The Dominican Blowout and the Silk Press are both popular methods for getting natural hair straight.
Both of them leave thick, heavily textured hair once typecast as "difficult to straighten" with greater movement and sleekness than most other temporary straightening methods.
But what is the difference between the Silk Press and The Dominican Blowout?
Silk Press, Dominican Blowout: What's The Difference?
Can you tell a silk press from a Dominican Blowout?
These popular hair straightening methods have a lot in common and the results - silky, glossy straightened hair - are similar. But they are not the same, and the differences between the silk press and the Dominican Blowout methods mean either process has different pros and cons for your hair.
What Is The Dominican Blowout?
The Dominican Blowout is the traditional method of straightening hair used in the Dominican Republic. It hasn't changed much in decades and has a pretty set procedure. Called the "lavado y secado" on the Caribbean island, this "wash and dry" process is a lot more intensive than its understated name would suggest.
The Dominican Blowout straightens natural hair, leaving it bouncy and silky without chemicals. Image by ElMarto.
The 7 Steps Of The Dominican Blowout
It all starts with a clarifying shampoo to remove the buildup that gets in the way of a smooth end result. Then, the hair is deep conditioned with a rich Dominican superconditioner.
The conditioner is part of the secret to getting your hair all the way straight while minimising heat damage: many Dominican conditioners, like atrActiva Multivitamin Treatment or Crece Pelo, are so rich they smooth the hair out and make it softer and flexible, to the point where it's easier and quicker to straighten, with straighter, sleeker results.
That's why the deep conditioning step is mandatory for a Dominican Blowout. It's also very nourishing for your hair.
After deep conditioning, your hair is set on rollers and you sit under the dryer. In Dominican hairdressing culture, using direct heat on wet hair is a no-no. The indirect heat of the hood dryer takes longer to dry your hair, but it's gentler.
The rollerset stretches the hair, partially straightening it - another step which makes it easier to blowdry straight. Rollersets add a lot of bounce and volume, too. Dominicans like a lot of movement in their hair so this step is crucial.
Once the hair is dry, rollers are removed and heat protectant in the form of an oil-free, water-free silicone serum is applied sparingly throughout your hair. Then, the stylist quickly and deftly moves through the hair with a blowdryer and roundbrush until your hair is blown smooth and straight.
A flat iron is not traditionally used, but some stylists will use one right after blowdrying, if the hair has been resistant, or to lock in straightness to keep the hair smooth for longer.
The final step in the Dominican Blowout is the "Doobie" or wrap: your hair is wrapped around your head to smooth it all the way straight and infuse even more movement and flow. If you want all the details on how to do a Dominican Blowout, we break down theBlowout Process here.
What is The Silk Press?
The silk press is a temporary, heat straightening technique that emerged circa 2010. A hybrid of the original hot press or hot comb technique and the Dominican Blowout, it differs from the two methods as it relies mainly on the flat iron tool for straightening.
Detailed definitions of what actually constitutes a silk press vary. Some silk presses are almost identical to the Dominican Blowout in methodology - the movement and super-straightness on even the tightest, natural hair that Dominican hairstylists introduced to New York salons during the late 90s and early 2000s heavily influenced the silk press.
Prior to that, pressing was done with hot combs or flat irons and heavy greases or pressing creams which left the hair stiff and heavy without movement.
The 6 Steps Of The Silk Press
Originally, the silk press involved using silk products to straighten the hair. These products, with silk proteins or amino acids on their ingredients lists, were used for the special strengthening and shine powers inherent in silk. Using them helped your hair withstand heat and added extra glossiness compared to a regular press or flat iron.
Back then, the typical process involved shampooing and conditioning with a silk conditioner before blowdrying and flat-ironing using heat protectants that also contained silk.
It's a criterion that Newark, NJ-based stylist Haj still applies today. "If you use silk products...to protect and seal the hair, then you're getting a silk press." she says. "If you are not using any type of silk product, you are not getting a silk press. It's not just about what the hair looks like when it's done," she explains in the above video, where she silk pressing a client's thick 4c curls.
Another typical component of the silk press was the silk wrap. Carried out after straightening is complete, the silk wrap step is very similar to the Dominican 'Doobie' - with one difference.
Instead of wrapping the hair and leaving it uncovered or tied with a satin scarf, in the silk wrap, hair is wrapped around the head, clipped in place and then covered with plastic wrap (cling film). The client then goes under the dryer or steamer for 5 minutes to "seal in" the look. You can see an example of this below:
Silk Press: A Look Or A Technique?
