Silk vs Satin: know the difference, make the ethical choice
Soft as silk. Silky smooth skin. Lustrous, lightweight silk has been coveted for centuries as the softest, most luxurious thing you can put near your skin. But have you ever stopped to think about what it actually takes to make silk? We love silky soft things as much as the next guy or girl, but we’re also for beauty without cruelty. So here’s why we use satin as the more ethical choice.
How satin and silk are made
Historically satin was made from silk but these days it’s made from filament fibres like nylon, rayon or polyester (or a mix). Satin refers to a way of weaving that gives you the signature shiny look.
Silk, on the other hand, is a natural protein fibre produced by certain types of worms, crickets and spiders. The silk we all know is made of the harvested cocoons of silkworms. The cocoons are boiled, steamed or baked with the worm still alive inside the cocoon (a process called ‘stifling’). That’s right, cue all the 😱😱😱😱 emojis. Silk is definitely not vegan.
What is right about silk? Nothing at all!
To make just one silk shirt, you have to kill about 1000 silkworms. Silkworms are sentient beings with a central nervous system and brain, so they have the ability to experience pain. Years and years of farming with these insects have completely destroyed their chance to have a normal, peaceful existence. Unlike wild silkworms, adult domesticated silkworms have lost the ability to fly and no longer possess camouflage colours.
If you were under the impression that silkworms were happily spinning away then handing over their cocoons ready to be washed and used, think again. Billions of worms are killed every year to give us smooth sheets and pretty scarves. Even so-called ‘peace silk’ is still rather cruel. While the worms are allowed to exit the cocoons, they are then kept in a refrigerator until it’s time for them to mate once again (read more here).
What’s more, silk production is bad for the environment too. According to the Higg Index, silk has by far the worst impact on the environment of any textile, including polyester, viscose/rayon, and lyocell. Even compared to cotton, it uses more fresh water, causes more water pollution, and emits more greenhouse gases. To clean silk, you need lots of harsh chemicals which can pollute the groundwater. The process of silk-making is also very labour intensive and the industry has been known to use child labour.
Silk is definitely on its way to become a fashion no-no. Many retailers like Zara, H&M and Gap have already banned mohair but UK retailer ASOS is also scrapping silk from its product line list along with feather and bone. Scientists have already discovered a way to produce artificial silk, so the time has come for us to stop this barbaric practice.
Satin: the more humane alternative
Luckily there are lots of ethical options to silk to choose from. These include nylon, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, polyester, and rayon. Satin is our choice as it’s completely sustainable to produce, easy to source and not that expensive.
Of course, it also has amazing benefits for your hair and skin – read more about why beauty experts love it here. For us, it’s a no-brainer – why would we use something so cruel and eco-unfriendly if you can hardly tell the difference anyway? It’s just as flexible as silk, drapes beautifully, has the same sheen and is super soft to the touch.