Silk vs Cotton: Which is better?

Silk vs Cotton: Which is better?

Are you trying to decide between cotton or silk? Both are natural fabrics that are soft and comfortable, which makes the decision even trickier. However, there’s more to these fabrics than meets the eye. Each type of fabric has its own unique properties; the key is knowing what they are and why that matters. First, let’s take a deeper dive into each fabric because you might just be surprised at the findings. 

What is silk?

Silk is a natural protein fibre fabric made from the building material of mulberry silk worm cocoons that is then woven into long luxurious threads. Being a protein-based fabric, it is largely composed of fibroin giving it a glossy, soft and silky texture, and natural sheen. Originating from ancient China, silk fabric was manufactured and reserved only for the Emperors of China, and quickly became one of the world’s most sought after fabric in the pre-industrial era. In fact, among all of the natural fabrics available on the market, silk is the strongest. This became evident when silk garments were found intact in 1840 from a wreck in 1782.


What is cotton?

Cotton is a staple, naturally-derived fabric used across the globe in the fashion, home decor and bedding industries. Manufactured from cotton plants, cotton is spun into durable and soft fabric. Originating in India, cotton production quickly spread to other continents during the Industrial Revolution, and is now grown across the US, China, India, Pakistan, Brazil and more.

What are the benefits of silk?

Often called ‘fabric gold’, silk is valued for its delicate but strong nature, thermo-regulating, luxurious, wrinkle-resistant, and natural static resistance that limits pilling and other issues that other fabrics would often be prone to. But it doesn’t stop there.
Because of silk’s natural properties, it is highly breathable, naturally hypoallergenic and is a naturally anti-microbial fabric that helps reduce odour-causing bacteria. So, if you suffer from breakouts, allergies or skin irritation, silk can help reduce the build up of bacteria found in pillowcases, that fabrics like cotton breed. This means silk is resistant to mould, dust mites and other allergens.

Now, if you’re looking for a natural anti-ageing, hydrating and non-inflammatory fabric for your skin care and hair care routine, look no further than silk. Due to silk’s tightly woven thread fibres and natural hydrating properties, silk locks in skin hydration (and skin serums and moisturisers used before bed). Not only this, but silk’s texture prevents skin friction, micro tears and fights signs of premature ageing.

Now if you thought that was it, you’d be mistaken, because not only does silk contribute to healthy skin, but it boosts hair shine and hydration, while preventing breakage and frizz.

Midnight Black Silk Pyjamas

What are the benefits of cotton?

Being a natural fabric and so widely-produced, cotton is a notably durable fabric. Cotton makes for a soft and absorbent fabric making it a great choice for bedding and clothing manufacturers globally. This can be especially favourable in comparison to synthetic fabrics like polyester in warmer months, as this fabric is moisture-wicking, keeping you dry and cool. 

Allergy sufferers and those with sensitive skin will benefit from cotton, as it is a hypoallergenic fabric and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions like synthetic fabrics can. Not only this, but caring for cotton is easy! Because it is incredibly durable, it can withstand more weather events and washing and drying cycles. 

What are the disadvantages of silk?

While silk boasts many benefits, there are some disadvantages of silk. First, caring for your silk. It’s the question we get asked a lot, ‘Can silk be washed in the washing machine?’. The simple answer is - not quite. Because silk is a natural and delicate fabric, when exposed to high temperatures and vigorous washing cycles, this will cause damage to your silk items. While you could opt for a cold delicate cycle, it is recommended to hand wash silk with a silk-friendly detergent and avoid bleach. This is to ensure the silk is not damaged in the process, meaning caring for your silk will take a little more effort than its cotton or synthetic counterparts.

In conjunction with this, you can forget throwing your silk in the dryer and forgetting about it. Again, excessive heat can cause your silk pillowcase or pyjamas to shrink and dull the lustrous natural shine silk possesses. Not only this, but due to silk being high water absorbent, this can cause silk to show liquid stains more readily than other fabrics that absorb these types of stains.

What are the disadvantages of cotton?

Forget what you’ve been told about cotton being a breathable and anti-microbial fabric. The truth is, that while cotton is highly-absorbent and can prove beneficial on a warm summer’s night, wicking away sweat, it harbours a dirty secret. And by dirty, we mean it absorbs sweat, face serums and moisturisers into its fabric, meaning this quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria build up, contributing to acne breakouts.

Now, let’s talk about cotton bedding. Pure cotton fabric has always been a popular choice for pillowcases. However, this material is known for shrinking once washed in water, as the cotton fibres become shorter. In addition, cotton is no stranger to creases and wrinkles, leading to an increase in skin irritation, micro tears and hair damage as you sleep. Let’s just say, cotton is not your best friend when it comes to anti-ageing. In fact, your cotton pillowcase is stealing your favourite expensive skin serums from your face while you sleep.

So, which fabric is better?

When choosing between silk and cotton, you’re choosing between comfort, durability, and investment. Each fabric has its own unique properties that should form your decision, but if you’re needing a quick comparison, let’s end the silk vs cotton debate once and for all.

Durability - If you’re looking for a fabric that is durable and has great tensile strength, silk is a great choice. Whereas, cotton ranks in at second best, given how affected it is by water and shrinkage.

Temperature control - While both fabrics are natural and have insulating features, silk outperforms cotton in its ability to thermo-regulate. This unique functionality of silk is what makes sleeping in silk pyjamas beneficial, especially in warmer climates.

Care - Both silk and cotton are considered durable fabrics. However, if you’re looking at the frequency of washing and replacing your bedding and pyjamas, silk is in it for the long haul. This means your silk items will last longer, and prove more cost-effective when compared to cotton.

Anti-ageing - It is true that both silk and cotton are natural fabrics, but this does equate to having the same anti-ageing and hydrating abilities. The key difference is that silk naturally boasts amino acids in its makeup, providing natural hydration to skin and hair, while preventing micro tears and premature ageing in skin. Sleeping with a silk eye mask can better prevent sleep creases and micro tears around the delicate eye areas due to its smooth, friction-free natural composition.

Hypoallergenic - To put it simply, silk is hypoallergenic and anti-microbial, while cotton is highly absorbent, allowing for bacteria and mould growth. If you want to avoid skin breakouts or have skin sensitivities and allergies, choose silk. Sleeping on a silk pillowcase can be especially beneficial to anyone with these sensitivities and allergies.
Pearl White Silk Eye MaskCoral Pink Silk Pillowcase
Maybe you’re still not sure which fabric is best for you, or have more questions about silk fabric? The friendly and knowledgeable team at Sylk and Sleep Co. can help! Get in touch here or head to our online store for more.
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