These days, there are almost as many different versions of the silk press as there are YouTube videos of the silk press process. Not all stylists include the silk wrap or silk products in their silk presses. For most, the 'silk' is about the end results - shiny, silky-smooth hair, rather than a particular step or product ingredients.
It's a look formulator Tei Brookes broke down, when asked to explain the difference between a silk press and flat ironing. "The technique [is] the same whether you're silk pressing or flat ironing, she says. "It's just the heat on the flat irons that yields a different result."
To Tei, a flat iron temperature of between 375-400°F (190-204°C) gives a typical flat iron look - lots of texture, but not as much shine. "In order to achieve a silkier, silk pressed look, the flat irons have to be higher," she says, in the range of 420-450°F (215-232°C).
Dominican Blowout vs Silk Press: What is safer for your hair?
Whether a Dominican Blowout or Silk Press is safer for your hair depends mostly on the stylists, their tools, and techniques.
That said, there are some basic differences in the processes which can affect the level of damage you get.
Most silk presses start with blowdrying on wet hair, which means the silk press heightens the risk of exposure to a kind of damage known as "bubble hair".
"Bubble hair" happens when you expose wet hair to heat above a certain temperature. The water boils inside the hair and creates bubble-shaped cavities before it evaporates. It's a form of damage that leads to brittleness and breakage at the point of the bubble and can happen from just one use of a heat tool on wet hair.
Since the Dominican Blowout avoids direct heat on wet hair - opting for rollersets under a dryer instead - the risk of bubble hair is low. As long as your hairdresser doesn't start the dryer off on a high temperature, you should be fine. The blowdry step is done on completely dry hair too, which reduces the possibility of hydrothermal damage to the hair.
Rollersets lower heat exposure in your Dominican Blowout or Silk Press. Image by Fernando Prada.
Do Silk Presses Use More Heat Than Dominican Blowouts?
The typical silk press uses direct heat, first from the blowdryer, then the flat iron, all the way through the straightening process. This increases your hair's overall exposure to heat and thus the risk of heat damage. The overall heat exposure will also depend on the settings used on the blowdryer and the flat iron.
In the Dominican Blowout, direct heat is used for the blowdry portion of the straightening. This is done on dry hair, which limits the risk of damage.
Your hair's level of resistance will determine the exposure to heat, as resistance affects how long it takes your hair to be blown straight. In some cases, the hair is almost completely straight from the roller set. The straighter your hair is post-roller set, the less blowdrying and thus heat exposure your hair will get.
What you definitely need to watch at this point is the heat level; if the blowdryer heat is too high this can cause some damage, even on dry hair.
Temperature: Silk Press vs Dominican Blowout
Blowdryers, flat irons and curling irons are styling tools that use direct heat. Image by Shari Sirotnak.
When it comes to heat damage, the most important factor is temperature. Keratin - the protein that is the main component of our hair begins to denature, or lose its shape at around 157°C or 315°F. (That's when it's dry - when wet, it's even lower). Loss of curl reversion - the most commonly used measure of heat damage for people with naturally curly hair - is obvious at 220°C (428°F) on dry healthy hair.
We have to emphasise this point: whether you're getting a silk press or a Dominican Blowout, if your hair is exposed to excessive heat, you will get heat damage. You might not see the damage at this point, but remember: just the fact that your curls revert once you wet your hair doesn't prove that it's not heat damaged.
Sometimes, the visible heat damage effects only show up after cumulative exposure to heat stress, or when your hair gets weakened by other styling stress. Nevertheless, the actual damage is recorded in your strands: once certain temperatures are reached, the disulphide bonds that hold your hair together are permanently broken.
How long does it take for heat damage to happen?
Damage can happen within just seconds of exposure to a blowdryer, a single pass of a flat iron. All it takes is for the temperature to be too high.
What tools are used in Silk Press and Dominican Blowout?
The type of tool used during your silk press or Dominican Blowout matters, too. The blowdrying element of Dominican Blowouts is always done with a roundbrush, which adds volume and movement to the hair.
However, the friction and extension from the brushing exposes hair to damage. To reduce this type of damage, the stylist's roundbrush skills need to be smooth and speedy. The stretch from the rollerset and the right deep conditioning treatment, plus the slip and protection from the dimethicone serum all help reduce damage, too.
atrActiva Shine Drops serum protects against heat and friction when blowdrying and flat ironing.
Since the silk press is not an iron clad procedure, for the blowdry phase stylists can use different tools - some go for a roundbrush, others use a Denman or similar brush, others use a pik attachment. The pik attachment tends to create more damage than a Denman or good quality roundbrush as it creates more tension on the hair.
