I think because people watched The Little Mermaid when they were younger and saw Ariel using a ‘dinglehopper’ (a.k.a. a fork) on her hair, they think they can use any random hairbrush or comb,” jokes hairstylist Vasi Vassikiis of Studio Vasi in L.A. Right. So why is it important to use a brush designed for our hair? “Using the right brush means less frizz and breakage, the two things people complain about the most.” Then let’s find the right dinglehopper — er, hairbrush — for your hair type.
Coily and Naturally Textured Hair
You want to be very gentle on this hair type, so a good method is to detangle in the shower when you have conditioner on the hair. To prevent snagging, look for a brush with lots of flexibility like the Bestool Detangling Brush. A wide-tooth comb is another option for in-shower detangling. A good rule of thumb for comb size and your hair needs: “The thicker or curlier the hair is, the more space between the teeth of the comb is needed,” explains Theodora Guzman, Maria Nila’s education manager for North America. And when it comes to styling natural coils when they’re dry, the best brush is no brush. Use your fingers to style. To revive hair on day three+ after washing, use a pick to give it volume.
Wavy or Curly Hair
Brushing wavy or curly hair can compromise the integrity of the wave or curl shape, so proceed with caution. One option is to brush hair just before you get into the shower or use a comb to brush while you’re in the shower with conditioner on the hair. (One with a curved handle, like Revlon’s version, can hang in the shower.) Another option are Wet Brush brushes, which are specifically designed to be used on damp hair without snagging it. Vassikiis recommends the brand’s Go Green Curl Detangler for detangling wet curls without snagging or breaking strands. (Parents: This is a must for a child with curls!)
Or try Guzman’s method: After the shower, apply a leave-in conditioner (her fave: Maria Nila Structure Repair Leave-In Cream, which makes hair easier to manage and minimizes tugs and snapped strands. Then use a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle, starting from the bottom of the hair and moving upward. Use a diffuser to blow-dry (or let it air-dry). Denman brushes, with nylon bristles and a pad to minimize frizz, are favorites amongst hairstylists when working on curls. The distance between the bristles is designed to gently shape the curls as they pass through, rather than pull them and disrupt the natural shape.
Thick, Coarse Hair
Combining boar and nylon bristles will help detangle while being gentle on thick strands and distributing scalp oils and any other products you apply. The Spornette Smooth and Shine Ionic Brush has this bristle combo and is ideal if you blow-dry and style using a brush. The Denman Classic Styling Brush features all nylon bristles and a rubber pad, the key to minimizing static and frizz. Vassikiis points to the Wet Brush Thick Hair Detangler for brushing out wet hair. “The bristles are arranged in a unique pattern that helps detangle the toughest knots.” Guzman also recommends wide-tooth combs for this hair type to “prevent breakage and easily detangle.” Thick and curly? Try a brush designed to get through the thickness but maintain the curl pattern, like the Ouidad Thick Paddle Detangler.
Paddle brushes are a good option for straight hair because they can grab a lot of strands at once and help distribute oils through the hair. Also, “Paddle brushes are great for smoothing hair while blow-drying,” says Guzman, including if you are straightening wavy or curly hair. Look for flexible bristles, like on the DryBar Lemon Bar Paddle Brush, if you have particularly knotty hair.
Fine, Thin Hair
Thin strands are the most prone to tangling and breakage. “If you have fine hair, you want a brush with more flexible bristles to detangle your hair delicately,” says Vassikiis. A brush with fewer bristles or a comb with wide teeth gently pull through snags, especially when wet. “Hair is in its most fragile state when wet and requires a flexible bristle to blow dry and finish to avoid breakage.” The Sisley Paris Blow Dry Brush is a great option for fine hair to help boost volume while minimizing frizz. The Mason Pearson Sensitive brush is a classic for fine and thinning hair because it moves scalp oils through the hair, preventing tresses from looking flat at the roots.
Any brush or comb that has a wide space between the teeth or bristles is best for damaged hair. Try the Dae Vegan Detangle and Style Brush with its extra-soft, flexible bristles that won’t snag or tug strands. If you blow-dry, try the Ineffable Care curved brush, which will stimulate the scalp and distribute oils—a MUST for dry, damaged hair—while the vents help speed up drying time to minimize damage from the dryer.
Bangs, Edges, and Baby Hairs
These areas dictate a smaller brush size. For edges and baby hairs, try Ouidad’s Detail Brush to shape them. For fringe, a flat or paddle brush will give you straight bangs, whereas a small round boar bristle brush should be used on longer curtain or swooped bangs. Try Spornette’s 1.5-inch nylon brush infused with Tourmaline, which promotes smoothness. A hairdryer-round brush combo like the John Frieda 1.5-inch Hot Air Brush works beautifully on bangs. If you want fringe that sits straight across the forehead, the trick is to brush them by pulling the brush left for a few seconds and then to the right, alternating back and forth until dry.
It’s very important to use the correct brush after you have extensions to prolong their life. Your hairstylist will give you tips on how to brush your extensions correctly. Still, these are three tools to consider thanks to their design and extra-gentle bristles: The Balmain Hair Extension Brush, the Denman Tangle Tamer Brush, and the Tangle Teezer Ultimate Finisher.
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