Whether your natural hair type is subtle waves or kinky coils, anyone with curly hair knows that brushing curls can be tricky. (Especially if you've ever been told that you should never brush curly hair.) But it turns out, you just need to make sure you're using the right brush for your needs.
Since there are so many different types of brushes available to buy online, it can be hard to know where to start. That's why we tapped six different hairstylists to get their expert recommendations on the best brushes for curly hair. Whether you're looking for an affordable comb for detangling knots or a high-end brush that yields salon-quality blowouts, there's an option here for you.
These are the 10 best brushes for curly hair in 2021, according to hairstylists:
- Best Overall: Denman Classic Styling Brush
- Best for Detangling: Tangle Teezer The Original
- Best for Scalp: Curly Hair Solutions The Original Flexy Brush
- Best for Blow-Drying: Olivia Garden NanoThermic Ceramic + Ion Square Shaper Hair Brush
- Best Value: Wet Brush Original Detangler Hair Brush
- Best for Straightening: Fromm Glosser Intuition Hair Brush
- Best Comb: Revlon Essentials 2-Piece Tangle-Free Comb Set
- Best for Shower: Pattern Shower Brush
- Best for Soft Curls: Ibiza EX4 Boar Bristle Brush
- Best Splurge: Mason Pearson Popular Hair Brush
What to Look for in a Brush for Curly Hair
Before you pick up a random brush from the drugstore, there are some important factors to consider. For starters, most hairstylists recommend brushing curls while they're wet to easily work through knots. "For detangling, you want to make sure that the bristles don't have seams or areas where the hair can snag and get caught," explains Matrix artistic director Michelle O'Connor.
Brush size: If you're styling curly hair (like with a hair dryer), you'll have to decide what look you're going for, because that helps you determine the best size and diameter for your brush, according to Paul Labrecque, celebrity hairstylist and artistic director of Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa. "One that's larger in diameter works well for straightening, and those with smaller diameters are ideal to assist in creating waves or bigger, looser curls."
Bristle type: Natural bristles (like boar) are great for smoothing and straightening hair, especially during blowouts. "Boar bristle is natural and gentler on the hair while maintaining enough tension to stretch and straighten without harm," says Amy Abramite, creative director, salon educator, and stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
On the other hand, flexible synthetic bristles (along with wide-tooth combs) work best for detangling hair and encouraging frizz-free curls, according to Faith Huffnagle, director of education at custom haircare brand Prose.
Keep reading to learn more about the best brushes for styling, detangling, and blow-drying curly hair.
Best Overall: Denman Classic Styling Brush
Tons of hairstylists say that Denman brushes are the best for styling curly hair, and shoppers agree: The Classic Styling Brush has racked up over 58,000 Amazon ratings with an average of 4.6 stars. "The one universal brush I always recommend is the cult classic Denman and [its] seven- and nine-row brushes," says Fae Norris, a hairstylist at Rock Paper Salon in Los Angeles. It's a great multipurpose brush that can be used to style and detangle thick and thin hair. "The strong nylon bristles provide the kind of tension needed for shaping curls and a rubber cushion cuts back on static and frizz," she says. One important thing to note is that these Denman brushes come in versions with different numbers of rows, ranging from five to nine. To decide which is best for you, Norris has one easy tip: "The higher the number means the tighter the curl."
Shop now: $20; amazon.com
Best for Detangling: Tangle Teezer The Original
Since curly hair can easily tangle, it's important to have a brush that can tackle stubborn knots. The Tangle Teezer doesn't have any weird gaps or knobs on the bristles, so it's great for gliding through knotty, curly hair without painful pulling. O'Connor loves that the palm-sized brush can also be used for dry styling and blow-drying hair, so it's truly a multipurpose tool.
Shop now: $10–$13; amazon.com
Best for Scalp: Curly Hair Solutions The Original Flexy Brush
Another one of O'Connor's go-tos for curly hair is the Flexy Brush. Like a few others on this list, it's great for detangling and brushing in the shower — except this one also functions as an excellent scalp massager. "It is amazing for exfoliating the scalp and stimulating blood circulation," O'Connor says. Even though its silicone bristles are flexible, the brush is still durable enough to go through thick, curly hair with ease. As one shopper puts it, "This brush cuts through wet tangles like a hot knife through butter!"
