The wrong brush could be responsible for a bad hair day or damaged strands.

By Melanie Rud
April 15, 2021
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Brushing your hair is kind of like washing your face—it's something you do daily, but likely don't pay that much attention while doing so. After all, when it comes to hair, it's the fancy products and cool new styling tips that everyone's always talking about, not something as boring as brushing. 

But here's the thing: Brushing, more specifically, improper brushing, can be a huge cause of hair damage. The good news? It's easily avoidable, as long as you master the right technique. It's pretty simple—all you have to do is start brushing at the ends and gradually work your way up. When you brush the way most people do—starting at the roots and moving downward—you end up simply pushing any tangles or snarls all the way to the ends, which are the most fragile part of your hair to begin with, and can wind up having one big ol' knot at the bottom. The other very important part of the puzzle? Choosing the right hair brush for your hair type and texture. Ahead, top stylists weigh in on how to choose the best brush for your strands.

Fine Hair

Fine hairs have a smaller diameter than thick hairs, making fine hair more prone to both breakage and tangles. In short, it requires a little extra TLC than any other hair type or texture, and it’s extremely important to choose a brush that’s going to be very gentle on the hair, explains celebrity stylist Anthony Cristiano, founder of Chicago’s Anthony Cristiano Salon. That’s especially imperative when you’re brushing out wet hair.  When your hair is wet, it can easily stretch past its natural elasticity point and snap. Brushing it wet, particularly if you’re working hard to detangle it, is when you can end up with the most breakage, Cristiano says. The solution? The aptly-named Wet Brush ($9; target.com), specially designed to gently detangle wet hair. When your strands are dry, Cristiano recommends Denman Classic Styling Brush ($20; amazon.com). The rounded nylon bristles are gentler on the hair, and it works equally as well for detangling as it does for smoothing strands while you blow-dry, Cristiano points out. 

Thick Hair

Thicker hair calls for a bigger brush, particularly when it’s a round brush that you’re going to be using while blow-drying. “When the hair is thick and dense, it’s very important to make sure you have a balanced ratio of hair to brush,” explains Graham Nation, a celebrity hairstylist and Unite Hair Ambassador. “If the brush is too small it will essentially get eaten up by the hair.” Cristiano agrees, and says Olivia Garden Ceramic Plus Ion Thermal Brush ($21-$26; ulta.com) is one great option. The negative ions in the bristles help seal the cuticle and cut down on frizz, always a plus when you’re talking about thicker, coarser hair, and it has the added benefit of coming in a variety of sizes. As far as choosing a size goes, those with shorter hair should look for about a 1-inch diameter, medium lengths 1 ¼- to 1 ½-inch diameters, and long hair about a 2-inch diameter. 

Wavy/Curly Hair 

If you’re wearing your hair wavy or curly, you actually shouldn’t be brushing it at all, says Cristiano. Instead, apply a moisturizing styling product on damp hair, then style with your fingers as you blow-dry with a diffuser. However, if you’re looking to smooth out your texture, consider a boar bristle brush, like Mason Pearson Sensitive Boar Bristle Brush ($245; tressence.com). Curly hair is innately drier, and boar bristles are great for distributing the natural oils through the hair, says Cristiano. Nation agrees, noting that boar bristles, in general, are great for adding shine and polish to the hair. And if you’re looking to blow-dry your hair smooth, you’ll want to opt for a round brush to help grip the hair and hold it taught as you smooth each section, says Nation. He suggests looking for one with a metal barrel to help better conduct the heat as you blow-dry. Unite Professional Round Brush ($30; unitehair.com) fits the bill, and has a mix of boar bristles to add shine and nylon bristles to help detangle.

RELATED: Hair Plopping Is the Secret to Perfectly Defined Air-Dried Curls (Without the Frizz)

Ethnic/Naturally Textured Hair 

This is where a brush really isn’t the best choice. “If you have very curly or textured hair and are wearing it as such, I recommend not brushing it at all and instead using your fingers or a hair pick to help define the texture,” advises Cristiano. Try Goody Lift Combs ($3; target.com). A sturdy, wide-tooth comb for detangling purposes is also a must. (Top tip: try detangling in the shower with the aid of a conditioner or hair mask to add slip to the hair and make the process easier.) The oversized Hercules Sagemann Magic Star Comb ($20; amazon.com) is a crowd favorite, with satisfied reviewers noting that it works well to help comb out even super curly, level 4C hair.