As far as hair tools go, few are as massively undervalued as the humble brush. It might not be as fun to use as, say, a Beachwaver, but the right brush can be a serious gamechanger for both the look and health of your hair. The issue: All brushes are not created equal. In fact, figuring out how to actually choose one for your texture can be a tedious exercise: boar, metal, or nylon? Round, vented, or paddle? To make things easier, we enlisted the help of top stylists who break down the exact types of bristles that play best with every type of hair.
The best hair brush for your hair type
The best hair brush for your hair type
Best Hair Brush for Fine Hair: Boar Bristles
A brush made from pure boar bristles isn't bad for thick hair, but Nexxus celebrity stylist Lona Vigi points out they really shine on women with finer hair thanks to the fact that they're super-gentle—a perk for delicate texture. "[Boar bristles] glide right through hair, so they don't pull or snag,” Vigi says. Boar bristles also work well on dry hair, given how well they distribute oils from your scalp, which helps condition the hair naturally. In order to make the most of your boar bristles—which are usually stiff at first—Jason J Dougherty of New York's Butterfly Studio suggests submerging the bristles in hot water for 20 minutes. After, rake the brush downwards across a corner’s edge. “These get better with time and a good-quality [boar bristle] brush will last you years.”
Best Hair Brush for Curly Hair: Nylon Mixed With Boar Bristles
According to Dougherty, brushes with mixed bristles are especially beneficial for curly hair. “I like a blend because it provides a lot of tension and creates high shine curls and waves," he said. This type of brush is also key if you're looking to add volume to your hair, especially when the bristles are wide spaced.
One thing to note: If you’re prone to frizz, Devin Toth, a stylist at New York's Salon SCK, recommends drying your hair immediately after the shower, when your hair is still slick. “Focus on the roots of each section first before making your way to the ends,” he explains. “The tension from the brush will eliminate frizz for the rest of the day.”
Best Hair Brush for Medium-Thick Hair: Nylon Bristles
A nylon brush is versatile, but it's best for someone with medium-to-thick density because the bristles' flexibility make detangling super-easy. Nylon brushes are also champs at distributing product evenly before wrangling a hairdryer.
Both Toth and Doughtry recommend using Denman brushes on natural hair—the rubber base helps minimize static and provides enough tension to help smooth out your hair's cuticle, while the rounded pins on the nylon bristles allow safe and gentle penetration. "Typically the curl of natural hair is very tight with thicker density but the strand texture tends to be more fine and can break," says Doughtry. "This brush allows for quick drying and passes more easily through your hair." Toth adds that using Denman brushes while blowing out textured hair will help create softness and shine.
“A metal round brush can be used on extremely straight hair to give your hairstyle more bounce, curl and volume,” explains Toth. Used with a hairdryer, the barrel heats up like a curling iron, which produces similar results. And, like curling irons, the size of the barrel defines the size of the curls. If your hair is damaged, thinning, or fragile, however, steer clear of overusing. “The metal gets extremely hot and will wreak havoc on hair, which will cause excessive damage over time,” Dougherty says. Two things to keep in mind when using metal brushes: Always spray hair with a thermal protectant before blowing it out, and always keep the dryer moving.
These are best for a rough dry job or when you're pressed for time, especially on short or shoulder-length hair. The holes allow air to pass through, making the process a lot quicker. However, according to Dougherty, don’t use this brush if you want a polished look. “You won't get a lot of tension from this brush because the bristles are typically plastic or stiff nylon.” Toth recommends using vented brushes for a technique called flat wrapping. “While pointing your blow dryer almost perpendicularly at your head, brush your hair at the roots in many different directions around the curvatures of your head,” he says. “You don’t use any sectioning at all. However, remember to keep your blow dryer constantly moving while it’s being pointed at your head so you don’t burn your scalp.”