Rollers are used in all Dominican Blowouts and some silk presses. The smooth magnetic type are typically used for both processes and as long as they are clipped in place with seamless clips or bobby pins, they are pretty gentle to the hair.
The flat iron and blowdryer are the riskiest tools used in both processes. Some stylists use blowdryers with settings that reach excessively high temperatures. Other times, faulty devices can overheat and damage hair that way, especially if used on wet hair.
Many modern flat irons are designed to reach temperatures of over 230°C (just under 450°F) which is close to the point that hair decomposes. By 220°C (428°C) between 33% to 41% of strands will not revert, so the damage is not just internal, it's visible on the outside, too.
It's very easy to break the heat barrier and damage your hair without realising, especially when you don't really know where that barrier is. The breakage or failure might only become apparent down the line - at which point it might be too late.
Grab our zero heat damage checklist. It's a list of the max temperatures you can hit with different tools and hair types to prevent heat damage:
Final Look: Silk Press vs Dominican Blowout
Both the silk press and the Dominican Blowout stand out from the average blowout or flat ironing because of their results. Both methods produce smooth, glossy hair with movement. So what's the difference?
Volume: Silk Press vs Dominican Blowout
You can generally expect more volume with a Dominican Blowout than a silk press. For one, the mandatory rollersetting step in a Dominican Blowout adds more volume to the end look.
Then there's the reliance on the flat iron in the silk press, which produces a flatter look. That's because flat irons compress hair to straighten, flattening the fibres with every pass, which robs hair of the volume you'd get from simply blowdrying. This is less of a problem on thicker hair, but it can make naturally thinner or finer hair look sparser or flatter when straightened with a silk press versus a Dominican Blowout.
If you aren't wearing your silk press bone-straight, your stylist will likely curl some body waves into your hair with the flat iron or a curling iron. This will correct the flat look, injecting a lot of volume, though it does increase your hair's exposure to heat.
Movement: Silk Press vs Dominican Blowout
When it comes to movement, the Dominican Blowout usually produces more flowing hair than the typical silk press. Most silk presses follow a process which takes the hair from wet to blowdried semi-straight, to flat ironed straight. Since there's no rollerset, the opportunity to create movement in the hair is lower.
In the Dominican Blowout, the rollerset infuses hair with movement and volume that can't be made up for later in the process. That said, silk presses do vary. On processes that use rollersets, the difference in movement between silk press and Dominican Blowout will be minimal if at all.
What Gets Hair Straighter: Silk Press or Dominican Blowout?
On looser curls in general (not all: there are some exceptions) there's not much of a difference in how straight your hair gets with a Dominican Blowout or a silk press.
How straight your hair gets depends on various factors. Image by Candice Le Picard.
Where you do begin to see a difference is with the tightest curls. To straighten your hair, you have to temporarily break some of the bonds that keep your hair curly. Tighter curled hair in the 4b-4c range has more bonds holding its curls together. That's because on tighter curls, there are many more curls per strand than on say, a 3b strand.
More curls = more bonds to break, so more energy needs to go into making the hair straight. That's why the tightest curls are often resistant to heat straightening; they require more energy to uncurl them.
In fact, in every curl type, there are cases of strong, healthy hair that has never been straightened which is also very resistant: again, there are more intact bonds to break to get it straight.
If you're getting a traditional Dominican Blowout and your stylist doesn't have the right combination of deep conditioners + rollerset game + arm strength + straightening skills + serum, and your curls are resistant, the results after the blowdry step will be less straight.
In these cases, your stylist might finish up with a flat iron if the straightness is not up to your or her standards. Technically, that's not part of the traditional Blowout, but it is used in some cases and the combination will get your hair very straight.
Some tighter curls and hair that has not been straightened before may resist straightening. Image by Ree.
The silk press is usually done with direct heat all the way - from a blowdryer on wet hair (which is more malleable than dry hair) and then a flat iron once the hair is dry, which maximises heat.
Because of the high heat levels, as long as your stylist has a decent technique, it should be possible to straighten even very tight curls or resistant hair of any curl type.
There are a couple of caveats. First, increasing heat to beat resistance does also mean increasing the risk of heat damage. And, second, even when you turn up the flat iron to max, there's still a limit to how straight resistant hair can get if it's not been properly smoothed out with a strong conditioning treatment or stretched on rollersets first.
At some point, your hair will stop responding to the heat, whether it's straight or not. With the silk press, deep conditioning first is often optional, depending on the condition of the hair. But for tight curls especially, a combination of conditioning, stretching and then active straightening tends to work best at smoothing the hair. That's why using the right conditioners before straightening - the ones that make your hair more flexible - is so important, especially if you think you might have resistant hair. And get that rollerset, too: It's much better to get your hair as smooth as possible before you apply direct heat to limit the amount of heat you need to use to achieve straightness.
