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A proper brushing technique can mean the difference between defined curls and lots of frizz. Learn how to brush curly hair for beautiful curls and coils.

How To Brush Curly Hair: 6 Easy Steps for Soft, Bouncy Curls

A proper brushing technique can mean the difference between defined curls and lots of frizz. Learn how to brush curly hair for beautiful curls and coils.

A big part of embarking on a natural hair journey is learning how to adapt basic haircare steps to work for your curl pattern. Seemingly simple habits like brushing your hair may be relatively uncomplicated for those with straighter strands but often require a more nuanced approach for anyone with curls and coils. In fact, learning how to brush curly hair properly can help you avoid breakage, minimize frizz, and keep your curls soft and bouncy. Ahead, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about brushing curly hair, from the which tools to use to the best products to reach for.

Why Does Curly Hair Require Special Care?

Thanks to the uneven structure of its hair fiber, curly hair (a term that encompasses both curls and coils) is more delicate than other hair types. Roughing up your curls with aggressive hair brushing can unintentionally break your fragile strands, disrupt your curl pattern, and contribute to frizz. Handling your curls with finesse and care is the secret to maintaining your pattern and helping your curls thrive.

Good hair day by @lexxy_hermosa.

Should You Brush Curly Hair Wet or Dry?

We stand by one rule in the curly hair community: Always brush your hair while it's damp. For one, hair is most pliable when wet, making it easier to detangle. And since your curls have yet to set into their final shape, there’s less risk of undoing your pattern or generating frizz.

It’s worth noting that this advice is a bit of a double-edged sword: Hair is in its weakest state when wet, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), so you want to be extra cautious when detangling. If you have stubborn knots, try not to yank your comb or brush through your wet strands. Instead, apply a bit of conditioner to give it some slip. Then, gently loosen the tangles with your fingers before following through them with your brush. This brings us to our next point…

What's the Best Brush for Curly Hair?

Before you learn how to brush curly hair, you want to ensure you have the right tools for the job. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true brushes for curly hair. Choosing the right one will ultimately depend on your hair type and texture. Below are a few of the most commonly recommended tools for brushing curly hair.

Wide-toothed comb

A wide-tooth comb is essential for detangling stubbornly curly hair without creating breakage or frizz. The larger spaces between the teeth glide easily through your curls without disturbing your curl pattern or causing your hair to lose its shape.

Detangling Brush

Detangling brushes can also be a game-changer. These innovative tools are designed to effortlessly glide through knots and tangles, minimizing pulling and tugging that can lead to breakage. Their flexible bristles also gently massage the scalp, making for a relaxing self-care moment. Consider the Tangle Teezer or a Wet Brush.

Denman brush

It’s no surprise the Denman brush has been around for 80 years. The storied brush is a popular choice for defining curls and distributing products evenly through the hair. Its shape, weight, and sturdy nylon bristles generate just the right amount of tension required to pull hair taut so curls spring to life. There are many iterations of the Denman brush available, so be sure to consult your stylist to determine which one is right for your needs.

Good hair day by @hairika_st.pihair.

How To Brush Curly Hair Without Making It Frizzy

Curls and frizz may seem like a two-for-one deal, but they don’t have to be. A proper brushing technique and the right products can help you combat unwanted poofiness.

You may think that frizz is simply the effect of humidity on the hair, but that’s only half the story. The outer layer of hair, called the cuticle, consists of overlapping scales. In curly hair, these scales are often raised, making the hair more porous. (And, the porous nature of curls is what actually causes humidity to swell the strands). Brushing curly hair when it’s dry can further lift the cuticle, resulting in a poofy mess.

You already know the best way to brush curly hair is when it's damp and that choosing the right tools can help minimize breakage. But for extra defense against frizz, apply a smoothing leave-in treatment like Biolage Professional Smooth Proof Leave-in Cream for Frizzy Hair to damp hair before reaching for your comb or brush. Work it throughout your lengths, then begin brushing your hair. We suggest starting from the bottom and working your way up, gently detangling knots without tugging the strands. Take your time and be patient—rushing through the process can lead to damage and breakage, both of which can contribute to frizz.

How Often Should I Brush My Curly Hair?

How often you should brush your curly hair can depend on various factors, but as a general rule, we recommend brushing on wash day or anytime you’d like to refresh your curls.

