help sort to the different options in hair brushes
October 27, 2010 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Does hair brush size, shape, or material make a difference in how your hair looks?

I've always just used whatever brush was handy. I need to get a new brush, and I'm seeing all sorts of different brushes, flat vs. round, differences in the size of brush, length of bristle, type of bristle (ceramic, boar hair, etc.). Does it really make a difference? If so, what type of brush is optimal for different types of usage/hair?
posted by jujube to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
YES. It makes a huge difference, and which brush you should use is dependent on what your individual hair type is. For instance, my hair is extremely fine and curly and I don't use any brushes on it at all -- instead, I finger-comb or use a wide-toothed comb to gently get out any tangles in the rare periods when I grow it out long. A little more info. about your specific hair type will help a bit, but in general, this article is a useful primer (or just google "What hairbrush should I use?" and sort through the results), unless your hair is curly, in which case the advice is AWFUL and you should check out Naturally Curly to learn how to actually manage your hair.
posted by kataclysm at 9:06 AM on October 27, 2010

Ugh, disregard the previous article I linked to -- I accidentally linked to one that is utter BS. I meant to link to this one.
posted by kataclysm at 9:08 AM on October 27, 2010

My anecdata is that natural boar bristles on a rectangular wooden brush work best for my slightly fuzzy white-girl hair. I know people who swear by the ceramic brushes for their straight, fine hair. Other than that, it might be trial and error (at least, it was for me).
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2010

Boar bristle is probably the most effective brush at distributing oils at the roots throughout the hair shaft. Depending on what you're going for, this could be either a good or a bad thing.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:24 AM on October 27, 2010

Mason-Pearson. Worth the money if you aren't as careless as I am. ANd if you have long hair. The info on the site is worth a look, and you can buy knock-offs of the style recommended for your hair-type. But if you can afford it (and not lose it or leave it in your bag that is stolen!) it will last forever.
posted by emhutchinson at 9:27 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've got a heck of a lot of soft, fine, wavy, looong hair. I can't use any brush but one of those solid rectangular brushes with widely-spaced plastic bristles with round tips; softer bristles do nothing, shorter bristles do nothing, cushion brushes break right away, too tightly-spaced bristles pull painfully. I go through 2 or 3 a year. I sometimes use one of the wide-tooth combs when my hair is wet.

When my brush broke a couple of weeks ago, I didn't see the right brush to replace it when I went shopping, so I picked up one that was a little wider and slightly curved. It's horrible. I found the right one next trip and now I have to figure out what to do with this other that's just not shaped quiiiite right and pulls my hair badly.
posted by galadriel at 9:29 AM on October 27, 2010

Oh yes. I'm sure a stylist or someone more knowledgeable could tell you more, but here's what I know. For reference, I have thick, straight white-person hair.

First, the material of the bristles themselves:
Natural bristles, typically boar, redistribute the oil throughout your hair better than plastic, and are generally considered gentler than the cheaper plastic ones. Double bristle brushes (short and long bristles) tear at hair, so avoid them. Nylon bristles are stronger than natural ones, so they work well for coarse or thick hair. A mix of nylon and natural bristles can be good because it gives you stronger bristles but fewer of them.

Bristle brushes, like fine-tooth combs, separate more hairs individually. They tend to make my hair look sleeker and flatter.

Those brushes with fewer plastic or wood bristles with little knobs on the ends separate things less -- more "detangling" than combing or brushing, which is usually fine for my purposes. More of your hairs bunch between each bristle, along with a little more space or air -- they're not close together) and tend to leave more volume in my hair because of that. The ones with vents in them are useful if you want to blow-dry your hair while combing/brushing and want the air to flow through.

Round brushes are good for blow-drying or taming your hair into a slight curl (read: tucking under the ends, not corkscrew spirals) into your hair.

Flat paddle brushes detangle well.
posted by Madamina at 9:40 AM on October 27, 2010

Very much of a difference. I have thin, fine, straight hair, and the only brush that doesn't painfully tear it up is the Mason-Pearson. No joke, I regard it as a necessity.
posted by tel3path at 9:41 AM on October 27, 2010

I have very thick, straight-except-for-in-a-couple-places-it's-wavy hair. It's short now, used to be longer. This is the only brush I've ever had any patience for, including fancy, expensive ones.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 AM on October 27, 2010

Natural bristles cause a lot less static, and even in "low-static weather" can leave your hair smoother. Some people own more than one type of brush: I use a natural brush for smoothing. It flattens my thick, wavy hair, so I follow it with a few strokes of a plastic-bristle ventilated brush.
posted by wryly at 9:45 AM on October 27, 2010

My hair is very thick. If I use a hairbrush with short bristles (half an inch or so), the underneath layer looks badly unbrushed, unless I go to a lot of trouble to brush my hair upside-down. Using a hairbrush with long bristles (about 3/4 inch) makes a big difference and takes less than half the time. Unfortunately I can't find another one anywhere, and my old brush that works well is forty years old and losing its bristles.

Does anyone know where to get a hairbrush with long bristles? I don't care whether the bristles are nylon or natural boar bristle, but I don't like brushes with wooden bristles or hard plastic bristles. The flexible bristles make my hair smoother and shinier.
posted by Ery at 9:48 AM on October 27, 2010

Another curly person here. I can't do anything except fingers or wide tooth plastic combs, when wet. Everything else results in a rainbow of rat's nests.
posted by SMPA at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2010

Ery, the "military brushes" or "club brushes" designed for men often have longer bristles than hairbrushes designed for women. (I have no idea why that is, as women as a group tend to have longer and thicker hair than men as a group, but there you are.) Try Googling for those, or maybe finding them in a (I know this sounds a bit weird) tobacconist's? Around here, the specialty tobacconists also stock old-school men's grooming products.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

For those with curly or kinky hair, Denman brushes are awesome!
posted by ramix at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a stylist I trust explained it to me, plastic hairbrushes and combs are likely to lead to split ends. She suggested a nautral boar bristle brush so I bought one at CVS. I have to say: it's been about 6 months since my hair was last trimmed and I have almost no split ends. (I have medium thick wavy hair.)
posted by pinetree at 7:37 PM on October 27, 2010

I have long, thick, wavy-with-a-few-curls hair, and boar bristle brushes have always been something of a joke for me--they just sit on top of my hair. I use a big paddle brush, which seems to be the only type of brush which will detangle my hair without excessive pain. It was quite a difference to switch from the "normal" thinner/oval shaped brushes, now I don't dread brushing my hair.
posted by anaelith at 8:54 AM on October 30, 2010

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