To brush or not to brush--that is the question.

I must say that one of the top 5 questions I get asked is, "Should I brush my curls?" The answer is: yes and no. It's not so much should you brush, as it is when should you brush your curls.

Let's explore when and how to brush your type 3 to type 4 natural hair.

Great hair starts with your shampoo and conditioner.

At the shampoo bowl you want to brush and detangle your hair using a brush with a handle (I use the Tangle Teezer). When you are just coming out of a protective style like braids, a sew-in, two-strand twists, it is best to brush your hair before any water hits it. If your hair is extremely matted and tangled, make sure to finger comb first, then use the tangle teezer to get rid of the remaining excess hair.

Section your hair in about 6 to 8 random sections individually held by gator clips. Gently go through the ends first. Parting hair into sections makes it more manageable, especially for those with a lot of hair to work with.  It also helps to avoid creating new tangles while working. Make sure to always support longer hair by holding it as though you were about to ponytail it.

Once you have worked your way through the ends proceed with the hair closest to the scalp and detangle. If you notice a lot of matting it is important not to yank your hair--be patient and pick at the knots to loosen them. The best bet for working out knots or tangles is with a wide toothed comb or even your fingers depending on your hair. Do not use a spray bottle with water; in my opinion, it can sometimes lead to a bigger mess.

Once water hits the hair some knots become rebellious and it may take longer to work through them which is why I suggest detangling before shampooing..

After detangling:

Start with a great moisturizing shampoo (I like Moisture Love Gentle Embrace Hydration Shampoo because it allows you to finger detangle while you are shampooing). Work with your hair in sections instead of piling everything on top of your head and going in for the kill. This way you will get better results in the end and not to mention, a cleaner scalp.

Next, condition with Moisture Love Deep Indulgence Replenishing Conditioner. Apply the conditioner according to its directions, using your Tangle Teezer to get small tangles that were left behind. If your hair is really parched, doing a 10 to 20-minute steam treatment is excellent. After you rinse your conditioner in cool water, apply your leave-in.

Your last step in this process is your leave-in. For type 3 to 4 hair I absolutely love to cocktail Obia Curl Hydration Spray, Surface Protein Cream, and Darcy's Botanicals Curl Detangling Milk (it smells like sweet cream vanilla cookies). Oftentimes I lift and mist the hair with OCH (4 to 6 sprays), mix the SPC with DB; I spray 5 to 12 sprays of the SPC  in my hand (the number of sprays depends on your hair's specific length and thickness).

Then, add about a quarter to half dollar size of DB to emulsify, starting at the scalp with light tapping motions while working your way to the ends. Brush through your hair with the Tangle Teezer, sectioning hair according to your preferred final style.

When most women brush their hair, they start at the crown or the roots and work their way down. You should brush in reverse by starting at the back of neck and working your way up to help distribute natural oils more evenly and avoid damaging hair at the crown.

During the styling process:

Make sure that you are using products with great moisture content. Type 3 to 4 hair tends to be more fragile due to the tightness in the curl pattern as well as the texture of the hair. Two of my favorite pre-stylers--moisturizers that come before a styling product--are Original Moxie Shape Shifter and Moisture Love Kindred Spirits Moisture & Styling Cream. Both products are a liquid cream base and an amazing foundation to most all natural styles. I like to apply the creams in small sections, brushing through the hair for even distribution and curl definition.

If you are wearing a shampoo and go style I suggest only brushing the hair with initial product application. Honestly, if you have a great curl defining product, you should be able to reactivate your curls with morning shower steam and wet hands with a squish and shake of your curls right before you get out the shower. Don’t sleep on wet curls! Brushing your curls daily is not necessary but you can finger comb damp hair to decrease the amount of tangles you get on shampoo day.

When it's OK to safely brush dry type 3-4 hair...

  • if you have a roller/rod set
  • if you have a Bantu set
  • if you are wearing a large braid or twist set
  • if your hair is stretched and dried

Aside from knowing when to brush, having the right brush is crucial. Some brushes are better for certain aspects of hair brushing than others.  For example, you should never try to detangle hair with a paddle brush. Wide-toothed combs are for detangling, paddle brushes are for dry brushing. You should also avoid paddle brushes with plastic prongs. Opt for options made of natural animal bristles for the best results.

Happy brushing!

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Do you brush your curly hair?

Some curlies brush while detangling. Let us know your preferred method below and on Facebook.

Stacy is the owner of Augusta, GA-based curly hair salon, DyeVerCity. Follow her on Instagram @DyeVerCity.

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