Brushing Up

Round brushes, vented brushes, paddles, cushioned heads, boar bristles, synthetic bristles... the options are simply dizzying! Choosing the best hair brush for your specific hair needs can be a daunting task. And because there are so very many brushes available on the market, it can be really difficult to know where to start.

Like most hair tools, brushes are an investment that should be given some thought and researched carefully or you may not get the results you want for your hair. To provide a little insight, we rounded up some of the most common types of brushes and uses for each. So, buckle up as we dive in...

Brush Up on Bristles

Let's first take a look at bristle type. Although there are some specialty brushes made of other materials, most hair brushes are one of three types: natural boar bristles, synthetic bristles, or a mix of the two. In general, natural boar bristles are best suited for normal to fine hair, synthetic (usually nylon) bristles for thick, coarse or wiry hair, and a mix of the two bristles for normal to thick hair, or for longer lengths. 

Natural Bristles

Boar bristle brushes are made with natural wild boar hair. The bristles are typically packed together tightly into the brush and work well to grip hair, as well as effectively distribute natural oils through the length. Great for griping finer to medium hair, natural bristle brushes create shine and smoothness. This type of brush, because of the bristle, can be a bit of an investment, so don't be surprised when you see the price.

Synthetic Bristles

Synthetic bristles are usually nylon or plastic. They are lightweight, easy to handle, suitable for most hair types, and are typically less expensive than boar bristle brushes. Synthetic bristles are great for people with thick, coarse and or curly hair types but the down side is that they do not distribute natural oils through the hair. 

Natural & Synthetic Bristles

Sometimes called the Porcupine, many hair professionals opt to use a blend of both bristle types (boar and snythetic) for versatility and longevity. Nylon bristles or pins, as they are sometimes called, mixed in with natural boar bristles will help to retain the shape of the brush and will provide the user all of the benefits of both bristle types. The boar bristles add polish while synthetic bristles help detangle hair.  Do note that the versatility of this bristle mix does not mean it should be used on all hair types. Porcupine brushes, which can be almost as expensive as a boar bristle brush, are best for normal to thicker hair.

The Best Brush for Your Hair & Styling Need

Now that you have a base understanding of the bristle types and their best uses, let's dive into other brush attributes and look at some examples.

The best way to select the right hair brush for your needs is by identifying your hair type and thinking through the result you want to achieve (smoothing, volumizing, detangling, etc.) for your length of hair. So three factors: hair type, hair length and desired result. Keep these in mind as we move forward...

Fine Hair - General Use

For fine hair, which usually involves flat and lifeless strands, it’s suggested to use a soft to medium strength bristle brush with a rubber cushion for general use. The cushion adds comfort and the close-together but softer bristles won't flatten finer hair as you brush through.


A large oval cushioned brush filled with pure soft white bristles. This brush is designed for people with fine or thinning hair and a design ideal for livening up and grooming medium and long length hair.

Fine Hair - Adding Volume

For adding volume to finer hair, consider either a traditional vent brush or a vented round brush. These volume adding tools allow air to flow through the brush while blow-drying and are easy to use to add volume at the roots of finer hair.

Cricket Static Free Fast Flo Ultra Vent Brush

This full-size vent brush allows air styling and body building while helping to dry hair faster. It offers a non-slip, molded grip for maximum control and eliminates frizz and flyaways while creating smooth, shiny hair.

Fine Hair - Adding Volume

Phillips Vortexx 4000

This pure bristle, anti-static brush offers a ceramic core and silver additives for germ resistance. Ideal for controlling medium to finer hair, the vented round brush is great for smoothing, controlling or adding rounded volume.

Fine Hair - Adding Volume

You can also add volume by using a "teasing" brush at the roots of small sections. 

GHD Narrow Dressing Brush

This narrow bristle brush is a go-to for all kinds of styling, from kinder-to-hair backcombing that gives instant volume and brushes out easily, to smoothing ponytails and updos. A favorite of session stylists, this brush can be found in every kit backstage at fashion shows for its versatility and quick results.

