Hair brushes and combs do similar things at a first glance. They style, shape, and detangle, but they serve very different purposes and work better for different hair situations. A brush cannot part hair like a rat tail comb, or create the zig zag pattern for texture with a center part. And a comb may be too rough on your hair if it is damaged or pull the curls out if there’s too much friction.
And that’s where this guide comes in. Below you’ll find when to use which styling tool and get recommendations on which type of hair brush or comb to use based on your hair needs. We’ll start the main types of combs and brushes, and then jump into the uses.
Types of combs:
- All purpose (also known as the barber comb) - these are the standard combs and range in size from 7” - 8”. Many will have half of the teeth close together and half at a wider spacing.
- Hair pick - yes, hair picks are combs as they have teeth and are used to smooth, straighten, and style your hair. They are identifiable by the long teeth on the top and a handle on adjacent side. This makes the hair pick different from a traditional comb with the handle down the side or on the back.
- Fine tooth - this style of comb can have a large handle below the teeth where the teeth come out to the side, or look like a standard all purpose comb. The identifiable styling of fine teeth combs are the teeth being close together.
- Wide tooth - this comb can have the same shape as the fine tooth, but the teeth are spaced further apart helping it create less pulling and friction than a fine tooth comb.
- Rat tail (also known as a pin tail) - these hair combs have a long and tapered spike below the teeth that can be used to section, part, and layer your hair for styling, coloring, and other purposes.
Types of brushes:
- Paddle - likely the most common style and universally loved type of hair brush, the paddle smooths your hair, detangles, and helps distribute sebum, your hair’s natural oil, while removing buildup and debris.
- Round - do you love bounce without the frizz? Then your new best friend is the round brush as this is what it is meant to do. You can find wet and dry hair options, and they can be used with a hair dryer.
- Vented - perfect for winter or when you’re in a rush, the vents in the base that hold the bristles allow the hot or warm air from your hair dryer to reach your hair more efficiently. This reduces the time to get your hair dry.
- Curved - with the unique shape of a curved brush, you’re able to work through more strands of hair at once, and this can help move sebum through your strands more evenly, and speed up your detangling time for curly, thick, and wavy hair.
- Detangling - this style is designed to have flexible bristles that slide through and detangle your hair vs. pulling out the knots. You can find styles for wet or dry hair, and they can be round or paddle based.
- Cushion - typically made from flexible materials like nylon or rubber, cushion brushes help you to reduce frizz and static. One of the most common uses for a cushion brush is to remove buildup from hair products, stimulate your scalp which may help with hair growth, and remove dandruff.
- Thermal - this style conducts heat and is likely made from materials like tourmaline, ceramic, or titanium just like your hair iron. They can help dry and style your hair faster.
- Mixed bristle - commonly made from boars hair and nylon, these brushes both detangle and add shine while properly distributing sebum through your hair. This is especially beneficial for curly or type 3 hair.
How to Choose Between a Hair Brush and a Comb
If you have damaged hair, or your hair is prone to breakage, the only safe comb to use is a wide toothed comb because it pulls less and has less friction as it runs through your locks. But combs take more strokes than brushes, and the more friction you add to your hair, the more damage you can do. This is why brushes are a safer bet than hair combs.
Cushion or paddle brushes that have a flexible base and bristles will slide more easily through your hair with less snagging, catching and ripping. This helps to reduce the potential damage you could be doing while detangling, helping to keep your hair safer.
Looking to create waterfall braids, space buns with a zig zag pattern, or crown braids? You’ll need both a hair brush and a rat tail comb. Any brush will do to remove the tangles in your hair before you style, but only a rat tail comb can create the lines and section off layers so you can weave, line, and section hair to make the styles look fabulous.
If you’re drying your hair, then choose a hair brush over a comb. Round hair brushes will be best if you want to create volume and body vs. a paddle brush. If you’re in a hurry or have damaged hair, use a brush with vents to allow more heat to pass through. Heat is bad for dry or damaged hair, so getting your hair dry more quickly reduces the amount of exposure.
And know you know the types of hair brushes and combs, and when to use which. If you found this guide helpful, become a TELETIMES subscriber by entering your email below for more guides and styling information.