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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best hairbrushes

Whether it’s thick or fine, wavy or straight, blonde or brunette, every head of hair needs at least an occasional taming with a brush. You might wield your brush as a styling tool in partnership with your blow dryer, or just use it to remove tangles and smooth down your mane, but either way, a good brush can make the difference between a cloud of frizz and a cascade of silky locks.

Choosing a hairbrush, however, can be an exercise in frustration. Round brushes, vented brushes, paddle brushes... which do you need? And how about bristles? Are natural or synthetic better? And then there’s the handle, weight, and size.

It’s enough to make you give up in disgust and simply reach for the least expensive brush on the drugstore shelf. Luckily, we’re here to help simplify the decision!

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Owning several different hairbrushes in a range of shapes and styles gives you a variety of options when it’s time for your daily styling.

Types of hairbrushes

While there are seemingly endless types of hairbrushes for sale, most fall into one of the following five general categories.

Paddle brushes

These are used for detangling, smoothing, and adding shine to the hair. Some are completely flat, while others have a slight “cushion.” Large, rectangular paddle brushes are best for long hair, while shorter locks do best with smaller, oval-shaped paddle brushes. Both wooden and plastic paddle brushes are easily available, with many different types of bristles.

Vented hairbrushes

These are usually plastic, though you’ll also find wooden vented brushes. Most have plastic bristles. The brush’s head has open grooves in between the bristles, which allows easy airflow from your hairdryer. Vented brushes are used for styling or to speed up the blow-drying process.

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Round brushes

These coax loose curl into your hair when combined with heat from a blow dryer. You’ll find a wide range of sizes: the smaller the round brush, the tighter the curl. Round brushes probably have more variations than any other type of hairbrush: they can be made of wood or plastic; have bristles that are natural, synthetic or a mixture of both; can have ceramic or metal plating to warm up the brush for increased styling power; and some even have rotating heads to make styling easier. For most people, proper use of a round brush has a bit of a learning curve, no matter what features it has.

Styling brushes

Styling Brushes have rounded heads, but are not fully circular like a round brush. This makes them ideal for styling, adding lift, or encouraging a slight wave. There are wooden and plastic styling brushes, and a wide range of bristle types and configurations, but most have stiff synthetic bristles arranged in rows.

Teasing brushes

These have a thin head, and as the name suggests, are for teasing hair to add a bit of volume. You’ll find both boar and synthetic bristles, although boar bristles are easier on your hair.

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What about bristles?

There are four common types of hairbrush bristles.

Natural bristles

These are from hogs, or boars. Boar bristles are soft, flexible, and gentle on even delicate hair. This type of bristle spreads oils down the hair shaft, increasing the shine of your mane. Because each individual boar hair is rather flimsy, brushes with natural bristles generally either have very densely packed boar bristles, or have synthetic bristles surrounded by boar hair for increased styling ability.

Genuine boar bristle brushes tend to be expensive. Boar bristles are best for straight, fine, delicate, or children’s hair.

Metal bristles

These aren’t as common as natural or nylon bristles, and are normally tipped with a ball of nylon or plastic to prevent scratches to the scalp or damage to the hair shaft.

Metal bristles work for detangling coarse or curly locks. They are also frequently used in wig or hairpiece brushes.

Synthetic bristles

They can be nylon, plastic, or rubber – but nylon is most common. This is the most popular category of hairbrush bristle. You’ll find hairbrushes with soft and flexible synthetic bristles that are good for smoothing hair, brushes with stiff, widely spaced synthetic bristles that are useful for detangling wet or curly hair, and brushes with closely spaced synthetic bristles for use while styling or waving hair. Synthetic-bristle brushes are generally fairly inexpensive.

Depending on how thick the bristles are and how closely packed on the brush head, synthetic bristle brushes can work on any type of hair, but are especially good for thick or coarse locks.

Porcupine bristles

No, they aren’t actually from porcupines; that’s just the term frequently used to describe combination bristles – nylon in the middle surrounded by tightly packed boar bristles. This gives you the best of both worlds: the smoothing power of boar with nylon’s ability to penetrate thick hair.

