Ask a Beauty Editor: If It's Bad to Brush Wet Hair, Then Why Are There Wet Brushes?

Plus the difference between a wet and regular brush.


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Reader question: If I'm not supposed to brush my hair when it’s wet, why are there wet brushes? And do I really need to use a different brush when my hair is wet? —Natalie Byrne

Here’s the thing: There is no universal guideline to brushing your hair. So many elements come into play, including hair type and texture, hair health, and styling products. And of course, there are some curly/kinky hair textures that shouldn’t be brushing at all.

That being said, there is a reason why wet brushes exist as a separate category in the hair care space. “The main difference is that while a normal brush is generally made with natural bristles (or a combination of natural and nylon) that are closely packed together, a wet brush is made with flexible, plastic bristles that move with the hair,” says Sonna Brado, stylist and Global Artist at KMS Hair. “Wet brushes will also have wide spacing between the bristles so that hair moves more easily through them.”

Also note that the primary purpose of a wet brush is for detangling—while a regular brush obviously also aims to do the same, it’s also used for stimulating blood flow at the scalp and distributing natural oils through the hair. Generally speaking, densely packed bristles are better for the latter two reasons.

Ultimately, there is no downside to using a wet brush when your hair is dry, especially if you have fine/straight hair. In fact, I exclusively use Tangle Teezer’s Ultimate Detangler (designed for wet hair) when it’s wet and dry. If your hair is significantly damaged and/or thinning, I would recommend doing the same. 

But you hit another good point here—you really shouldn’t be brushing your hair when it’s sopping-wet, regardless of your hair type. The No. 1 thing to remember when brushing your hair is that it is most vulnerable to breakage when it’s wet. While wet brushes are more gentle on the hair compared to your standard brush, it’s still not a good idea to put any sort of pressure on your strands in this state.

The solution is to rough-dry your hair first, i.e. blow-dry or wait until hair is about 80 to 90 percent dry before brushing with a wet brush. Not only is this sweet spot optimal for styling, it will most easily eliminate any tangles while minimizing the chances of catching and breaking strands.

So to your point, yes—there is a difference between a wet brush and “standard” brush, although it’s not necessary to have both and really just comes down to your desired goal and hair type. If you have fine or damaged hair and only use your brush to detangle, you’re better off using a wet brush 24/7 (over, say, a boar-bristle brush). And consider wet brushes more like “damp” brushes, as this is the state that you should be brushing your hair post-shower.

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