Hair brushes have been used by humanity for many creative things outside of hair. It’s the go-to microphone for our inner Aretha Franklin that’s waiting to burst out in R-E-S-P-E-C-T at any moment. It’s a door stopper in a pinch, a fly swatter when it’s the only thing in reach (ew) and a scalp massager when your nails are too much. It’s a multi-tasker if there ever was one. Brushes can present a challenge if you are not sure which one is the best for you – outside of singing in the shower.

To prevent ripped out hair and to end the brush confusion and frustration once and for all, we present to you: Hair Brushes 101: A Guide To Your Perfect Hair Brush(es) so that you can find and use your perfect brush the way it was designed to be used. We’re breaking down the what why and how of hair brushes…oh and when to replace it too. The list below describes the brushes above from left to right.


Best For: All Hair Types
This is the best detangling tool ever for all hair types because it smooths your hair as you detangle and helps to reduce unnecessary (read: ripped out hair due to the wrong detangling tool) hair loss during the detangling process and it also cuts down on detangling time. Paddle brushes can be made from wood or plastic and the difference is really down to which feels best in your hand. The plastic tips of your paddle brush should be smooth and round to prevent hair snagging or damage to your scalp. It’s also great as a blow dry tool on highly textured hair in absence of a blow dryer comb when smoother results are desired or on straight hair types when a sleek straight look is desired. Dare we say this may be the best hair brush for curly hair?
Replace When: You start loosing the little plastic tips that coat the bristles. Loss of tips mean that the bristles are no longer protected so their jagged and exposed edges will start to rip your hair out.


Best For: All Hair Types
Soft boar bristle brushes are made from natural boar fibers and grips your hair better than any synthetic brush can. The bristles helps to distribute your natural scalp oils through your hair (especially if you have straight hair). This type of brush is best for smoothing textured hair and edges into ponytail and updo styles or keeping those shaved sides smoothed down or even blow drying short, straight types of hair for styling purposes. The best type of boar bristles brushes are 100% natural so make sure you choose a brush that has no synthetic fillers as the plastic synthetic fillers can rip your hair out especially if your hair is fine.
Replace When: A quality boar bristle brush will last you a few years but when the bristles no longer stand straight up it’s time for a replacement.


Best For: Straight, Wavy and Loosly Curled Hair.
Use With Caution On: Tightly Curled to Kinky Hair

A “round brush” as they are commonly called, is best used on straight to loosely curled hair to blow dry into a style. “Round” brushes come with plastic bristles that are formed with and without padded tips as well as with boar bristles mixed in with plastic bristles (as pictured) and as simply round boar 100% bristle brushes. A round boar bristle brush is used in the same way as a round nylon bristle brush but generally gives a little more tension so it can also be used for sleek straight blow outs.
Replace When: The bristles start to fold over and will no longer stand up straight, you’re losing the protective tips of the brush and/or your hair is beginning to catch and rip on the bristles.


Best For: Blow Drying Straight, Wavy and Loosely Curled Hair
Not Good For: Tightly Curled to Kinky Hair

Round nylon bristles brushes add volume to your hair during a blow out and come in various sizes (like curling irons) and give a nice bevel or curl during a blow out depending on the stylist’s wrist work. A round nylon bristle brush holds heat better than a round bristle brush with 100% boar bristles. Because of the way the bristles are formed around a round brush – most often with no protective tips, this brush could rip hair out that’s tightly curled and coiled so avoid this brush if your curls are this type.
Replace When: The bristles start to fold over and will no longer stand up straight and/or your hair is beginning to catch on them.


Best For: Smoothing Hair Into Ponytails and Updos
Use With Caution On: Curly, Tightly Curled to Kinky Hair

Plastic bristle brushes if used improperly can be your worse nightmare. Just like you wouldn’t just start running a round nylon bristle brush through hair thats tightly curled to kinky, the same goes for this brush. When used properly however, it’s good for smoothing your hair into ponytails, updos and just general hair smoothing. Its bristles are longer, more firm and wide spaced than a boar bristle brush but they are often very hard and stiff so if you have textured hair, it’s best to only use this brush gently on your edges and for smoothing stretched out hair into updos. Never, ever run this brush through hair that’s not been fully detangled and stretched out.
Replace When: The bristles start to fold over and will no longer stand up straight and/or your hair is beginning to catch on them.


Best For: Blow Drying Short to Medium Length Straight Hair
Most Commonly Used As: A Detangling Brush
Use With Caution On: All Hair Types

Lump this in with your Tangle Teaser style brushes as the Godmother. The Denman brush has been heralded as a good detangling tool by some naturals but it is actually best used for blow drying short to medium length straight hair and can create body and bevel like no other via wrapping as you blow dry. Denmans don’t have protected teeth like a paddle brush however that’s okay because their teeth are incredibly smooth which prevent hair snagging. They also come with different teeth spacing so you can pick out the one that works best on your curls. Even though it amplifies your detangling sessions, use with caution because if you rush through detangling you hair, you could end up ripping it out especially if your hair is tightly curled. Just pick up a Denman paddle brush to detangle and blow dry curly to kinky types of hair and let this brush be great for what it was intended, no modification needed.
Replace When: This brush should last you for ages really but if your bristles start to fold over and won’t remain standing or soften up, it’s time for a new one.

Cheers to happy brushing!

– Amena BelledeSoleil

Amena is an Aveda trained natural hair stylist. She is also the owner of Hair Polish Natural Hair Studio in Los Angeles. Find her on Facebook.

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