Combing curly hair is an art form. Pat G. Williams (Revlon hair educator and author), Felicia Leatherwood (celebrity hairstylist and founder of Brush With the Best), and Matthew Collins (Dyson ambassador and celeb stylist) have more than perfected it. Now, they’re cluing us in on how it’s done (or really, how it’s not done). Keep reading to discover their expert tips on how to brush curly hair!
Should You Brush Curly Hair Dry or Wet?
“It is best to brush curly hair while it is wet to maintain the integrity of the hair,” says Pat. Brushing saturated strands “adds definition and elongates the curls and helps to avoid frizz. Divide the hair into sections based on the density of the hair, making it easy to manage. Make sure the hair is well conditioned before brushing. Use the brush gently starting at the ends of the hair,” says Pat.
Felicia has a similar game plan. “On wet hair, you start from the bottom and brush up and back to the roots. Try not to take too much hair at one time, that can lead to potential damage,” she notes.
Which Tools Should You Use to Brush Curly Hair?
Your tools are as important as your technique, which is why it’s key to pick a great brush. “The best brush is one that is designed for wet hair and that is easy for you to manage. Boar or nylon bristles are best for curly hair. Avoid plastic brushes that may damage the cuticle (the outer layer of the hair). Choosing the best brush also depends on your style choice. For sleeking curls into a ponytail, a boar brush works best. Small brushes designed to control the edges and flyaways are great for edge gel application and smoothing flyaways,” says Pat.
Felicia recommends her own Felicia Leatherwood Detangler Brush which is her “go-to brush for brushing and detangling curly and coily hair.”
Matthew opts for Dyson’s wide-tooth comb, which we actually use whenever any water touches our mane. “When brushing curly hair, for most cases, less is always more,” he says. “If you’re letting it dry naturally, I suggest doing this in the shower while the conditioner is in your hair, then rinsing and letting your hair dry gently. If you do need to brush it out after, I do suggest using something with minimal prongs. I love the Dyson wide-tooth comb. The prongs are wide and thin so it disturbs your hair minimally. It detangles the knots but keeps the curl pattern intact.”
A Step-by-Step Guide for Brushing Curly Hair
Following these steps will get curly hair to behave. “When brushing curly hair, you are also detangling the hair,” notes Pat, who shares her tips and recs.
- Wash with a sulfate-free shampoo such as Creme of Nature Butter Blend and Flaxseed Double Duty Detangle and Slip Shampoo. “Hair should be moisturized and hydrated,” she confirms.
- Apply a rinse-out conditioner and add a leave-in conditioner to aid in slip, such as Creme of Nature Butter Blend and Flaxseed Double Duty Rinse Out and Leave-In Conditioner, which will ease detangling.
- Brushing from the ends up reduces friction on the hair—comb evenly to maintain curl definition.
What to Avoid When Brushing Curly Hair
When it comes to brushing curly hair, take it nice and slow. “Avoid brushing too much hair at one time,” says Felicia. “Starting from the scalp and working your way down is a no-no.” And what’s more, “brushing on dry hair can lead to breakage.”
When you brush under the wrong conditions, there are consequences—curly hair doesn’t play. “Brushing hair that is not clean can result in poor style results and product buildup. Brushing the same hair too frequently can cause the loss of curl definition,” shares Pat.
“The hair can break or become twingy as well as hair can shed,” adds Felicia.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Aside from following our guide, Pat explains that “finger combing curls while in the shower with conditioner in the hair is a great way to start the detangling process. Brushing curly hair while clean, wet, and moisturized with slip will add shine, detangle the hair, and energize the scalp.” Ultimately, you want to “take time to brush correctly to avoid damaging your crown of curls.”
Don’t give up, even if a tangly mess is leaving you frustrated. “Be patient with your hair while brushing,” Felicia affirms.
Brush away your cowlicks, HERE.