Are You Using the Wrong Type of Hair Brush?

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Ever notice when you go to the salon to get a haircut or blowout, your stylist seems to be rummaging through an endless drawer of brushes? There happens to be a pretty good reason. “Not all brushes are created equal, and they do totally different things for the hair,” says Ally Myette, a Massachusetts-based hairstylist and makeup artist. “There are so many different hair textures and styles, that when creating a specific look, choosing the appropriate brush is key to achieving the desired end result.” But there are hundreds of brushes on the market, so it can be confusing to figure out which one you really need. Here's your guide to picking the right one(s). 

2/9 Photograph courtesy of Aveda
For Blow-Drying Long, Thick Hair

Think of the paddle brush as the holy grail of brushes—it’s great for all types of hair, especially those with longer or thicker hair. Essentially it is a wide, flat brush that most often has plastic bristles covering its rounded edges. “On shoulder length or longer hair, it can expedite drying time, as it spreads the hair across the brush and can add volume and fullness when used with the blow dryer,” says Kim Becker, hairstylist and founder of Hello Gorgeous!, a non-profit organization that provides red-carpet experiences for women battling cancer.

Get it: Aveda Wooden Paddle Brush ($25, aveda.com)

3/9 Photograph courtesy of Goody
For Straightening Curly Hair

Named for the “vents” along the side of this brush, the vent brush is similar to the paddle brush in the sense that it can seriously cut down on the time it takes you to blow dry your hair. That’s because the bristles and shape of the brush allow it to reach the hair at every angle. “I like to use the vent brush for medium-length hair or hair with fine or coarse textures because it can add a nice fullness during the blow dry,” says Becker. And if you’re a curly girl who prefers a straight, smoother texture, this can help you achieve that look. “Thanks to its metal base, the brush heats up a lot faster, which gives you greater control of hair flow and texture,” says Rodney Cutler, Redken brand ambassador and owner of Cutler Salons in New York City.

Get it: Goody So Gelous Anti-Frizz Volumizing Vent Brush ($8, drugstore.com)

4/9 Photograph courtesy of Sephora
For Keeping Short Hair in Check

If you’re rocking a short ‘do, a small round brush will become your bestie. “It’s best used for a bob to keep the hair smooth and rounded at the edges,” says Myette. “It can also be used with long hair to create curls by wrapping the hair around the brush and heating it up like a curling iron would.” It comes most often in three different makes: boar bristle, metal or ionic, and plastic. “Tourmaline and ionic-charged bristles reduce odors in the hair and can even help to control frizz,” says Nathan Rosenkranz, Alterna Haircare and celebrity hairstylist. No matter what material your small round brush is made from, look for a size 1.5 inches or smaller if you have chin-length hair or shorter. For medium-length hair, opt for between a 1.5 and a three-inch round brush. “The bigger the brush, the less wave you’ll get; the smaller the brush, the more wave you’ll get,” says Rosenkranz.

Get it: Sephora Collection Bounce: Small Round Thermal Ceramic Brush ($18, sephora.com)

5/9 Photograph courtesy of Drybar
For Creating Gorgeous Waves in Medium-Length Hair

Naturally very similar to its smaller counterpart, the large round brush can create larger waves and handle greater amounts of hair. “While you can really use this brush for any length of hair, it’s best on medium-to-long hair to keep it straight or create volume and bounce in the hair,” says Becker. “The finer the texture, the more curl you can achieve, and the thicker the texture, the more body you can achieve.” Locks longer than your collarbone? Choose between a three- and five-inch round brush to achieve your ideal look. Despite its monster size, it will catch all the hairs and give the right amount of volume—no matter how thick.

Get it: Drybar Double Pint Large Round Brush ($42, thedrybar.com)

6/9 Photograph courtesy of Cricket
For Adding Shine to Dull Strands

A smoothing brush is best used to achieve a straight, silky, and smooth look—and it may even give your hair a nice health boost, too. “A smoothing brush helps transfer your scalp’s natural sebum throughout your strands to keep it naturally nourished—no conditioner needed,” says Vanessa Ungaro, hair and makeup artist of LAUREN+VANESSA Salon in New York City. Usually made from boar hair, it has very coarse bristles, making it great for use on shoulder-length or long hair. “The boar bristles polish the hair to make it silky and smooth—no matter how elaborate or simple your haircut may be,” says Myette. “It’s also great for creating formal or updo glam hair because it can smooth ponytails and high buns without ruining the overall style.”

Get it: Cricket Smoothing Brush ($10, folica.com)

7/9 Photograph courtesy of Tangle Teezer
For Detangling Knots

If you’ve never used one of the heavenly creations known as a detangling brush, now’s the time to start. Most hairstylists will make you swear never to use a brush on wet hair due to the amount of damage it can cause to your soaked, sensitive strands, but this brush is one exception to the rule. “The bristles are super soft and have movement so they won’t pull the hair when it’s wet,” says Myette.

Get it: Tangle Teezer ($15, sephora.com)

8/9 Photograph courtesy of Marilyn
For Pumping Up the Volume on Fine Hair

If you’re looking to achieve a very specific style involving a lot of volume at the roots, the tight bristles of a teasing brush can help you get the job done. “If you have naturally fine hair and want to create a lot of volume, or if you’re prepping your hair for an updo and need to create a base to give you more hold, that’s when I’d use this brush,” says Cutler. Just be cautious: These brushes are known to create a lot of damage, even when used properly, and too much teasing in general can cause breakage of the strands, so use sparingly.

Get it: Marilyn Teaser Brush ($13, ulta.com)

9/9 Photograph courtesy of Sally Beauty
For Extending the Life of a Hairpiece

Widely used on wigs, hair extensions, and hairpieces, a looped bristle brush glides smoothly over your hair to prevent damage to hair strands, bases, knots, or bonds, says Ungaro. Using one of these brushes on either natural or synthetic hairpieces can actually extend their lives.

Get it: Spornette Super Looper Large Hair Extension Wig Styling Brush #125 ($8, sallybeauty.com)

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