The simple up-and-down motion of hair-brushing is mostly instinctive. Once we begin doing it, we go about it without thinking intently about the action. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with damaged, fragile, or curly locks, a regular brushing could be seriously detrimental to your hair goals.
Many of us curly girls figured out at a pretty early age that a brush and curls do not often mix well. But, if you’re a fan of the occasional blowout, wearing stretched styles, or smoothing your edges, you probably won't be able to avoid the brush. Follow the tips ahead to make sure you’re getting the best results possible for your fragile hair. Make that brush work for you — not against you.
You brush from root to tip
Pulling a brush from your roots to your tips causes excessive stress on the hair, and when the brush meets a knot (as it undoubtedly will) you will experience breakage at its weak or damaged points. You also run the risk of pulling your hair out of the follicle. Instead, begin brushing a few inches from the ends, slowly working your way up the shaft in sections and using your fingers to gently detangle knots as you reach them.
You brush your hair when wet
Wet hair is far more elastic than dry hair. According to NaturallyCurly’s Curl Chemist Tonya McKay, dry hair stretches 20% to 30% when force is applied, while hair that is saturated with water stretches up to 50%, so wet hair is more fragile and can easily snap. Your best bet is to use a spray bottle full of water to dampen the hair and detangle it before washing to avoid manipulating it when it’s weakest, which is when it's soaking wet. When doing this, use a wide-tooth comb or, better yet, your fingers, and always detangle with conditioner for added protection and slip.
You use a paddle brush to detangle
Whether your hair is wet or dry, paddle brushes are not made to detangle. Paddle brushes can be great for smoothing your 'do when blowdrying it straight, but all of those bristles wreak havoc on a head in need of detangling. Instead, reach for a wide-tooth comb and a detangling product.
If your hair is fine, use a detangling spray, and if it's in between thick and thin, moisturize with a lotion. For thick or coarse locks, you'll want to apply a detangling cream before you unsnarl your dry hair. For damp or wet tresses, apply a rich conditioner with plenty of slip and then start detangling from the ends.
Your brush is cheap
We know a lot of you are probably wondering how much the price of a brush could possibly matter. But, the fact is cheaper brushes have low-quality, plastic bristles that can snag and rip damaged hair at its weak points. If you are using a brush to blowdry your hair straight, you are already inflicting a great deal of stress by manipulating it and exposing it to heat, so don’t make matters worse with a low-quality brush. Denman, Mason Pearson, and the Tangle Teezer are all well reviewed in the curly community; the best option for you will depend on your hair type and personal preference. Watch this video by Elle of Quest for the Perfect Curl to see a side-by-side comparison of the three.
You don't wash your brush
Just as you wash your makeup brushes regularly, you also need to be washing your hairbrush once a week. Over time the bristles can become clogged with stray hairs and product buildup. When you use your unwashed brush on freshly cleansed hair, you are actually depositing product residue onto your strands. A good clarifying shampoo like Kinky-Curly Come Clean will cleanse the bristles thoroughly.
To wash your brush, create a mini bubble bath using shampoo and water in a bowl, and soak the brush for a few minutes. Then, rinse it while raking out any excess hairs with a plastic fork. If you took our advice above and splurged on a Mason Pearson brush, then caring for it will help make your investment worthwhile.
You cause static when you brush
Running a brush through your hair can create static from friction. To avoid the pouf factor, spritz your brush with a hairspray like DevaCurl’s Flexible Hold Hairspray to control flyaways. You can also rub a few drops of hair oil between your fingertips and run them through the hair before brushing.
If frizz is thwarting your good hair days or you feel like your tresses just won’t grow past shoulder length, then your brushing habits may be causing breakage. That small plastic tool may not look dangerous to you, but when misused it can actually cause a lot of damage. Use it wisely and your curly hair will remain healthy and strong.