Thick brush, thin brush, round brush, flat brush – these days, going through the many different kinds of hair brushes available in the market sounds more like an excerpt from a Dr. Seuss book. Which one should you use? What are each of them for? In this article, we try to untangle the mess of brushes that’s boggled your brain to help you pick the perfect one for your tresses.
Brushes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and each one has a specific purpose behind it. Here are some of the most basic brush shapes:
- Paddle – Paddle brushes are flat backed, usually rectangular or oval with a slight cushion behind the bristles. These brushes are particularly useful for smoothing out and detangling straight hair.
- Round – Round or barrel brushes are ideal for giving your hair slight bends and curls. Vented barrel brushes are especially great when blow drying as their hollow and vented metal cores heat up easily and allow full air circulation for faster drying.
- Half-round – Half-rounded brushes are classic styling brushes that have a half-barrel rubber head and a number of straight rows of bristles. These are best used for precise styling since they are smaller, lighter and easier to handle.
If you thought brushes all came with the same kind of bristles, think again. There are four main types of bristles, and just like brush shapes, they’re suited for different styling purposes.
- Boar – This isn’t a brand name or just a way of describing a type of synthetic bristles. Boar bristles are actual hairs from a boar. They are used as bristles because of their ability to close the cuticle layer of your hair, resulting in smooth, shiny hair. But they are often weak and break easily, which is why manufacturers often combine them with nylon bristles. Boar bristles are soft and natural and are therefore wonderful for all hair types, but they are especially ideal for use on children’s hair.
- Nylon – When we speak of nylon bristles, this encompasses all kinds of bristles made of similar materials such as plastic and rubber. Nylon bristles are slightly stiffer compare to boar bristles, offering more styling control.
- Porcupine – Unlike boar bristles, porcupine bristles are not literally from a porcupine. This term is just used to refer to bristles that are bunched up rather than set individually. Porcupine bristles are usually made up of a combination of natural and nylon bristles, and are great for taming fine to thick hair, though using it on thick hair may be more difficult without combing through the hair first.
- Metal – Metal bristles are stiff and can be harmful to the hair if used improperly. They can be used to create curls but most expert stylists would suggest using them simply for styling wigs and hairpieces.
Natural and mixed bristles like boar and nylon are often adequate for most hair types, but when it comes to detangling remember: the thicker your hair is, the bigger your bristles should be so as to avoid painful hair pulling and breaks. Soft bristles are often better for fine hair while course, thick bristles are better for thick hair.
When it comes to material, there are usually just a handful that brushes can be made out of. This includes wood, plastic, ceramic, tourmaline and various metals. Plastic is quite durable and inexpensive and is good for everyday styling. Wood absorbs heat, moisture and pressure, which means that it can help protect your hair from burning when blow drying, and keep you from putting too much pressure on your strands and breaking them. Wood is also less prone to creating static. Ceramic, tourmaline, aluminium and magnesium brushes are superb heat conductors making them great for curling and styling hair and giving hair more texture and volume.
Here are a few more brush varieties that may have the features you’re looking for:
- Vented – Usually made of plastic, vented brushes are lightweight with widely spaced, flexible bristles and large openings that allow for excellent airflow. This makes them perfect for hair drying and creating volume.
- Cushioned – When you want smooth, long, stick straight hair a cushioned brush can be your best friend. Cushioned brushes are those with a soft, almost hollow rubber cushion behind a set of flexible bristles. They’re designed to collapse the moment they meet resistance while brushing, keeping your long strands from stretching or breaking.
- Teasing – Teasing brushes are slender brushes that usually have only two to three rows of bristles and a tapered end. They’re designed for teasing, backcombing, and also lifting layered hair section by section.
Brushes are excellent styling tools, and the right brush can mean the difference between a stylish mane and a bad hair day. It doesn’t matter if you just have one or have plenty – as long as you’ve got the brush that’s made exactly for your styling and hair care needs.
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By Debra Wright
Marketing specialist Debra Wright enjoys learning new things both online and offline. Her love for discovery encompasses varied subjects from the mundane to the riveting, including topics like hair styling and beauty tips. When she is not in front of her computer or behind the wheel for a road trip, she is busy with her oven trying to master her baking skills. Follow her on twitter @debrawrites…