s no border and the slimline inner envelope flap didn’t tickle our face in the annoying way others did. It left our skin gorgeously crease-free and was also a fantastic frizz-fighter – this was tested on a particularly damp, frizz-inducing evening, but we awoke to wonderfully sleek, frizz-free locks.
The White Company Audley silk Oxford pillowcase
Best for: Crease-free skin
This 100 per cent silk, 19-momme pillowcase comes in just one shade: chalk. It’s understated but elegant, with dainty stitching separating the main square from the pillowcase’s border, and an extra-large opening flap which allows us to stuff the stubbornest of pillows into this case in nanoseconds. We loved the fact that we couldn’t see a single skin crease after a hard night of sleeping (sorry, testing), a reminder that multiple factors affect silk’s ability to improve the appearance of our skin – not just the momme.
Best for: Range of designs
Slip’s pillowcase gets top marks for the huge range of designs (dozens of colours and some particularly gorgeous marbled prints) and the use of 22-momme silk. This is one seriously slippy pillowcase, designed and refined (according to the blurb, which we’re inclined to believe after testing it) over 10 years in order to achieve the holy grail of shine, thickness, softness and durability. While we love an innovative approach to packaging, we’d never want this to be to the detriment of Mother nature – Slip’s pillowcase comes in a glossy painted box that doesn’t appear to be recyclable, and features a magnetic closure strip along one side (definitely not recyclable). Our verdict? A brilliant skin-smoother which aided the absorption of oils, serums and creams, and left our hair sleek and shiny – despite the fact that we’d dozed off with damp locks, in a particularly muggy hotel room.
This is Silk silk pillowcase
Best for: Good value
All too often, the mass-produced aspects of some silk pillowcases affect their quality – whether it’s design flaws or a disconnect between manufacturer and customer. Not so with This is Silk, the brainchild of Sonal Keay – a former barrister whose sensitive skin (she suffers from chronic actinic dermatitis, where skin becomes inflamed after exposed to sun light or artificial light) prompted her to create her very own silk brand. The result? One of the smoothest, silkiest pillowcases we’ve come across, which is all thanks to Keay’s passion for seeking out top quality silk and her self-confessed obsession with how silk feels on the skin. After an eight-hour sleep, our skin didn’t just look smooth and supple, but more radiant too – a reminder of this pillowcase’s ability to ensure our moisturiser soaked into our skin, not the silk. This is Silk’s borderless pillowcases, which come in a wide range of colours, are also brilliant value – it’s unusual to find a 22-momme silk pillowcase for under £50.
The Nap Co 100% mulberry silk pillow case
This pillowcase, available in six shades, had us at hello. Why? It’s 25-momme (the highest momme of all of the pillowcases in this round-up) and it’s got a zip, prompting us to wonder why more pillowcases don’t feature this wonderful invention. Do people really prefer dozing off knowing that their pillow will inevitably edge its way out of its pillowcase at one point or another? Is there some kind of unwritten rule that adding a metal zip is an insult to the softness of a silk pillowcases? Either way, we can confirm that we’re radiant, dewy-skinned converts, thanks not just to the design, but the top quality silk and the avoidance of non-toxic dyes – more common than many consumers realise.
Holistic Silk pure mulberry anti-ageing pillowcase
Holistic Silk was one of the first brands to launch a silk pillowcase specifically designed to improve the appearance of the skin. Since 1999, the only improvement has been the addition of more colours (there are now five in total), but the product remains the same – a luxuriously thick, 22-momme silk borderless pillowcase which does exactly what it says on the tin, keeping our hair frizz-free, our skin crease-free and making it easier for our skin to absorb our night creams and serums. The only gripe was that the skincare products we used seemed to stain this pillowcase quite easily, although the new darker colours make this less of an issue.
Gingerlily Oxford mulberry silk pillowcase
Gingerlily’s bordered pillowcase is one of the largest silk pillowcases in our round-up, and a great way to add a dash of extravagance to bedrooms – this 19-momme pillowcase’s rightful home is surely atop a four-poster bed. It’s got an incredibly luxurious feel – proof that a lower momme can still feel just as soft on the skin. It’s also a reminder of how tricky it is to tell the difference between pillowcases by feel alone – although Gingerlily’s felt similar to many of the others we tested, it was one of the best when it came to making sure our hair remained frizz-free.
The Ethical Silk Company silk pillowcase
Weirdly, this silk pillowcase felt slightly rougher than the others, although on the plus side, this makes it ideal for those who aren’t keen on the slipperiness of silk. The material’s feel is apparently down to the production process – one which also gives the case a more matte appearance. After some initial scepticism, we became converts – the 19-momme silk still banishes static and won’t tug or crease skin, but the lightly textured finish provides a cotton-like cosiness we’ve yet to find in any other silk pillowcase.
M&S pure silk pillowcase
This is a pretty 100 per cent silk pillowcase that is free from the bells and whistles you’ll often find on similar products. Plus M&S’s borderless silk pillowcase is fantastic value at just £45. Available in just two colours (white and light grey) it’s a reminder that this type of pillowcase doesn’t need tissue-stuffed gift boxes or Bible-like pamphlets over-amplifying the effects of slumbering on a silk pillowcase. Despite tough testing conditions – a muggy night involving lots of tossing and turning – our skin was fantastically soft and smooth in the morning. A side note: when testing this particular pillowcase, we (accidentally) committed the cardinal sin of leaving our make up on, but the fact that our artfully-applied eye shadow remained smudge-free in the morning is testament to the skin-smoothing slip of this pillowcase.
Silk pillowcase FAQs
Is silk or satin better for your hair?
You can buy pillowcases in either silk or satin and each have their advantages. They both have the same smoothing benefits, with the main differences between them being in their make up: silk is a natural fiber, while satin is manufactured from other materials. However, satin still feels soft to the touch and can even feel smooth like silk.
It is also worth considering how much you want to spend on a pillowcase, as the price points are slightly higher when it comes to silk. A satin pillowcase is a great choice if you can't stretch to the price of a silk one, as it still offers some great skincare and haircare benefits over a cotton pillowcase.
Do silk pillowcases really make a difference?
In short: yes. When it comes to your hair and skin, a silk or satin pillowcase will help reduce the effects that friction from tossing and turning can cause, such as creases on your face and frizzy or tangled tresses.
How should you wash a silk pillowcase?
While it is best to check the washing care instructions that come with your specific pillowcase, the majority of styles can be washed either by hand or in a machine.
Silk pillowcase brand Slip recommends using a PH-neutral liquid detergent and/or fabric softener to prevent the material from hardening and to ensure that the temperature is kept below 30 degrees Centigrade. The safest method if your machine doesn't specify exact heat settings is either cold or just one level above.
A delicates bag is also optional, depending on your washing machine and whether or not it tends to grab items and tear them.
If you wish to maximise the life of your pillowcase, hand washing is the ultimate method but whatever you do, do not place it in a tumble dryer to dry.
The verdict: Silk pillowcases
In an age where silk pillowcases often come with triple-figure price tags, John Lewis & Partners’s pillowcase is a reminder that you don’t have to blow the budget to sleep on quality silk. We also loved the wide range of colours and the minimalist design – it was extremely comfortable to sleep on, with none of the added face-tickling extras sported by many silk pillowcases. This is Silk’s pillowcase comes a close second, due to the wonderfully luxurious feel of the material, while Slip gets an honourable mention for the fantastic range of colours.
Get the best night’s sleep, and read our review of the best mattresses for 2021
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.