Choose the best hairbrush for your hair type

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People with curly hair, straight hair, thick hair, thin hair and any type of hair in between require the right tools to look their best. 

That means choosing the right hairbrush. 

You may spend hours researching the right kind of razor, cologne or makeup, yet reach for that same old hairbrush without a second thought. There is such variation in available hairbrushes, and even more diversity in hair types, that it can be hard to know which brush is best.

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When choosing a hair tool for any desired outcome, it is important to consider what type of hair you have, what type of hairbrush is best suited to the task and what type of bristles are best for achieving a given effect.

Here’s a deep dive.

Four different kinds of hairbrushes

It is important to choose the right hairbrush for your hair type to get your hairdo looking its best. (Archive Photos/Stringer)

Types of hairbrushes

Paddle brush

Paddle brushes are the go-to for people with a lot of hair, and they are very effective for straight hair in particular. Their flat, broad surface and widely spaced bristles deliver sleek results that will not break the hair’s natural curl or wave pattern, so they are suitable for most types of hair. 

They are able to smooth large sections of hair quickly and are especially useful when blow-drying or detangling hair before straightening. People with thicker hair will want to choose a brush with sturdier bristles, likely made of nylon, which are flexible and can stand up to tangled, textured hair.

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Cushion brushes are a variation of paddle brushes that have bristles embedded in a soft, elastic cushion. This offers some give while brushing and is particularly useful for knotted hair, while firmer bristles might be better for styling. 

Cushion brushes are a good choice when a gentle touch is needed, as with fine hair.

Vented brushes are another form of paddle brush, though these come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Vented paddle brushes have holes, or vents, which make blow-drying wet hair faster as the hot hair flows through the vents, reaching deeper layers of hair as you brush.

Round brush

The round brush has a cylindrical base with bristles protruding from all sides. This is used as a styling brush. They are often used in combination with a blow-dryer for their ability to create voluminous curls or waves when held vertically. 

They can also leave hair looking straight when wielded horizontally.

Round hairbrushes sit on a table in front of hair products

Round hairbrushes are a styling staple. (Kyle Ericksen/WWD/Penske Media via Getty Images)

Smaller brushes tend to create a curlier look, while larger brushes make for a wavier look. Round brushes usually have densely packed bristles, creating a lot of grip and control over your hair, but you can find a round brush with any type of bristle on the market. For short hair, a small round brush is the most convenient.

Thermal brushes are a type of round brush that has a barrel made out of material that conducts heat, which makes blow-drying and curling faster and easier. But fine hair-owners, beware: Thinner hair is more susceptible to heat damage, so a thermal brush will better serve thicker locks.

Paddle brushes also come in thermal varieties.

Wide-toothed comb

Curly hair may be more prone to getting tangled. Taking care of curly or coily hair requires gentle finesse and tools that will not snag or pull. Enter the wide-toothed comb.

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Wide-toothed combs are best for thick hair, especially if brushing while wet, when hair is more vulnerable to breakage. Wide-toothed combs are gentle and will not tug. They are great for getting tangles out and distributing products down the length of your hair. 

A wide-toothed comb is a popular tool for those with curly or wavy hair who prefer brushing it while it is wet, even though some professionals recommend against it. 

Hair pick

A hair pick is a highly useful tool for coily or very curly hair. A gentle tug from a pick comb will lift curls away from the scalp to add volume. Separating and lifting curls at the root is a sure way to add some fluff and dimension to your hairstyle. A plastic pick is a lot gentler on curly locks, so they are better for detangling or styling loose curls than a metal pick. 

Metal varieties can be useful for thicker hair and tighter curl patterns, as long as you are careful not to scratch up your scalp.

Detangling brush

The name says it all. Detangling hairbrushes minimize breakage when brushing knotty hair. The key is their flexible bristles, which can glide through knots instead of tearing them apart.

Detangling brushes are another safe choice when brushing hair when it is wet and at its most delicate, as the brushes are designed to be gentle.

Thick or thin, straight or coily, any hair type can be tamed with the right detangling brush. For people with long, thick and curly hair, however, a detangling brush is practically a necessity.

A cushion paddle brush

Using a hairbrush specifically designed for detangling will make any hair routine painless. (Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Teasing brush

Teasing brushes are made to add volume to fine or limp hair. They are small brushes customarily used at the crown of the head to lift roots and create a fuller look. The small brush often comes with a pointed handle that can be used to easily section out hair.

Teasing brushes are often used to “backcomb,” or comb hair backwards, from the end to the root, to add volume. But the process can be a bit rough on your hair, so proceed with caution, especially if you have finer, more delicate hair. 

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Their small size and dense bristles also make them great for targeting flyaways.

Rat tail comb

Rat tail combs are similar to teasing brushes. They come with long, thin handles that make it easy to precisely separate your hair into sections or work out small knots. They can also be used as a more gentle alternative to the teasing brush for backcombing, though the teasing brush’s bristles may create more volume.

Types of hairbrush bristles

Looped bristles

A loop brush can work for any type of hair, but is crucial for anyone with hair extensions. The looped bristles will slide over wefts without accidentally snagging and risking pulling them out, all while gently untangling hair like any good hairbrush should.

Boar bristles

Soft boar bristle brushes are great for fine hair. The main draw of this brush is its fine, tightly clustered bristles’ ability to distribute natural hair oils down the strand. These naturally occurring oils are critical to healthy, shiny hair

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Because people with curly hair can be more prone to a buildup of oil on the scalp, a boar bristle brush can be a good choice to carry moisture to your hair’s drier ends while lifting away unwanted debris.

A woman brushes her hair with a vented hairbrush

Boar bristles come from real boars, but synthetic substitutes are available and will deliver similar results. (Raudies/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Despite how they might look, boar bristle brushes are designed to glide evenly through the hair. They are useful after heat styling to keep your hair healthy and moisturized, shape curls and avoid breakage.

Nylon bristles

For hair that proves too thick for the soft, highly flexible boar bristles, synthetic nylon bristles are more effective. 

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The material also reduces static, which means your hair will be less likely to frizz up. Their tougher build gives you more control when styling.

Mixed bristles

If you want the detangling benefits of nylon bristles with the oil-distributing properties of boar bristles, look no further than a mixed bristle brush, which contains both nylon and boar bristles.

This type of brush is good for hair of medium thickness that can benefit from the shine left behind by boar bristles and the strength of nylon bristles.

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