The Best Brush for You, According to Your Hair Type

And how to actually use it, too.

best hair brush guide
Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

Shampooing your hair correctly? Check.
Gave up conditioner? Using hair masks instead? Check.
Found your favorite blow dryer? Check.
Using the right hair brush? Uhhhh, check?

Finding and using the right hair brush can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be like finding Narnia—there's an easy way to decide which brush is right for you. We tapped three of our favorite hair masters (seriously, they are epic) to give us all the tips to finding—and then using—the correct hair brush based on your hair type.

First things first: There are some general best practices when it comes to brushing your hair.

Let’s call it Brushing 101.

“To eliminate tangling, brush before shampooing, and throughout the day as needed,” says Jon Reyman, master stylist and founder of Spoke & Weal.

“To gain the most out of your curly hair, only brush thoroughly before you shampoo and condition, allowing the texture to enhance naturally for the style,” says French hair master Christophe Robin.

“Never use a metal brush—it’s damaging,” says Teddi Cranford, owner of White Rose Collective and lead stylist at ApotheCARE Essentials.

Think of what you’d like your hair to look like to determine how you use your brush during blow drying. For example, for fine straight hair, use “no tension with the blowout,” says Cranford. Hey, that makes sense: The more tension you use in your hair, the flatter the hair.

But Robin takes a more scalp wellness approach to hair brushing. “The process of brushing hair regularly—say, every night before going to bed or right before washing your hair (hence not in a styling mindset and regardless of hair type)—is essential for stimulating blood circulation, which helps generate hair growth, oxygenates the scalp, and eliminates impurities. Brushing the hair helps distribute natural oils, which in return protect the hair fiber, strengthen the hair, make hair smoother, and boost shine.”

Wow, I think we’re ready for the next step—discussing the general types of brushes you can use, according to your hair type and desired look. Let’s call it Brushing 102.

best hair brush guide boar bristle
Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

Boar Bristle Brush

A staple in hair styling since the 18th century, boar bristle brushes are—yep—made from boar’s hair, and treasured for their ability to create shiny, healthy hair (even without products).

Who needs it?

“I usually recommend using exclusively boar bristle hair brushes since they have a similar structure to our hair and contain the same keratin compound, ensuring no damage to the hair and a very gentle brushing,” says Robin.

When to use it?

“I use a boar bristle hairbrush when detangling damp hair. Towel dry a bit beforehand, and then gently detangle by starting at the bottom and working your way up,” says Robin. “This is usually when your hair is the most fragile, so a boar bristle brush will not pull on the hair and break the strands.”

Styling tips?

“Mason Pearson (see below) is great for super sleek, straight hair. It’s also perfect for sleek bangs,” says Cranford. “Blow dry the bang section back and forth with medium heat (this helps all the cowlicks become more neutral) for a straighter look.”

Luxe: Mason Pearson Boar Bristle Brush, $230
The crème de la crème for its handmade craftmanship.

A Little Less: Christophe Robin Detangling Brush, $108
Designed by the master who only uses boar bristle brushes, so it’s really good.

Less: Leonor Greyl Boar Bristle Brush, $66

best hair brush guide flat paddle
Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

Flat Paddle Brush

The big, flat shape is ideal for smoothing hair, especially thick and straight, medium to long hair.

Who needs it?

“If you have fine density hair and would like to smooth out unwanted texture, a medium sized flat brush with ceramic nylon bristles works the best,” says Reyman.

When to use it?

“Use these flat brushes to create smoothness during a blow dry,” says Reyman. And remember that tension tip from Cranford above in the 101 section? It's especially important for flat brush styling.

Luxe: Harry Josh Paddle Brush, $40

Less: Sephora Nylon Paddle Brush, $18

best hair brush guide round
Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

Round Brush

A classic brush for va-va-voom, this is ideal for a variety of looks, from big VS-angel hair to perfectly bouncy and straight looks. In general, the larger the brush, the softer the curl.

Who needs it?

“If you are seeking more fullness in the style, a medium sized, ceramic round brush is perfect,” says Reyman.

When to use it?

“To create lift at the base, blow dry opposite of the way your hair lays, using the brush to aid in lifting hair at the root for the maximum amount of volume,” says Reyman.

Luxe: GHD Ceramic Vented Radial Brush, $40

Less: Sephora Medium Round Thermal Ceramic Brush, $20

best hair brush guide mixed bristle
Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

Mixed Bristle Brush

A mix of both boar and nylon bristles, this brush is ideal for styling because the nylon can easily comb through hair, while the boar adds shine and softness.

Who needs it?

“A mix of boar and nylon bristle flat brush is great for medium to heavy density hair,” says Reyman.

When to use it?

“This will give you the max amount of tension to smooth and condense your hair during a blow dry,” says Reyman.

Styling tips?

Brush size matters when it comes to length, too. “A small bristle brush is great for shorter, fine hair,” says Cranford.

And she’s especially a fan of Y.S. Park (see below)—“Y.S. Park mixed bristle brush is great for all hair types because you can twist the hair out of the brush, creating a beach wave, or you can smooth it out for a richer blowout.”

Luxe: Oribe Medium Mixed Bristle Flat Brush, $226 

A Little Less: Y.S. Park YS-701, $148
Impress all your in-the-know friends by chatting up this handmade Japanese brand, which has a cult following amongst stylists.

Less: Sonia Kashuk Hair Brush, $15.99

Keep reading about hair care 101:
The Cool Girl’s Guide to Styling Every Type of Hair
How to Care For Your Hair in the Winter

The Epic Tricks and Tips That Changed Our Hair in 2017

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Published on January 28, 2018 - 5:30am EST

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