Porcupine bristles are suitable for just about any type of hair, but are especially good for normal to thick manes.

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Did you know?
As a general rule, the curlier your hair, the further apart the bristles on your brush. Tightly packed bristles tend to encourage frizz and break up the natural curl pattern.

Other hairbrush features to consider

While the most important considerations when choosing a brush are its bristles and its type, there are other features that add to a brush’s benefits.


These brushes have widely spaced synthetic bristles, and are designed to safely remove tangles from wet hair.

Wooden bristles

A specialty bristle that is hard to find, widely spaced wooden bristle brushes gently remove snags and snarls from curly hair without breaking up the curl pattern or adding frizz.

Cushioned head

Some brushes have a bit of cushion in the portion of the head holding the bristles. This gives the bristles a little bit of give, making the brush easier on your scalp and hair.

Ball tips

Found on most metal and many synthetic bristles, a small “ball” at the bristle’s tip protects your hair and scalp.

Ceramic barrel

A feature found in some round brushes is a ceramic barrel. The barrel is the portion of the brush head that holds the bristles. When made of ceramic – another option is metal – the barrel heats up a bit under the blast of your blow dryer, helping mold waves and gentle curls in your hair.


Travel brushes are generally quite small, and fold in half for easy storage. You probably wouldn’t use a folding brush as your primary styling tool, but they are a convenient choice to keep in your purse, gym bag, or toiletry kit.

Ionic coating

You’ll find hairbrushes, particularly round brushes, with a ceramic ionic coating on the barrel. This helps increase shine.

Copper plating

A copper-plated brush head is said to dry hair faster when used in combination with a blow dryer.

Comfortable handle

Hairbrush handles are usually either wood or plastic. The handle should be easy to hold, comfortable in your hand, and not put strain on your wrist when bending to reach the back of your head.

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Did you know?
Slightly curved styling brushes give bobs and other straight medium-length cuts a sleek look with just a bit of curve at the ends.

Hairbrush prices

You can find cheap plastic brushes for a dollar at the discount store, and you can spend hundreds for a high-end, natural-bristle brush from a well-known stylist.

The majority of people, however, choose a brush somewhere between these extremes.

Generally, you’ll get a good hair brush in the range of $10 to $25. Natural-bristle brushes will be at the upper end of that range, while synthetic brushes will be at the lower end.

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Tips for cleaning your hairbrush

Whatever type of hairbrush you use, it needs regular cleaning. Snarled hair, oils, skin flakes, dust, and styling product residue all build up in your brush’s bristles, making it unsanitary and less effective.

Aim to clean your hairbrushes and combs at least once per month.

Follow these steps each time you clean your brush:

  1. Use a comb or tweezers to gently lift matted hair up and out of the bristles.

  2. Wet the bristles, and then rub a few drops of gentle shampoo into the bristles and around the brush head.

  3. Scrub the bristles with an old toothbrush to remove product residue and oils.

  4. Rinse the bristles thoroughly. Dry a plastic brush with a towel. If the brush has boar bristles, blot gently, then allow it to air dry bristle-side-down on a towel.

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While the old myth about brushing your hair 100 strokes every night before bed is actually a recipe for hair damage, it is true that brushing helps spread healthy oils over your hair and improves the health of your scalp.


Q. What’s the best type of brush for very short hairstyles?

A. To give your crop or other short do a bit of height, style it with a small nylon-bristle vented brush, lifting from the roots. If you prefer a sleek look, a small paddle brush with synthetic bristles is best.

Q. What kind of brush should I use to add some volume to my thin, straight hair?

A. A round brush with boar bristles will grip fine hair and add some height when combined with a styling product with lots of hold. Always choose a boar bristle brush for fine hair – it’s less damaging to thin locks.

Q. What kind of hairbrush is best for African-American hair?

A. Pamper your natural hair with a rubber-based, nylon-bristled styling brush. These brushes move easily through thick or coarse hair without pulling or damaging the strands.

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