Shop now: $21; amazon.com
Best for Blow-Drying: Olivia Garden NanoThermic Ceramic + Ion Square Shaper Hair Brush
"For those pulling out the hairdryer, I highly recommend grabbing the Olivia Garden NanoThermic Ceramic + Ion Square Shaper Brush," says Norris. "It has both a flat and rounded side so you can both straighten and work on volume, waves, and flips with just a twist of the wrist." It also features an ergonomic handle that's comfortable to hold for long periods of time, a retractable pick to easily section off hair, and a ceramic barrel that can help decrease frizz and static, according to Norris.
Shop now: $24–$33; amazon.com
Best Value: Wet Brush Original Detangler Hair Brush
If you're looking for an affordable brush for curly hair, look no further than this under-$10 option that's perfect for detangling in the shower. Los Angeles-based hairstylist Joshua Stinnett recommends using the Wet Brush while conditioning to "separate curls and snarls with ease." Even though it works well on both wet and dry hair, brushing your hair while it's wet is an easy way to minimize breakage. "Curly hair is naturally more dry and brittle, so this is a good maintenance technique to keep those locks hydrated and separated before you even get out of the shower," adds Stinnett.
Shop now: $7; amazon.com
Best for Straightening: Fromm Glosser Intuition Hair Brush
Even people who love their curls want to straighten them out once in a while. For best results, you can blow-dry them straight with this boar-bristle paddle brush. "[It] features ceramic pins to cut static and smooth flyaways," notes Abramite. "[The boar bristles] also moisturize the hair by distributing the body's natural oil from [the] scalp to ends while simultaneously smoothing the hair texture and adding gloss, luster, and shine."
Shop now: $21; amazon.com
Best Comb: Revlon Essentials 2-Piece Tangle-Free Comb Set
If you'd rather comb your hair than brush it, you'll want to make sure you have a wide-tooth option on hand. Similar to the one that Abramite recommends, this comb set from Revlon is great for all kinds of styling and detangling. "[A wide-tooth comb] will gently detangle wet hair without disturbing the curl pattern," says Abramite. "Because the teeth are spaced far apart, it will keep curls defined without unraveling each individual curl, preventing frizz for the optimal coil."
Shop now: $6; amazon.com
Best for Shower: Pattern Shower Brush
Huffnagle recommends this brush from Black-owned brand Pattern (Tracee Ellis Ross actually owns it) as another good option to use in the shower. The flexible bristles help detangle curls and get rid of knots without snagging, according to Huffnagle, while the removable pad makes it easy to clean buildup from hair products. Although this Pattern brush is designed for the shower, one Ulta shopper says they use it to style their hair, noting that their curls are "full of definition" with "zero frizz" after using it.
Shop now: $17; ulta.com
Best for Soft Curls: Ibiza EX4 Boar Bristle Brush
This round brush from Ibiza (which also happens to be the brush behind Jennifer Aniston's hair) features a comfortable cork handle and is great for anyone who wants smooth hair or soft waves. "The natural boar bristles create beautiful smoothness with lots of shine," says Stinnett. "The close spacing of these bristles gives you lots of tension, so you can really get the grip needed to smooth out the hair and add that dryer heat without the hair flying all over the place. You can also use these to create round brush curls or just a soft bend for movement."
Shop now: $50; amazon.com
Best Splurge: Mason Pearson Popular Hair Brush
At $240, this Mason Pearson brush is definitely an investment piece — but it's worth it if you want professional results from the comfort of your home. Multiple hairstylists recommend the high-quality brand whose brushes are handmade in England, and shoppers say that they're very long-lasting and will stay in good shape as long as you care for them. (Each comes with a cleaning brush to make it easier.) This particular style uses a mixture of boar and nylon bristles, which "creates a good tension in damp hair to smooth even the curliest of hair types," according to Huffnagle.
Shop now: $240; amazon.com
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