Long Hair Woes – Step 1 – The Brush

I recently wrote about my long hair and how I’m having problems with it. Here’s my action list:

  1. Get a good brush where the handle and head are one piece.
  2. Learn some styling techniques.
  3. Get a haircut to say goodbye to the split ends. We will see what some research turns up. Best brushes, great easy hairstyles, and an affordable good haircut. Wish me luck!

Now, the first item on my list is to get a good brush. That is a big task. I spent some time researching brushes and here is a little snipit of what I found. First up is the type of bristles:

Bristle Type Its Purpose Best On
Boar This bristle is the actual hair of a boar (hog). Boar bristles are considered ideal because they close the cuticle layer — the outside armor of your hair — and create shiny hair. Because boar bristles tend to be weak, manufacturers usually mix them with nylon bristles, so they don’t collapse while you’re brushing through the hair. Boar bristles are natural, soft, flexible bristles that gently brush the hair and are suitable for use on children. Manufacturers often combine boar with nylon bristles to create a stronger styling ability.
Nylon This name represents a catchall category for all types of bristles made of plastic, nylon, rubber, or similar materials. Nylon bristles can be soft and flexible or stiff and firm. Nylon bristles offer little to maximum control, depending on how closely the bristles are placed and how flexible the material. As a rule, the stiffer and more closely spaced the bristle, the more control you have over the hair.
Porcupine Before you imagine quills running through your hair, calm down. Porcupine is a term used for a tufted bristle — multiple bristles grouped together — that usually includes a combination of boar and nylon bristles. It’s gentle, but it exerts a good hold on the hair. This design is excellent for controlling fine hair, as well as for thoroughly brushing thick hair right down to the scalp.
Metal Unless you’re styling a wig, stay away from this category of bristles. Metal bristles — even with soft plastic tips — are too inflexible to safely use on human hair. Not recommended for anything but wigs and hairpieces.

Now that we know about the different type of bristles, it seems like the Boar bristle brush might be a good choice for my long hair, but will it be enough on its own to detangle? We may need to go with one that has a few nylon bristles mixed in so it has some stiffness. We will see what we come up with.  OK, on to the different categories of brushes, it looks like there are four main categories:

Vented brush
The brush has widely spaced, flexible bristles. Openings in the head (where the bristles are attached) allow for good airflow. Today, vented brushes are primarily used for drying hair because they offer superior airflow, making short work of moisture. Vented brushes maintain natural movement because their bristles never force the hair into a specific shape.

Cushioned brush
This category of brushes includes the oval-shaped cushioned brush (padded head where the bristles are attached) for simply brushing out the hair and the flat paddle brush with an air cushion that’s used exclusively for long hair. The latter is an invaluable tool, by the way, because the cushion and bristles are designed to collapse anytime they meet resistance; hence, they prevent long hair from being stretched, split, or broken.

Round brush
Many round brushes have wooden or plastic handles with a variety of grips that ensure good traction and fit your hand. Round brushes look exactly as named: They have a round, metal barrel for more defined movement. Use a round brush any time you want the hair to have some bend or curl, but not as much as curling irons or hot rollers would provide.

Classic styling
Classic styling brushes have a half-rounded head. They traditionally have five, seven, or nine rows of stiff nylon bristles — seven being the most popular. This style is referred to as a half round brush because the head of the brush has a rubberized, slightly rounded shape to create a slight bend in the hair. The classic styling brush is the tool of choice when creating smooth, sleek, precise hairstyles that aren’t stick-straight.

From the categories of brushes described above, I am most drawn to the Cushioned Brush, specifically the flat paddle brush. So, at this point I’m looking for a bore bristle (possibly mixed with nylon) flat paddle cushioned brush. Does my perfect brush exist?

I found this hairbrush on a site listing 8 great hairbrushes but the bristles aren’t natural. Is there a better brush? Well yes there is actually, the site also showed a brush made in London, England and you could buy it for $190! I think there might be a good brush that’s affordable out there. So I keep looking.

Best for Long, Straight Hair

Large, wide paddle brushes are best for keeping long, straight, or wavy hair smooth and sleek without adding volume. The extra surface area makes the task of brushing long hair go by more quickly. (Olivia Garden Ceramic + Ion Anti-Static Square Cushioned Paddle Brush, $15.95, ULTA)

The brush below is actually a comb and they claim its great for detangling. Do I need to have a split approach on this?

Best for Detangling

Wet hair is fragile and susceptible to breakage, so for working out snarls and snags from any type of hair, use a wide-toothed comb instead. (Sephora Collection Large Wide Tooth Comb, $4, Sephora)

This next brush is all wood. It states that it’s good for curly hair. I have wavy hair not tight ringlets. I’m not sure it’s right for my hair type and I don’t know if I can go this different from what I’m used to. It is all natural though!

Best for Curly Hair

If you choose to brush curly hair, models with wood bristles are ideal, since they’re gentler on fragile hair, won’t separate the curls, and won’t generate static. (Olivewood Hair Brush with Wood Pins, $29.95, BestGroomingTools.com)

In case you were wondering about the $190 brush, here it is below. It is absolutely beautiful and I just find myself wanting it. Then my son makes a cute noise and I realize that I’ll have to trade a $190 brush for some diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and clothes for this little man. [sigh]

Best All-Purpose Brush

The Rolls-Royce of hair brushes, Mason Pearson’s design remains virtually unchanged since 1885. The natural boar bristles are the best choice for distributing beneficial oils down the length of the hair shaft. (Pure Bristle Brush, $170, Folica.com)

Research material from:
Choosing the Right Brush for Your Hair
Eight Great Hairbrushes – Which is Right for You?
Mason Pearson Pure Bristle Brush Handy Size

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