why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not

why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not

I came across the most peculiar thing while trying to purchase more silk pillowcases the other day. A giant -sized baby’s bonnet, or so I thought. Turns out it was a silk night cap, otherwise known as a sleep cap or bonnet. Curiosity got the better of me and that started my one month experiment of sleep with a silk night cap.

Here’s my verdict on why I tried then gave up on the silk night cap.

What is a silk night cap or sleep cap

A silk night cap or sleep cap is very much what it’s name suggests, a soft luxurious cap made of silk. I think the proper term is a hair bonnet. A picture speaks a thousand words, so here is a silk bonnet, or night cap or sleep cap.

why weA ar a silk night cap, worth it or not
A modern silk nightcap or silk bonnet, whichever you choose to name it.

What does a silk sleep cap do?

Besides feeling luxurious to the touch, a silk cap can protect your hair and skin while you sleep. I have discovered that it even allows you to sleep better.

How does a silk night cap allow you to sleep better

I braid or bun my hair up to get it out of the way when I sleep, but I toss and turn a lot. When my braid gets caught under my body and I roll, the tugs to my scalp tends to wake up me. A hair bun coming undone is a lot worse, imagine hair all over your pillow and tons of strands of hair that you may possibly roll over.

A silk night cap simply gets rid of these problem by lovingly hugging my hair in the bonnet! Did you know that silk night caps have been around for a long time?

What was the purpose of wearing a nightcap in the past?

A nightcap keeps you warm

The practice of wearing nightcaps started in the Victorian Era (1837s onwards). These nightcaps were often made of cotton or wool and worn for warmth as the bedrooms were chilly. As you can imagine, these nightcaps according to an old newspaper clipping were ‘frankly ugly, usually made of some coarse and heavy material, which covered the head completely, extending over the ears and under the chin. They were worn for warmth’


why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not
A cotton night cap.
Credits: Nightcap, 1900s, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs Margo Shackleton, 1981. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC002260)

A nightcap protects your expensive hair style

Fast forward to the Edwardian Era (1901s onwards), elaborate pompadour coiffed hair was in fashion, women wore nightcaps to prevent their curls from getting tangled or rumpled at night. It might seem silly, but getting your hair styled professionally in the past was a considerable cost, wearing a night cap could help make your hair-do last 2-3 days longer.

why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not
Silk Night cap.
Credits: Nightcap, circa 1920, maker unknown. Gift of Hilda and Erna Lieber, 1983. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC002722)

A night cap keeps your hair clean while travelling

Travel in the past was a lot more of a hassle as sanitation was not as easily found. Wearing a night cap while travelling at night helps keep the hair cleaner, protecting it from dust and dirt.

Most people wear silk night caps to enjoy the benefits of silk. It makes for easy hair maintenance, does not impede new hair growth, reduces frizzy hair and facial breakouts.

A scented night cap can perfume your hair

Instead of spraying hair perfume in the morning, which can be drying for your locks, a scented night cap can do your work for you. Women in the past can wake up with freshly scented hair with minimal effort.

Your nightcap can protect your pillow

Hair tonics, scalp tonics and hair oils existed even back then. Even if ladies did not use any of those, hair in any age and time gets dirty throughout the day. A nightcap simply contains any potential oils and dirt, keeping the pillowcase fresh longer.

What do silk bonnets do?

Today, silk caps and silk bonnets are pretty much for the same function – and give the same benefits. But to go into historical specifics, a bonnet has strings to tie under the chin and leaves the ladies’ forehead more exposed, as compared to a cap.

why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not
Model of a bonnet, not made of silk. Credits Bonnet, 1800s, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs P Cousins, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC001099)

why wear a bonnet to bed

The same reason why you would wear a sleep cap! In fact, most of the benefits of wearing a silk cap or silk bonnet to bed are reasons why women still wear them today.

Why wear a silk night cap or sleep cap today

The benefits of wearing a silk night or sleep cap have not changed from the victorian era to today.

A silk cap allows for easy hair maintenance

Most of us do not go to the salon daily, or even weekly. Personally, I would curl your hair before bed time, who has time to do it early in the morning! I have found that wearing a silk hair cap helps preserve the curls better.

If you have done your hair at night or you like getting your hair professionally styled at a salon, a silk cap will help maintain the style for much longer.

A silk cap keeps your curls bouncy and straight hair sleek

Most of us wake up with tangles in our hair or with frizzy hair, a silk cap will help manage and reduce both tangles and frizzy hair. Silk is smooth and its’ surface has minimal friction which is beneficial for all hair types.