Refreshing is all about giving your curls a little pick-me-up, and all that you need is a bit of water and a curl-defining spray. Start by dampening your hair, then spritz a leave-in product, such as Kérastase Curl Manifesto Refresh Absolu Hair Spray, throughout your mane. The formula, which contains nourishing ingredients like manuka honey and ceramides, helps reactivate your natural curl definition. Once you lightly coat your hair in product, gently brush or comb through your hair to remove knots before scrunching your curls back into shape.

If you need to detangle a single section of your hair, simply dampen the tangled area with a leave-in conditioner like Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner before following the steps above. This targeted approach prevents unnecessary brushing of your entire mane, minimizing potential damage and preserving your curl pattern.

By brushing your curly hair on wash day, revitalizing it as needed, and addressing individual knots with care, you'll maintain the health and integrity of your curls while keeping them looking their best.

Good hair day by @silviahgmez.

How To Brush Curly Hair In 6 Easy Steps

With the right techniques, you can navigate your curls like a pro in no time. Let's break it down into simple steps to help you master the art of brushing curly hair.

Step 1: Start with damp hair

Ensure your hair is dampened before brushing your curls. You can achieve this by either washing it in the shower or spritzing the hair with water from a spray bottle.

Step 2: Apply your favorite leave-in styler

Next, apply the leave-in conditioner or styling product of your choice to add moisture, define your curls, and protect against frizz. Be sure to evenly distribute the product throughout your length.

Step 3: Choose the right comb or brush

Opt for a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush specifically designed for curly hair. These are typically designed to be gentle on curls and can help prevent damage while detangling knots easily.

Step 4: Divide your hair into sections

Start by parting your hair down the middle, then section each half into smaller sections—about three per side, depending on how much hair you have. This will make the brushing process more manageable and prevent you from tugging or pulling your hair.

Step 5: Begin brushing from the bottom up

Grab a section and start brushing from the bottom up, working your way from the ends to the roots. This technique makes detangling easier and helps avoid unnecessary tugging or pulling on your strands. Work section by section until your mane is fully detangled.

Step 6: Finish with a nourishing hair oil

Complete your curly hair routine by applying a nourishing hair oil (Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Huile Originale is one of our favorites) on the ends to seal in moisture, add shine, and tame any stray flyaways. With this finishing touch, your curly hair will appear glossy, defined, and healthy-looking.

Good hair day by @dremalczewska.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Brushing Curly Hair

Navigating the world of curly haircare can be tricky, and even the most well-intentioned routines can sometimes lead to unexpected pitfalls. To help you steer clear of common mistakes, here are some mistakes to avoid and their corresponding solutions:

Mistake: Brushing dry hair

Solution: Always brush your hair when damp to minimize breakage and frizz.

Mistake: Using any brush or comb

Solution: Opt for a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush specifically designed for curly hair to minimize damage and maximize efficiency.

Mistake: Brushing too frequently

Solution: Brush your curls only when necessary, such as on wash day or when you want to revitalize them between washes.

Mistake: Brushing from the top down

Solution: Begin brushing from the ends of your hair and work your way up to the roots to gently detangle knots without causing breakage.

Mistake: Brushing with tension

Solution: Avoid pulling or tugging at your curls while brushing. Opt for a gentle approach to prevent damage and maintain the integrity of your curls. Take your time and be patient, ensuring that each section is thoroughly detangled before moving on to the next.

Mistake: Brushing without adding product

Solution: Apply a leave-in conditioner or styling product before brushing to add moisture, definition, and protection against frizz.

Brush Your Way to Beautiful, Healthy-Looking Curly Hair

Now that you know how to brush curly hair, take the next step in your curly haircare journey by putting these tips into practice. Grab your wide-tooth comb or detangling brush and brush your curls confidently and easily. Embrace your curls, show them some love, and watch them shine! With these simple adjustments to your brushing routine, you'll be on your way to healthier, more beautiful curls in no time.

Celebrate the landmark victory of New York mandating textured hair education in cosmetology schools, and don't forget to seek expert care for your curls using our salon locator tool.

Next Up: How To Dry Curly Hair The Right Way: The Ultimate Guide

Header photo credit: @silviahgmez

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