Think You Know How to Brush Your Hair? Wrong.

by Julia Teen

Brushing your hair… seems pretty simple, right? Not so fast. According to those in the know (expert hairstylists who see us brushing our hair the wrong way... oh, every single day), the best way to soften up your strands isn’t going from top to bottom: it’s the exact opposite.

Adam Maclay, a hairstylist at NYC’s Patrick Melville Salon, sees too many of us ripping through our hair. He suggests a far gentler method: “Always brush your hair from the ends back upwards to your scalp,” he says. “Start at your tips in small sections, then work up to the mid shaft, and then finish at the roots.”

Here are the tools and techniques to help you brush your hair the right way for your hair type:

Fine Hair

The one thing that experts agree on with regard to fine hair is that brushing is the major cause of breakage. “Fine hair has up to 50 percent less internal protein than thick hair and an average diameter of roughly 70 microns compared to the 90 micron average normal hair diameter,” says NYC hairstylist Jonathon Mason. So every time you yank your brush through your fine strands, it’s causing way more damage than it would with other hair types.

For a gentler approach, Maclay suggests brushing fine hair with a synthetic bristle brush, which can glide through your strands easier than a natural bristle. “Always use a light detangling spray after washing your hair and before brushing though,” says Mason. “And towel-dry before you start to get most of the water out.”

Paul Mitchell Lite Detangler, $13, Jet

Damaged Hair

If your hair is damaged or color treated — therefore being more susceptible to breakage — a moisturizing cream should be applied to make brushing out easier. “Even a light dose of extra conditioner will help,” says Maclay.

Neutrogena Triple Moisture Silk Leave-In Cream, $7, Jet

Thick Hair

Thicker hair types are more durable, but that doesn’t mean you also won't experience breakage and split ends. Mason recommends applying a cocktail of light oil and leave-in conditioner before brushing hair with a natural boar bristle paddle brush.

Moroccan Oil Treatment, $34, Nordstrom; Aussie Leave-In Conditioner Spray, $7, Amazon; Denman Paddle Brush, $15, Amazon


After washing curly or coarse hair, Mason suggests applying some leave-in conditioner and using a wide-tooth comb to brush through your strands in the shower. “Once out of the shower, gently towel dry and avoid brushing or combing,” which create frizz, he says. “Let curls air dry naturally.”

Coiled/Kinky Hair

“For those with really textured hair, brushing can be a lot of work,” says Maclay. “It’s important to brush out coiled or kinky hair to avoid dreadlocks. Use a pick comb to speed up this process, but generally this hair type tends to be dryer, so pair this with a leave-in conditioner or styling oil for healthy, moisturized hair.”

Tool Structure Pik, $2, Amazon