Medium Hair Density

People with medium hair or normal density can use almost any brush, but it's still a good idea to go for a medium to stiff bristle brush as part of a daily care regimen.

Wigo Cushion 100% Boar Bristle Brush

Cushion 100% Boar Bristle Brush by Wigo is great for straightening, smoothing and general everyday use. 100% Boar bristles are gentler on the hair.

Thick Hair

Hair that is thick can be twice the diameter of a fine hair strand and has its own set of issues when trying to style. For detangling, use either a wide-toothed comb or a stiff, plastic bristled brush that can penetrate the thickness of your tresses. After detangling, it's suggested to remove most of the moisture from thick hair by rough-drying before introducing a brush. To straighten hair or to go for a smooth but bodified finish, use a round brush and apply light tension as your blow dry smaller sections.

Thick Hair - Detangling

Olivia Garden IDetangle Brush

Designed specifically for thicker hair this Memory-Flex tension bristle brush is ideal for detangling and general styling. Comfortable ball point tips allow gentle brushing for hair and scalp.

Thick Hair - Smoothing

DryBar Double Pint Round Brush

Ergonomic, lightweight design this round brush features stiff nylon bristles and a vented design that allows air to flow freely, thus decreasing dry time. Ceramic barrel heats up during blow-drying, helping to control and lock in styles.

Thick Hair - General Brushing 

For general, every day brushing, use a very stiff bristle brush or one with added nylon quills. These quills protrude longer than the bristle to help the brush to penetrate through the hair deep down to the scalp.

Fromm 1907 Glosser

Perfect for everyday use, the Fromm 1907 Glosser helps you achieve a gorgeous, healthy shine every time. Featuring premium boar bristles and rejuvenating nylon pins, the Glosser evenly distributes your organic oils to improve healthy growth and hair texture.

Curly Hair

For straight hair, individual hair strands are round while curly hair is oval. This unique shape hinders the distribution of natural oils from the scalp down the hair shaft, so as a result, curly hair tends to be dryer, more brittle, prone to frizz, and overall more delicate.

To detangle curly hair, it's suggested to first run a wide-toothed comb or detangling brush with wide quills through and then proceed with styling. Unless straightening hair, allow to air dry.  If straightening, blow dry with a large paddle brush with stiffer bristles, or for even more control, go for a round brush with tighter, stiffer bristles.

Kent Woodyhog

Cushioned, rosewood brush with ‘phat’ wooden quills perfect for taming, de-tangling and styling medium-thick hair.

Spornette My Favorite Cushion Paddle

Flexible ball-tipped nylon bristles set in a random pattern ensures that every hair strand will be brushed. It is a square brush, meaning the sides of the brush are flat, long and straight. This makes it easier for the brush to go through longer hair sections. The bristles of this brush are relatively stiff, in comparison to an oval cushion brush.  It has an anti-static wooden paddle and is great for a good brush out, especially for longer hair lengths.

Coarse Hair - Smoothing

Hair with a coarse texture, which is usually also thick and or curly, you need a brush that provides the most control. Look for stiff nylon bristles arranged in a spiral around a round brush.

Ibiza Hair G Series

This brush features swirled bristles, ideal for course and frizzy hair. Swirled sparse bristles allow course hair to get wrapped around the bristles easier than with uniform bristles. Swirled bristles are also great for spinning the brush to create texture, waves and smoothness. The G series mixes natural boar bristle with a unique carbon fiber heat resistant nylon.

Shorter Hair - General Use

Denman D3 - 7-Row Styling Brush

This classic, slightly curved brush is so popular that it's best known by its company’s name, Denman. It's a styling brush with seven rows of nylon pins with an anti-static rubber pad that provides maximum grip and control during blow-drying and while shaping hair. This is a great multi-purpose brush that is perfect for all hair types, especially short and fine hair.

Olivia Garden Styler 7-Row 

This anti-static brush offer synthetic, ion-charged bristles with a comfortable ball point tip. Heat resistant ionic rubber pad adds cushion for this brush best suited for styling and shaping short to medium lengths of hair.