I’ve fought a decade-long battle to keep hairbrushes in the Kelly home. I’ll snatch a few into custody at the store, but once home, they go underground, never to be found again. The time has come to invest in another lot of them, and I’m going to test the theory that if you pay more for something, you’ll do a better job taking care of it. But what type to buy? I called some friends and experts for advice.
“As someone with hair that tends to frizz, a good hairbrush is absolutely vital to taming the mane,” stated my friend Anna. “For years I’ve been satisfied with only one: the Widu bristle hairbrush — handmade in Italy, with wood bristles [$39.95 at Isabella in Spring Valley, 800-777-5205]. It’s totally hypoallergenic and synthetic-free, made especially for longer, thicker, curlier hair such as mine, but I would recommend it to anyone. The wood is easy on the hair and minimizes breakage. I used to brush through my hair only when it was wet, to avoid frizz, but now that I use the Widu brush, I can do so whenever I want.”
“You always want to look for something that is either boar bristle because it has naturally rounded bristles, or something manufactured in nylon,” explained Doug Yeagley, creative director and owner of Tops Salon in Mission Hills (619-295-1525). “It is very important to have the tips rounded; it gets the tangles out faster. If pointed, they’re going to catch on any kind of imperfection in the hair; they’ll rip through it. And then when the hair is damaged, it can never be repaired.
“And with some brushes, the length of the teeth is something you have to concern yourself with because they will grab in the hair. Some people do better with a longer brush, some people do better with a shorter bristles.”
Do you have a favorite hairbrush?
“I am a hair cutter, so I always have a brush that I like. I use a Paul Mitchell Sculpting Brush — nylon, a cushion on the base, the teeth are wider apart so you can move the hair a little bit. The tighter the teeth, the more it grabs at the hair and the more it smashes the hair together. A sculpting brush is something that you can work through a normal density of hair and get through it easy. Sculpting brushes have a soft pad and fewer teeth in them. The paddle brushes have a lot more teeth in them; they are designed to pull the hair together and brush the scalp. They have a cushion to them, so when you are brushing on the scalp it actually stimulates the scalp and releases the oil and stimulates blood flow, just like a massage.”
Will a brush last a lifetime?
“No. If it is boar bristle, which is a more- expensive bristle, depending on how often you use it, you have to check the tips of the brush to find out if they are pointed or not. If they are still rounded, you are okay. If they have worn to a point, then it is going to rip your hair.”
How should you clean your brush?
“You want to pull all the loose hair out of the brush. Why would you want dead hair on a brush? And then what we do is spray the brush with rubbing alcohol. Then we take two brushes and brush them together and that gets the hairs off the base and then you can pick them off.”
“I do like the bristle brushes,” said Dario Enemocon, owner of Dario Salon in La Jolla (858-456-1339). Enemocon has been doing hair for 20 years. “I found that with bristle brushes the hair gets a better shine and the styling holds better. I’ve found that even working on very ethnic hair, you have more control over the hair and it provides more shine, a more smoothing look.”
For the home stylist, “Spornette brushes are easy to work.” (A medium-size brush runs between $28 and $30 at Dario’s; larger sizes run $30 to $35 a brush.)
“Denman brushes, made in England [$35 each at Dario’s], are more flat paddle brushes — 16 rows or 9 rows. They are mainly used for people with very fine, straight hair that doesn’t need too much work. Or, for someone who doesn’t know how to work with a round brush as they do their hair at home, the Denman is the perfect brush to use. And Marilyn are fantastic brushes also [$35 to $40 at Dario’s].
“Brushes must be cleaned at least every two weeks. Remove all that hair that is building up on the brush. That hair, with the heat [from the blow dryer] is going to start burning, and it’s going to create split ends on your hair.”
What about curly hair?
“After shampooing and conditioning,” Enemocon explained, “definitely using a comb is the best way to go with that type of hair. Combing the hair is the key to probably 50 percent of the client’s own styling at home. I tell my clients to comb the hair when it is wet. Put the styling products on the hair, brush the hair for two or three minutes, making sure that the product goes all the way through the cuticle of the hair. It kind of stimulates the cuticle of the hair; it creates a little bit more of the strength of the hair. It makes the scalp of the hair produce more natural oils without making the hair oily. Then you will achieve more shine, a little more of a smooth texture than you would by just putting the product in there and not doing anything.”