How Do I Choose the Best Brush for Thick Hair?

Emily Pate

The best brush for thick hair depends on the bristle type, body style and shape, and its particular purpose as well as the material it's made from. Bristles may be made from boar's hair, nylon, or both — the best option for thicker tresses. Styles and shapes like vented or paddle brushes can be used in different ways to dry or smooth hair. Combo-products like bristled straighteners or massage brushes work well for specific types of styling. Whether you want something to use in the shower or have for years to come also determines which brush for thick hair is best for you.

A woman with thick hair.
A woman with thick hair.

Boar bristles are natural fibers made from hog hair. While they add shine, they also tend to be fairly soft and may not be as useful for managing thick hair on their own. Nylon bristles are made from rubber or plastic and vary in stiffness. Generally, the more rigid and close together the bristles are, the more control you have while brushing. A brush for thick hair usually needs a mixture of boar and nylon bristles to properly distribute natural oils and for control.

Boar bristle brushes effectively smooth, lift, and help redistribute oil throughout the hair.
Boar bristle brushes effectively smooth, lift, and help redistribute oil throughout the hair.

A vented brush has open space in the frame which allows air to flow through it. This works well for drying thick hair, which can take awhile otherwise. While a round brushes can be used to smooth or relax thicker hair, they can easily tangle it, especially longer tresses. If your locks grow past your shoulders, a paddle brush can give control and prevent tangles, though they can be difficult to work with if you have a shorter cut.

Some products are made specifically for brushing rather than styling. All-purpose brush styles made with all-nylon bristles tend to have a long, rectangular shape. The smooth pins and shape work well for removing tangles. Massage brushes typically have extremely stiff pins made specifically for stimulating the scalp, sometimes during shampooing.

A specialty brush for thick hair often has a specific use. For instance, brush-straightener combos have an electric component to iron the hair flat with synthetic bristles. Ionic or ceramic brushes are also used to get sleek tresses by minimizing frizz. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. When choosing from these types of brushes, the same considerations for shape and bristle type apply, and a straightener with a low heat setting is often a better choice to protect fragile, thick hair.

The material of a brush's body may also be a deciding factor. Plastic or synthetic brushes may work well for use in the shower or for wet hair because they're resistant to water damage. Wood or metal styles may be sturdier, depending on the type, and won't bend easily while being used in thicker locks.

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