Do You Really Need to Brush Your Hair?

This seemingly simple question, is actually not so straightforward. Here's what hair pros have to say about brushing habits according to your hair type.

Depending on the season, the latest trends, and the newest products, it can be hard to keep track of how you should and shouldn't treat your hair. Even beauty industry insiders have different opinions. One hair care technique that no one can seem to agree on: whether or not you should be brushing your hair and if so, how often. Yeah, it sounds like the most basic of all things, but trust, it's divisive.

To start, different hair textures have different brushing needs. For a while now, brushing curly hair, especially when it's tangled or dry, has been almost universally panned as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Because the structure of curls and coils spirals and zig-zags and is more prone to breakage, rough tugging — especially with bristles that feature plastic bobbles on the ends — can cause hair loss and shedding. Curlies are more likely to reach for an in-shower comb or stick to good old fashioned finger-combing while their hair is totally wet and saturated with conditioner. On the opposite end of the strand spectrum, straight hair experiences numerous benefits from being brushed bone-dry including the distribution of its natural, moisturizing oils and smoothing of the follicles. But if your hair is fine, you've got to be careful: fine, thinning, or chemically damaged hair can experience breakage if over-handled when wet.

Are you starting to get the complexity of the question now?

The rules of hair brushing used to be pretty straightforward with some people swearing by 100 strokes a day, and others swearing off brushing altogether. But times are changing, hair-care wisdom is changing, and we want a definitive answer to the age-old question: should you brush your hair? And if so, how often should you brush your hair? The answer to the former is yes, but you've got to use the right tools and techniques for your hair type. Read on for advice on how, why, and when to brush every hair texture, according to expert stylists.

Should You Brush Straight or Wavy Hair?

If you have straight or wavy hair, how often you brush your hair depends on your hair thickness as well. Unsure if you've got fine hair or teetering between thick or medium textures? Fine hair tends to get greasier on the scalp more quickly and struggles to maintain volume and heat-styling. Thick hair, on the other hand, can never really get enough moisture.

There's good news for all hair types though. Celebrity stylist Mia Santiago recommends boar bristle brushes for all textures. "Boar bristle brushes are amazing for shine," she says. "My favorite brush is the Philip B. Paddle Brush (Buy It, $190, It's a combination of boar and crystal nylon bristles. It's awesome for massaging your scalp and distributing oils down the hair shaft smoothing the hair and adding shine."

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Philip B Paddle Hair Brush

philip b paddle hair brush

How to Brush Fine Hair

Fine straight and wavy hair require gentle handling to keep strands from breaking. It's also prone to knots, but can't endure rough handling, especially if it's been color-treated or frequently heat-styled. Luckily, there are brushes made specifically to give fine hair a shine and volume boost without causing pain or hair loss. When it comes to the best tools, Santiago reaches for her Mason Pearson Sensitive Brush (Buy It, $225, for thin-haired clients. "These particular boar bristles are soft and glide through the hair while removing tangles," she shares. (Also check out this Mason Pearson brush dupe if you don't want to spend as much money.)

In terms of technique, Santiago recommends starting at the bottom to loosen tangles and working your way up. "Hold your hand on your head while working knots out at the bottom. This prevents pulling at the root and is less painful and less damaging to the hair." This provides less tugging and damage than trying to finger-comb while also smoothing the hair cuticle and distributing hair oils. So if you've got fine hair, the answer is yes, you should be brushing. (

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Mason Pearson Sensitive Boar Bristle Brush

Mason Pearson sensitive brush

How to Brush Medium or Thick Hair

Medium or thick hair with a straight texture is, by far, the easiest to brush and scores major benefits from regular dry brushing. "I like to gather all the hair into a loose ponytail held with my hand and brush through the tangles," says Santiago, who recommends keeping the hair held in one hand and brushing with the other rather than keeping the ponytail in place with a hair tie or scrunchie. "Holding the hair in a pony with your hand prevents too much pulling at the root."

If your hair is prone to knots, frizz, or fly-aways, try the T3 Professional Smooth Paddle Brush, (Buy It, $28,, which is Santiago's go-to for removing tangles and smoothing out thick, straight hair. It has high heat-resistant nylon bristles, making it a great tool to use during blowouts and its extra broad base is great for smoothing out large sections of hair at a time. If you're struggling with dryness or dullness, she suggests looking for a brush that has boar bristles, as these work best at "massaging your scalp and distributing oils down the hair shaft smoothing the hair and adding shine." (

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T3 Professional Smooth Paddle Brush

T3 Professional Smooth Paddle Brush

Should You Brush Curly Hair?

The answer here is yes, but with caveats. "One of the biggest misconceptions about brushing is that your curls will get messed up, become frizzy, unruly, undefined, and that it will cause breakage," says Vernon François, celebrity stylist, educator, and founder of Vernon François Haircare. There are ways to safely brush and comb curls and coils while respecting the requirements of the texture, but there are extra steps. You can't just grab any old brush and dive in. Brushing dry curls leads to loss of definition in the curl pattern and a total texture change. Without the lubrication of water or conditioner, curls and coils are quick to snap or tear.

How to Brush Curls and Coils

Before grabbing a brush or comb, François suggests taking the time to detangle curly and coiled hair. "I've always been a fan of finger detangling all textures first, before getting the hair wet and shampooing." If detangling seems impossible with your fingers, don't worry: Brushing or combing comes in post-shampoo when your hair is soaked and the strands are well-lubricated. "You can also work conditioner through with a comb or brush if you wish," he says. (

In terms of tools, look for wide-toothed combs which help to detangle curly hair or a paddle brush without bobbles on the end as these tend to snag on knots and rip instead of detangling. Also, seek out brushes that have a lot of space between bristles so that tension spreads evenly through the hair and will help avoid breakage. François's favorites include Felicia Leatherwood's Detangler Brush (Buy It, $18, and the Vernon François Wide-Tooth Comb (Buy It, $10,

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Vernon François wide-Tooth Comb

Vernon Francois wide tooth comb

Brushing vs. Fluffing

Even with an expert brushing technique and great tools, "curls, coils and kinks tend to live better with less brushing and combing throughout the day," cautions François. Instead of brushing to revive hair and create volume (as you might with other hair textures), use his fluffing trick to keep your hair as full as possible while preserving the curl pattern.

According to François, re-fluffing is a great way to revive coils and curls if you'd rather not grab a brush. Gently tossing your head, "flick your curls over from left to right, then forward and backward, to help create volume from the roots." If your hair has clumped together, gently separate them out "using your fingertips with a little product to encourage big, fluffy, bouncy, lovely textures." The lighter the product, the less buildup or slick spots you'll create on dry curls, so steer clear of heavier curl smoothies or puddings while refreshing. If you're working with second- or third-day curls, look for sprays that add moisture like Ouidad Botanical Boost Curl Energizing & Refreshing Spray (Buy It, $20, or Vernon François Scalp Nourishment Braids and Locs Spray (Buy It, $18,

How Often Should You Brush Your Hair?

While you could go your whole life without brushing your hair except for the occasional detangling, more regular brushing offers benefits for certain hair types and textures. Dry hair benefits from the scalp stimulation and natural oil distribution caused by brushing, so regular, daily brushing helps keep hair shiny.

Since curly and natural hair strands are spiraled and not straight, shed hair (the hair naturally discarded from the scalp in cycles) tends not to fall off onto shoulders, but instead stays trapped in the curl and coil pattern; that means brushing or combing once weekly or on wash days helps keep shed hairs from tangling and knotting into your curls and coils.

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