Different strokes.

By Hana Hong
June 26, 2020
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Brushing your hair might not exactly be rocket science, but there is a right way to detangle your tresses. There are some universal rules of brushing, of course—things like always brushing from the bottom up (starting at the top will only bring knots down to collect at the bottom, leading you to tug and cause breakage). But there’s more! Depending on the type of hair you have—thickness, texture, length—the way you should approach the act of brushing is different. We tapped in hair professional Anthony Cole, hairstylist and Sebastian Professional International Artist, to get some expert answers.

Fine hair is all about finding a brush that is gentle enough to be used on your delicate strands. Look for brushes with soft, flexible bristles that ensure tangle-free tresses without any tugging, snagging, or breaking. “I recommend using a wet brush ($16; amazon.com),” says Cole. “The round balls at the end of the bristles glide through hair smoothly without catching and breaking the strands.” For added volume, Cole recommends spritzing a volumizing spray, like Sebastian Professional Volupt Spray ($20; ulta.com), at the roots before brushing through gently. 

Curly-haired girls know the struggle that is detangling curly hair. The key is putting away the brush once the drying process starts. It’s also wise to stay away from combs since they aren't flexible and won’t bend with your hair, says Cole. Put some leave-in conditioner or gel on your fingers and use your fingers to slide through any tangles. You can also use a paddle brush with wide spaced pins, like Aveda Wooden Paddle Brush ($28; aveda.com), when your hair is wet to help distribute the product. 

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If your hair is prone to frizz, you want goodies that help you smooth down that hair cuticle. “I recommend applying Sebastian Professional Dark Oil ($48; ulta.com) first to smooth down the hair cuticle,” says Cole. If you are prone to knots or tangles, gently comb through your wet hair with your fingers. If you have a big knot, you can use a brush. “Boar bristles are perfect for detangling coarse, thick hair. I recommend ghd Natural Bristle Brush ($45; ghdhair.com), because it softens strands, glides through grooves easily, and smooths down the cuticle better than a nylon brush.” Boar bristles also do an incredible job of carrying your scalp's natural oils throughout your hair so that your ends stay well conditioned. By doing this, it helps reduce frizz and static that accumulate from outside elements.

“You have to be especially gentle with natural hair as it’s very delicate and prone to breaking,” says Cole. However, it is important to brush out coiled or kinky hair to avoid unintentional dreadlocks. Work it through gently with a wet brush or pick comb if it’s dry, and always pair it with a mix of hair oil and leave-in moisturizing cream.

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If your hair is thinning, damaged, or color-treated, that means it’s more susceptible to breakage. Add a moisturizing cream to make brushing out easier. For a gentler approach, you should also opt for synthetic bristles over natural bristles, as this can glide through your strands easier. “This goes for everyone, but never brush your hair when wet, especially for thinning hair, because it causes breakage,” advises Cole. Let hair dry almost 90 percent before brushing, and use a detangling brush, like Tangle Teezer The Ultimate Detangler ($14; ulta.com) to eliminate tangles without catching and breaking strands.