Perhaps the most important hair product to get right
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Before investing in your own products, I’m sure plenty of you borrowed your parents’ hair gels, styling creams, and hair brushes growing up. After all, a brush is a brush, right? Actually, not so much. Like every other category of beauty products, hair brushes have nuances that make them better or worse for your strands. To help you find one that’s right for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular hair brushes and explained if and when you should use them on your tresses.
Brushing through freshly washed hair can damage your locks, especially if you’re someone with a lot of post-shower tangles. To make brushing a breeze, try Tangle Teezer’s Original Detangling Hairbrush, which claims to remove any knots on wet or dry hair without causing breakage because its specific bristle formation bends with your hair rather than tugging against it.
One Sephora reviewer says this is a game changer for her routine: “This is seriously some kinda sorcery! [...] I was surprisingly shocked at how smoothly and effortlessly I was able to brush through my wet hair after showering, which is when I have the most tangles.”
Your blow dryer does the work to, ya know, get your hair dry, but the right round brush is the key to smooth-styling your locks, whether you want a sleek or voluminous look. For a smooth blowout if you have long hair, go with a bigger barrel, like Olivia Garden’s 4.25-inch size to grab more hair at once, and if you have shorter-than-shoulder-length hair, go with a slimmer barrel, like the 1-inch size. To style bangs or short fringy ‘dos, choose an extra-slim option, like the 0.5-inch.
One ULTA reviewer can skip the salon with this brush: "I'm always trying to achieve a salon quality blow out, and can never come close until I purchased this brush! I bought the 4-inch one and it works wonders. My hair is soft, smooth, and has great bounce... and I naturally have thick curly hair. Worth every penny.”
For an all-purpose brush you can use while blow-drying or without heat as a styling tool for smooth hair, the Aveda Wooden Paddle Brush is a reliable choice. It has extended bristles to detangle and a lightweight feel for easier use. The company recommends holding the brush vertically to detangle and horizontally to smooth, if you’re inclined to try those methods. One Nordstrom reviewer says the brush has an unintended purpose, as well: it massages. “It is a great brush for styling, detangling, and bringing life back to tired looking hair. It truly massages your scalp leaving you feeling more relaxed!”
If you prefer to use a brush with boar bristles, which help to distribute the hair’s natural oils, over one with just nylon, consider this your new brush for blow-drying your hair. It boasts claims like shinier, softer, and healthier hair because of the boar and nylon bristle combination and works for all hair types, especially if you size up in the barrel for thicker hair and size down for thinner (it comes in three barrel sizes). One Amazon reviewer: “Love this brush! Holds your hair well enough to get a good blow out. Lots of volume. And lots of shine!”
Since your hair is at its most delicate state when wet, a brush with flexible bristles is a superb idea for post-shower hair. The Original Detangler uses specially designed Intelliflex bristles—as opposed to a specific bristle formation like the similarly-marketed Tangle Teezer—which are thin and flexible, so they don’t provide too much (breakage-causing) resistance against your strands. “I used to think that brushes are just brushes, and really they don't make a difference in the brand you buy. I was wrong! I came across this Wet Brush in the store, and I had already been hunting for a new brush so I gave this one a try. I absolutely loved it from the first time I used it. It is really gentle on my thick, bleach-damaged hair.”
This brush is quite a price jump from the rest on this list, but if you suffer from oily roots and dry ends, it could be your new hair-saver. This cult-favorite brush from Mason Pearson claims to distribute the hair’s natural oils and stimulate the scalp using boar bristles, which are gentle enough to work on any hair type. One Nordstrom reviewer bought a second one for her daughter after she kept borrowing it: “It takes a lot of the frizz out of our naturally curly/frizzy hair and smooths it. My hair is dry and since using this brush, there is less breakage. My hair looks healthier than ever.”
Unless done by a stylist at a salon, blow-drying your hair can feel pretty tedious. And while there are tools, like the aforementioned round brush, to help you achieve a sleeker, silkier blowout, sometimes you just want to dry your locks quickly to get out the door. For those instances, this Eco-Tools hairbrush claims to dry your hair 20 percent faster with its aerodynamic design: the brush paddle has slits in it that allow the air from your dryer to vent through. One Amazon reviewer can attest to this promise: “Excellent for drying out my hair a bit faster and even if I'm rough with my hair (think tight curls that tangle on themselves constantly) by brushing from the mid instead of bottom, it'll untangle pretty darn well.”
Looking for a new on-the-go hair brush? This one from GranNaturals, which works for all hair types, is compact enough to fit into your purse, work bag, or carry-on suitcase. Bonus: If you’re curious about trying a brush with wooden bristles—which, like those made of boar’s hair, help distribute oil and work through the hair gently—now’s your chance. One Amazon reviewer: “This is my new favorite go-to brush! I have naturally somewhat frizzy hair and after using this my hair doesn't seem to break as much or be as frizzy. I had heard that wooden brushes help move your natural oils throughout your hair to naturally hydrate it and I believe it! Great quality brush that could fit in a medium/large size purse as well.”
If you’re looking for some extra oomph that’s unachievable from a regular hairbrush, try subbing in a teaser, which you can use to gently back-comb your hair at the roots to build height. This one from Spornette claims that its boar bristles “create tension” (presumably to increase volume), massage the scalp, and distribute the hair’s oil, while its nylon bristles move easier through the hair for reduced friction. One Amazon reviewer: “Where has this been all my life and how did I not know about teasing brushes? I have never been able to get a good tease using a rat tail comb so thought I would try this brush after reading about teasing brushes in a vintage hairstyle book. Wow. I have fairly fine hair and I am amazed at how well this works to give me volume.”
To create a wave pattern in your short, coily hair, try using a wave brush, like this one from Torino Pro. The one, made of boar bristles to distribute oil throughout the hair, presses your hair down and into place without breaking or weakening the strands. For comfort and precision, the palm-sized handle is slightly curved to the contour of your head, so you get more hair in one sweep.
One Amazon reviewer says he doesn’t typically leave reviews on products, but had to for this one: “After using this brush for one day I developed waves on my head that I had never seen before. I showed my brother this brush and he immediately purchased his own after using it for 5 minutes. This brush is the true definition of game-changer.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.