Treatments to use before a silk press or Dominican Blowout for smoother, faster and straighter results.
How Long Does A Silk Press Take?
How long it takes to do a silk press depends on a number of factors: your stylist's speed, the specific silk press method they use, the amount and length of hair you have and your hair's resistance to straightening.
For a silk press process that includes shampoo, conditioning (without deep conditioning), blowdrying, flat ironing, silk wrap and finish on shoulder length (stretched) natural hair, you should budget at least 2 hours. It could take more or less, depending on your hair and the other factors mentioned above.
How Long Does The Dominican Blowout Take?
Like the silk press, the Dominican Blowout process depends heavily on your hair's unique characteristics. The method is the same for every hair type, give or take the option of flat ironing, but the duration will vary based on length, thickness, porosity and most of all resistance.
For a Dominican Blowout process that includes clarifying, deep conditioning, rollersetting, blowdrying, Doobie and finish on shoulder length (stretched) natural hair, you should budget at least 3 hours.
A complete Dominican Blowout. Image by Dominican Hair Alliance.
The slow, indirect heat of the hood dryer is typically the longest part of the process. Your hair's porosity and density strongly impact how long your hair will take to dry. Hair with high density (a large number of strands) takes longer to dry overall.
Hair that has medium to moderately low porosity (that is, the type of low porosity hair that takes long to soak up water and release it) will take longer under the dryer. High porosity hair will dry faster and extremely low porosity hair (which barely absorbs any water) will dry fastest.
If you have resistant hair, allow extra time overall, including for an optional flat ironing at the end.
How Long Do The Dominican Blowout or Silk Press Last?
Silk presses can last up to 1 month. Again, it depends on the method used, the climate (the duration in humid conditions will be much shorter) and your own unique hair. However, it is not advised that you leave your silk press in that long because your hair will become DRY.
When hair is straightened, the water it naturally contains evaporates. For your hair to stay straight, you can't let it get wet. At the same time, after going without water (aka moisture) for so long, hair will be dehydrated and can become brittle and break.
This is why washing your hair and removing the style within a week or 2 weeks max is advised: it's important for your hair's moisture levels, even if your hair hasn't reverted yet. For hygiene purposes, it is also not advisable to go that long without washing your hair.
Wash your hair within 1-2 weeks max of a blowout or silk press. Image by Curology
Why Does The Silk Press Last Longer?
Silk presses tend to last longer because of the higher heat exposure from direct heat tools. More heat = more energy = more temporary bonds broken, which means slower reversion.
Another reason for the duration is the fact that silk presses tend to be done at very high temperatures. If presses are done at the levels mentioned above, some structural damage is inevitable.
Structural damage - which occurs when the permanent disulphide bonds that lock in your hair's curly structure get compromised - makes hair less likely to revert. This isn't good for your hair, but it does explain why hair can stay straighter for longer.
Silk Press vs Dominican Blowout: What's Best For My Hair?
Both the Silk Press and the Dominican Blowout have their advantages and disadvantages. We've summarised them below.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Silk Press
The main advantage of the silk press is shared with the Dominican Blowout: it can get tightly curled hair very straight and shiny with more movement and smoothness than traditional straightening methods.
The silk press process doesn't include as many steps so is generally quicker to do than a full Dominican Blowout. It's is also easier to carry out if your blowdry technique is not that great, since most of the straightening happens with a flat iron. Since a basic silk press doesn't require hood dryers or rollersets you can achieve this look without having that equipment, either.
The disadvantages of the silk press include greater overall exposure to direct heat; risk of bubble hair damage from using heat on wet hair; less emphasis on deep conditioning to smooth hair; less volume and movement and possible frizz for some hair types from the silk wrap.
You can get around most of these disadvantages by using the rollerset-based silk press which is closer to the Dominican Blowout method but still includes a press.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Dominican Blowout?
he Dominican Blowout likewise offers a level of straightness on tightly-curled natural hair that previous methods did not typically achieve.
Other advantages include greater volume and more movement at the end than the silk press, and an overall lower exposure to heat damage, as less direct heat is used and direct heat is not applied on wet hair. The emphasis on conditioning also helps achieve smoother end results and healthier hair.
Disadvantages of the Dominican Blowout include the time it takes to complete and the shorter duration of the straight style (1-2 weeks vs 1-4 weeks for the silk press). The Dominican Blowout is also harder to achieve outside the salon since the blowdry step requires a specific roundbrush technique, plus large rollers and a hood dryer.