What is the Difference between Silk, Satin & Polyester

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

In all things hair, silk reigns supreme for its properties, feel and durability. But can the differences between the fibres in silk and those of synthetic satin make a difference to you?

Silk Vs Satin – weave over fibre

Silk is a natural fabric produced by silkworms. The silkworm feeds on mulberry leaves and spins its cocoon out of silk fibres. Once the moth has left its cocoon, the fibres are steamed and spun into silk. This is what we use in our silk hair wraps and pillowcases. Satin, on the other hand, is the weave of a fabric. For a material to be labelled as satin, it has to be composed of long filament fibres – natural silk, polyester, nylon or rayon – woven together with a minimum number of interlacings.


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Common Satin fibres

Satin can be made of a number of fibres. The most common include polyester, nylon, rayon, cotton and silk. Satin products are often labelled as being silk satin, but on closer inspection, you will find there is a higher percentage of polyester than silk, Therefore, it is important to check the label to see what the material make up is. In the same way that there are different types of silk, there are variations of satin fabric including charmeuse, sateen, and duchess to name a few.

Polyester Satin

The main difference lies in the way these materials are produced. Silk is a naturally made animal protein fibre, whereas polyester is an industrially produced fibre made from petroleum, so it is essentially plastic. It can be mass-produced and is a lot cheaper than silk because of this.  Compared to silk’s smooth and light feel on the skin, polyester is hard, brittle and not very breathable at all.

The difference between naturally spun silk and factory-produced polyester extends beyond the simple contrast of feel and comfort. The amino acids in silk fibres can help replenish lost collagen in the skin, and the high moisture-wicking properties of silk help keep your skin at just the right humidity. Polyester, while also smooth, pales in comparison in this regard – although it is also somewhat effective in reducing morning hair and sleep wrinkles, you will not get the same benefits as silk purely down to the what the fabric is made of.

Cotton Satin

Cotton satin is a kind of fabric that is weaved by a weave called the atlas. Thanks to this technology, the resulting fabric is shiny on the face side. When we talk about our cotton satin, it is always and only 100% cotton.

Sometimes known as sateen, this material is commonly used in bedding and clothing due to its durability and that it is able to take on dyes better than polyester satin. Sateen materials feel soft to touch and have a lustrous sheen to them on one side. Due to the production process, they resist mildew, which makes them ideal for those who suffer from allergies. Unlike silk, sateen is not a breathable moisture-wicking material, and because it is 100% cotton it is not great for solving your bed head problems.


Which one is right for me?

From a maintenance point of view, silk is a bit more difficult to wash due to it being more delicate and require more attention. Some silks can be machine washed, however, dry cleaning is the preferred method. Satin can be machine washed, as can sateen. However, silk is hypoallergenic and repels common household allergens including bacteria, mould, fungi, and dust mites alike, so you will most likely find less allergy-inducing substances on a silk sheet/pillowcase than a polyester one. Finally, silk offers more qualities, such as moisture-wicking, temperature regulating, reducing bedhead and split ends. This is why we use silk in all of our products.


Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.