Legend has it that over 5000 years ago a Chinese empress, Si Ling Chi, strolled through the royal gardens on her morning walk and came upon a silkworm spinning its cocoon. Fascinated by what she saw, she dreamt of clothing herself entirely in fabric made from the small creature’s fine, shimmering threads. Such was the beginning of the silk industry.
For millennia (literally), silk has been considered the “Queen of Textiles”. Originally worn by Chinese nobility it eventually found its way along the Silk Road and across oceans and is now still highly coveted by those with discriminating taste.
Here are several great reasons why you need more silk in your life.
Silk is primarily made up of essential amino acids and two types of proteins: sericin and fibroin. Studies have shown that these proteins are very high in antioxidants, which benefit the skin by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and tyrosinase activity resulting in smoother skin.
Silk is woven very tightly, which means it will also help your body retain vital moisture and decrease moisture loss. This is important in keeping your skin’s epidermal cells healthy, hydrated and youthful looking.
Along with amino acids and proteins, silk contains a naturally occurring chemical called albumen, which aids in speeding up the skin’s metabolism resulting in a faster rate of repair.
With all these anti-aging benefits it’s no surprise that people are choosing to wear more silk, sleep in silk pajamas, wrap themselves up in silk sheets, use silk eye masks and even wear silk undies.
Ready to start building your anti-aging wardrobe? There are great vintage pieces to be found if you look carefully: you can start by raiding your grandmother’s closet for classic pieces. Of course, you can speed up the process by shopping online. Italian fabric and design house Loro Piana has a great selection of silk must-haves that include dresses, shirts, skirts and even scarves.
Healthier hair with silk
If you’ve never slept on a silk pillowcase you don’t know what you’re missing. Silk is well-known for its luxuriously soft and “silky” feel against your skin, but there’s more to it than that.
When you toss and turn at night a cotton pillowcase can grip and tug on your hair, cause static friction and forms knots, all of which can damage, break or even pull out your delicate hair strands. The tightly woven strands of silk and its naturally smooth finish help your hair to slide across the pillow rather than pull and tear, reducing the damage done at night.
Also, studies have shown that the proteins in silk can adhere to the keratin in your hair producing a detectable coating that helps protect your hair. And unlike cotton, it does not strip off your hair’s natural oils, helping to keep it hydrated, healthy and strong.
One of the leading triggers of allergies is dust mites. More specifically, the enzymes released from the droppings of dust mites. When we inhale the enzymes, our bodies have an allergic reaction that can result in sneezing fits to full-on asthma attacks.
When ready to transform, silkworms spin a cocoon using a single continuous strand of fibre to protect itself from predators like dust mites. The strand is held together by the sticky protein sericin, which not only helps the cocoon keep its shape but more importantly acts as a powerful repellent against dust mites. This naturally occurring repellent remains potent even after the silk is made into fabric.
For those who have skin allergies like eczema, silk can help. The long (a single strand of silk can be one mile long!), smooth texture of the strands reduces irritation to sensitive areas of your skin. Whereas textiles like cotton and wool that have shorter, more course fibres can cause friction, itching and rashes, the non-abrasive fibres of silk are soothing and non-irritating. Also, the manufacturing of silk typically only requires water, heat and steam, but perhaps more importantly it does not require harmful chemicals for its processing, making it hypoallergenic and a great choice for bed sheets and clothing for extra help in your war against skin allergies.
In order to further ensure its survival, the silkworm not only protects itself from hungry dust mites, but the biological makeup of the silk strand and cocoon also has built-in defenses against mold, mildew and fungi, making it a must-have fabric for not only allergy sufferers but anyone grossed out by gross things.
Durability of silk
Although better known for its soft and silky texture, silk is surprisingly one of the strongest natural fibres in existence. No you can’t stop a speeding bullet with it, (although, spider silk pound-for-pound is stronger than steel and is being researched for military use!), but worm silk is highly durable and can withstand more aggressive pulling and stretching than cotton, wool, and other natural fibres. Its strength and durability means it’s a wise investment that can last a lifetime if well maintained.
Due to this strength and durability, silk’s appeal goes well beyond the clothing and bedding industry and is being used for other purposes like upholstery, parachutes and potentially even body armour.
Environmentally friendly silk
We all know that fabrics made out of synthetic materials eventually add to harmful greenhouse gasses when they end up in landfills where they release methane gas and contribute to global warming. But not silk.
Silk is natural, organic, and has a low environmental impact. Many synthetic textiles can take decades to decompose. Polyester can take up to 200 years to break down. Fabrics made from natural fibers like silk, wool, cotton, hemp and cashmere are biodegradable, which means they can be decomposed by bacteria over time. Depending on its condition, silk will take as short as one to five years to break down. And since it’s compostable and recyclable, it can be added to your garden as mulch.
Silk apparel can also help reduce the environmental impact of the fast-fashion trend. Because of its durability and strength, if properly taken care of, silk can outlast generations of wear-and-tear creating less need for new garments and allowing us to cherish previously loved pieces.
Excellent thermal regulation
Silk is a natural, lo-tech thermal regulator. Because the silk is woven so tightly it helps to maintain your body temperature. In the winter the tight weave traps heat released by your body, keeping the warmth next to your skin. And in the summer months or in tropical destinations the silk helps to absorb moisture that could be caused by humidity or your sweat, helping it evaporate to keep you dry and cool.
Bonus reason you need silk in your life
Silk is wrinkle resistant. If you’re not big on folding your laundry, or you love to travel, then make sure you stuff your closet and suitcase with silk.