Even though we know to shop for products that are specifically tailored to our needs, when it comes to the hairbrush – possibly the most commonly used beauty tool ever – many of us still just grab the first one we see off the shelf. As it turns out, using the right hairbrush can make a big difference in the health of your hair and how effectively you can style it. And just as you wouldn’t use a blush brush to apply eye shadow, hairbrushes also come in various sizes and shapes that are designed to do specific things. But with so many different options on the market, it can get a little confusing – so we asked Butterfly Studio Salon stylist Kelly Finneran to help us break it down to the “mane” points.
Natural Bristle Brush: For All Hair Types
First things first: let’s talk about bristles. Brushes of varying shapes and sizes will be made with natural bristles, synthetic bristles, or a combination of the two. The gold standard is the natural boar bristle, which is gentle on the hair, helps smooth the cuticle, and redistributes sebum throughout the strand to moisturize and create a beautiful, glossy finish. “Stylists love boar bristle brushes because of their versatility, working for many different hair types, textures, and styles,” says Finneran. “They are also great for brushing out curls and giving a lot of volume to straight blowouts.”
Boar bristle brushes can run the gamut from costing a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars. The highest quality brushes use the “first cut” of hair, which is closest to the scalp of the boar and yields thicker and stiffer bristles.
Try: Mason Pearson Extra Large All Boar Bristle Brush ($250, amazon.com)
Synthetic Bristle Brush
Unlike natural bristles, synthetic bristles are non-absorbent and don’t distribute oils or help condition the hair. Synthetic bristles are also less flexible than natural bristles, which means they can cause tearing and stand damage. Finneran recommends always choosing a natural brush over an all-synthetic brush to achieve healthier, shinier and smoother hair.
Mixed Bristle Brush: For Normal To Thick Hair
Brushes can also come in a natural/synthetic bristle mix, sometimes called porcupine brushes. These brushes are good for normal to thicker hair, and combine the benefit of boar bristles with interspersed nylon quills that help detangle coarser hair.
Try: Spornette Porcupine Rounder Brush ($7.60, ulta.com)
Paddle Brush: For Straight Hair
Paddle brushes usually have bristles coming out of a soft cushion and are great for massaging the scalp, detangling, and smoothing naturally straight hair. The air-filled rubber cushion is designed to bend with your scalp to minimize damage from pulling. “Paddles are made for straight hair and straight styles, also best to use before flat ironing. It would be the ideal brush for anyone that feels that their hair straightens easily when heat is applied,” advises Finneran.
Try: Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Paddle Brush ($79, shuuemuraartofhair-usa.com)
Round Brush: For Blowouts
“Round brushes can be used for any blow dry look you’re going for,” says Finneran. “They are great both for creating styles with body and bend, or when working to smooth natural texture. It’s easier to control tension while styling with a round brush, which is essential to smoothing out hair or building a style that lasts.”
Try: Fekkai Large Round Brush ($65, fekkai.com)
Metal Brush: To Create Curls
“Metal brushes are not good to use when going from wet to dry because they can pull and damage hair,” says Finneran, “but they’re a perfect tool to use as a finisher since they can smooth down a final look.” She recommends using one to hold a curl in place or to create some height at the roots during the finishing stages of a style.
Try: John Frieda Hot Air Brush ($39, drugstore.com)
Vented Brush: To Create Volume
These brushes have holes or slits through the back and are designed to help decrease blow-drying time by allowing air to flow through the brush. Vented designs are available in paddle or round shapes and are very effective at creating and enhancing texture. “It’s a great brush to look for when trying to create volume,” says Finneran, “and works well as a setting brush too.”
Try: T3 Freeflow Vent Brush ($17, t3micro.com)
Wide Tooth Comb: For Detangling
“Wide tooth combs are what you want to use for detangling, especially if you’re in the shower,” says Finneran.
Try: Sephora Wide Tooth Comb ($4, sephora.com)
Fine Toothed Comb: To Smooth Hair or Tease
“On the other hand, if you’re looking to style bangs or to separate and smooth hair while flat ironing, choose a smaller tooth comb because they can grab the root better to create more tension.” One other piece of key advice – always use a matte comb. “Stay away from combs with a shine to them because the shiny layer will not give you the grip you’re looking for. Matte combs provide more control of the hair, so your sections won’t fly around everywhere.”
Try: Cricket Carbon Comb ($4, folica.com)