The Best Brush to Beautify
Did you know that I take topic requests for the Style Haus Salem Blog? This month's topic came from Karen S. (of glow-in-the-dark neon blue hair fame), who asked, "Are boar hair brushes important, or are they just a fad? What do they do? Why do people rave about them?"
I loved her question so much that I thought I would expand it a bit, and give a shake-down on brush basics, their pros and cons, and if they'd be right for you.
Boar Hair Brushes
I'm sorry my fellow vegan and cruelty-free folks, but the name is not a misnomer. Boar hair brushes are considered the Cadillac model of brushes, and usually are made with a gorgeous wooden base/handle from which the coarse bristles are attached. They also come in both flat/paddle shapes as well as round brushes. They're used to distribute oil from the scalp throughout the hair, naturally hydrating each strand. But here's the thing -- I think these are great if you have thick/coarse hair, strong hair, aren't prone to frizzy hair, and don't have too oily of a scalp.
In my opinion, the tension these bristles put on the hair is too great for fine/damaged/vulnerable strands. Yes, these brushes will 100% distribute the natural oils, but I almost think they do too good of a job -- even if you're not prone to greasy hair, don't be surprised if they leave you feeling glued-down and flat. In the PWN I would also argue that they can create some static electricity/frizz through the mid-lengths of the hair. However, I will say they're fantastic for brushing through dry shampoo!
Paddle brushes are large, wide brushes with bristles set into a solid, flat base. Think of a pokey square with a handle. These can be synthetic or natural bristle brushes, and just like the Boar Hair Brushes, were created for a time when folks committed to brushing their hair 100 times before bed every night. I think these are great for detangling dry hair, but I really don't recommend tearing though your hair with any brush on the regular!
I would recommend using one that is made with synthetic bristles with finished ends so that it glides though the hair and doesn't scratch up the scalp. I also like ones with a padded/squishy base so that it's gentler on the strands. These brushes weren't designed to redistribute oils throughout the hair, so it's less risky that you'll look greasy -- and with the softer, finished bristles you're less likely to work up a head full of frizz.
Vent brushes are not all that dissimilar from paddle brushes in shape, but their design makes them spectacular for so many functions. These guys are square- or rectangular-shaped (of varying widths), can have either a flat or slightly convex base, and more often than not are made with synthetic bristles tipped with a small ball. The primary difference is that the base isn't solid, and instead had slats where the bristles attached -- the negative space in the base creates "vents."
Vent brushes were designed specifically for blowing the hair dry. The vents allow the hot hair to pass through the brush, simultaneously drying the front and back side of the hair strand. In theory the design creates a faster blow dry; I've never taken the Pepsi challenge to prove this, but I will say vent brushes are my weapon of choice for my blow dries (notice I did not say blow out -- more on that in a minute).
But here's the deal...vent brushes do not necessarily straighten the hair while it's being dried. The bristles are spaced too far apart to put much tension on the hair; great for not damaging fragile wet hair while it's being tugged, but a total downer if you're looking to reduce frizz and to eliminate the majority of the natural texture in the strand while drying. Most likely you'll need to smooth out your look with a flat iron or curl the hair in order to eliminate the remaining frizz/fluffiness/texture before you head out for the day.
Round brushes are not for the faint of heart....or for the casual brush user! These guys come in varying diameters (from .5" to 4"+), can be made with natural or synthetic materials (this includes boar bristle), and when synthetic can also have a metallic or hard plastic base. A word of warning -- these brushes are not made for brushing out/detangling the hair. Round brushes are to be used for wet styling only!
Here's the deal: the smaller the diameter of the brush, the tighter the curl/wave effect in the hair. Conversely, the larger the diameter, the more lift/volume you'll get while pulling out natural texture.
Natural/wooden bases buffer the heat from the blow dryer a bit more because they absorb and redistribute the heat, but these are a slower blow dry process. Metal based-brushes absorb and reflect the heat from the dryer, acting more like a curling iron -- it's a faster blow dry and style, but be sure to use a high-quality heat protecting serum before you start!