If you have curly hair, it keeps the curls untangled, just like in the Victorian era. If straight hair is your style, your silk cap will prevent excessive tangles from forming overnight and makes combing in the morning pain-free.

Does silk caps help with new hair growth

Silk caps gently holds on to all of our hair while we sleep, preventing excessive hair loss if you toss and turn in your sleep like I do. It also helps keep your locks hydrated by not losing any moisture to your pillowcase, assuming you are not using a silk pillowcase.

Do I need a silk sleep cap if I am using a silk pillowcase

The benefits of a silk sleep cap or silk bonnet is very similar to a silk pillowcase. But without a silk sleep cap, your hair comes into direct contact with your silk pillowcase. Combining the use of a silk sleep cap and a silk pillowcase will benefit both your hair and skin.

The silk sleep cap will gently contain all your hair, keeping your silk pillowcase fresh for a longer period of time. Your skin, will not come into contact with your hair either, which will reduce the probability of breakouts from happening.

Are there disadvantages too wearing a silk night cap

Remember how the Victorian people wore silk night caps to keep them warm? If you are in a warmer climate, that would make sleep less comfortable.

Warmth is not always comforting, if you do perspire and all that is trapped in the silk night cap, you may wake up to smelly hair or scalp which would itch. In the long run, you may even develop dandruff.

What happens if I wear a bonnet all day

Remember the warmth, perspiration and dandruff bit that I mentioned? It applies here too. But what about winter or cooler climates?

You may not feel like you have perspired that day, your hair might feel softer, look better and smell cleaner but your scalp would still get quite unhappy. Our scalp needs to be ventilated, being contained the entire day, even with a silk bonnet is not ideal. Silk is breathable, yes, but it still restricts airflow!

As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not
Imagine wearing this the entire day.
Credits: Nightcap, 1920s, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs Pearson, 1984. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC003057)

Do satin sleep cap have benefits

Satin, not the weave, but the man made polyester material. As I have mentioned previously (benefits of silk scrunchies), satin may look and feel slightly like silk, it is not silk and cannot give you the same benefits.

The one benefit satin sleep caps can give is to hold your hair out of the way when you sleep. But bear in mind, satin is not as breathable and does not lock in moisture in your hair unlike silk. So, do not expect to wake up to soft luxurious locks of hair!

Do silk sleeping caps work?

The benefits of a silk sleeping cap has not changed from Victorian times. Why would women continuously wear a lumpy, slightly frumpy looking cap to bed if it does not work? But, if you are cynical like I am, then perhaps an honest verdict (below) of what I experienced in the month I wore a silk sleeping cap would be more helpful.

Silk bonnet before and after, is it worth it

I love my silk pillowcase and have spoken about its benefits and given an honest review. My silk scrunchie received love from me too. I loved my silk sleep cap for 3 days, 2 weeks in I was on the fence, a month later, I have given it away. I do not love my silk sleep cap, or silk bonnet, or caps of any sort.

why wear a silk night cap, worth it or not
Perhaps I will consider wearing this.
Credits: Man’s Nightcap, 1842, England, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs C. Saxton, 1952. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC000007)

Before the silk bonnet or cap

Before the silk cap, I braided my hair loosely with a silk scrunchie and slept on a silk pillowcase. It worked fine, except when the braid came undone and I rolled over my hair at night. Ouch.

Trying out the silk bonnet or cap

My husband burst out laughing the first night he saw it but the silk sleep cap solved that issue of either of us rolling over my hair, so laugh all you want! I slept so well for 3 days. My hair was happily hugged in the silk sleep cap, it did not feel any softer but I was happy, it was faster to wear a cap to bed than to braid my hair.

On the fourth night, I perspired in my sleep. I woke up in the morning to a slightly damp scalp, that did not make me happy. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I woke up with a warmer scalp on certain mornings, slightly damp scalps on others. Certain nights, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling warm and resorted to tugging the sleep cap off.

By the fourth week, I have given up on the silk sleep cap. My one month experiment of wearing a silk night cap to sleep has thankfully ended.

After trying out the silk bonnet or cap

Perhaps silk sleep caps work a bit too well, the benefits have not changed from the Victorian times, including the part of keeping the wearer warm. Personally, I love how convenient it is to just plop my hair into the bonnet and go to bed. What I did not love was the warmth and how matronly the hair cap looked.

So, silk cap – definitely not for me. However, if you live in a cooler climate, I think it is worth a try!