Round brushes provide the greatest tension of all the brushes, which is why these are used for a blow out. They have the ability to smooth natural texture, add volume and bounce, help eliminate frizz, and create styles that can last up to several days. Be sure to use a smaller diameter for shorter hair, and wider for longer hair -- often times I will use different-sized round brushes on the same head as the length of the client's layers will vary from nape to crown.
A huge caveat: if you have thin, weak, or damaged hair, please be careful about using these. Because round brushes provide maximum tension, it is very possible for these to pull out or break off your strands!
You've likely heard of the Denman brush, and it's even more likely that your mom/grandmother had one in her vanity drawer -- the classics are classics for a reason! These are 100% synthetic brushes, the ones with a black plastic handle, the red-orange base, and the white plastic bristles. Yep, that's the one!
The Denman is a great detangler, especially for naturally curly hair (if you were inclined to brush it). The best reason to use one is for brushing out curling iron/hot roller/curling wand curls. I know the current style is to manually "break up" the curls for a beachy look, but if you wanted something sleeker -- or a gorgeous 1940's-inspired Hollywood Glam look -- this is the brush you'd use.
Wet-Dry Brush vs The Tangle Teaser
So name brands...are they worth the hype? With these two, depending on what you need, I'm inclined to say yes.
The Wet-Dry Brush is exactly what the name implies -- use it on both wet and dry hair! 99% of the time I would discourage anyone from brushing their hair while it's wet, unless you have one of these. The synthetic base and bristles are strong enough to detangle hair, but provide little resistance when it encounters a snarl. It allows you to brush back over the knot repeatedly without damaging or pulling the hair, which makes it also perfect for those with tender heads.
The Wet-Dry line make both paddle and vent brush styles, and I cannot recommend enough buying a least a vent brush from them if you ever blow dry your hair. It's gentle on fragile strands and it will help speed up the drying process.
The Tangle Teaser is also a great tool for detangling wet hair; I often use that when I need to comb out wet teased sections after rinsing a balayage or diffused highlights. Where it differs is that is also is a fantastic tool for back-coming at the scalp for additional volume. It's simple to use and creates a soft tease that won't damage your hair like a traditional rat tail comb can. If you feel that you're not good at or scared of teasing your hair but you'd like the volume, I would recommend this tool.
The Basic Dos and Don'ts of Brushing
I know some of this may seem redundant, but I wanted to make sure I covered the basics of brushing - you never know what folks may or may not already know!
First of all, be sure to brush out knots starting at the ends. Hang on to the section a couple of inches above where you're working (to reduce tension and discomfort) and continue to brush out the knot with light pressure until it's gone. Then continue to work up the length until your get to the scalp.
Please use a wide-toothed comb in shower -- not a brush -- to evenly distribute conditioning products in the hair. This reduces the tension and will also waste less product.
Your hair is the most vulnerable to damage when it's wet. The keratin in your hair is more pliable and stretchy, and the strands are heavier when there's water molecules between the cuticle cells. Wet hair will stretch, and will only give so far before it breaks. If you don't have a Wet-Dry Brush to detangle your hair after washing, please only use a wide tooth comb!
Be sure to thoroughly towel dry hair before starting a blow dry. And unless you're going for a full blow out, rough-drying your hair (blasting with heat without using a brush) to about 80% dry is the best option. Think of using your brush as a finishing tool to straighten the texture and/or to build volume. Hair will not comply with a brush until it's mostly dry -- so using some fancy-dancy brush skills on super wet hair won't do anything for your style but will help give you carpel tunnel faster.
When drying your hair with a brush, please use a section no wider than the width of your vent brush and no thicker than the diameter of your round brush. Picking up a section thicker than the diameter of the round brush is a guaranteed way to ensure the brush gets snarled in the hair.
And finally, when drying your hair, please point the dryer nozzle blow down the hair shaft (root to end). A 45-degree angle of the dryer nozzle to the brush is optimal. Blowing up the hair will open up the cuticle and cause frizz, kinda like petting your cat the wrong direction.
I hope all of this cleared up The Brush Dilemma -- did this answer any questions for you? I'd love to know what might have helped, or if I forgot anything! Post an a-ha moment for you in the comments, or a burning question that I can answer. And don't forget to share this post on social media with someone you think might benefit from Brushes 101!