Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Unless you live under a rock you have probably heard the saying “brushing your hair one hundred times before bed will make it healthier and shinier”, or something to that effect. Well, you would be hard pressed to find a saying that is more inaccurate as studies have shown reduced brushing leads to significantly less hair loss, and vice versa.
The world of hair loss is filled with misguided information and plenty of misconceptions, though if you have been losing your hair for some time I’m sure you have figured that out by now. Misconceptions surrounding hair brushing are no different. There are a lot of conflicting articles floating around the internet about the best ways to brush your hair. For someone who is experiencing hair loss (and those who are not) this can not only be overwhelming, but extremely stressful too. The way that you brush your hair can have a huge impact on its health and for someone who is trying to regrow lost hair it is very crucial that you brush it right.
Instead of picking apart all of the various articles on hair brushing, I am going to give you an easy guide to follow with simple tips and tricks that you can implement into your routine. This is a culmination of many hours of research and the techniques that I used while treating my own hair loss that helped me regrow my hair.
No matter what stage of hair loss you are in (or even if you are not losing your hair at all) brushing your hair is very important as there are a lot of benefits that come from it. Firstly, it promotes circulation to the scalp. This is very important for someone who is losing their hair because blood delivers vital oxygen and nutrients that your hair uses to grow, and when there is a lack of those essential compounds hair loss may worsen. Secondly, brushing your hair helps distribute sebum and other natural oils throughout your hair which help keep hair strong, resistant to damage, and overall healthier.
If you brush your hair the correct way, and with the right techniques, you will experience the benefits, and if you don’t your hair loss may worsen.
First: use the right brush
This may or may not come as a surprise, but the kind of brush you use can either have a very positive or very negative effect on your hairs health, especially if you are experiencing hair loss.
Someone who is trying to overcome hair loss needs to protect their delicate (vellus) hair at all costs. Therefore you should avoid synthetic brushes if you have thinning hair. This is because synthetic brushes generally have stiffer bristles, and stiffer bristles means more penetration, which essentially means more pressure on your scalp. People who have thick hair can handle more penetration, but thin hairs are weaker and are more prone to damage from the bristles. Also, some synthetic brushes contain little beads at the end that can pull and put strain on longer hair.
Generally, it is best to use a boar bristle brush if you have thinning hair, but not just any boar bristle brush. Do NOT just go on Amazon after reading this article and buy the first boar bristle brush you see. See, boar brushes have different levels of stiffness. There are first cut and second cut brushes. First cut brushes are stiffer and made for thicker hair, whereas second cut bristles are much more thin-hair friendly because they are softer, easier on the scalp, and gentler on vellus hair, all while still providing the circulation and sebum-spreading benefits.
When looking for a boar bristle brush to buy look for words such as “soft” “second cut” or “made for thin hair.” This is the brush that I recommend as it is relatively cheap and quite soft, not to mention that I use it myself.
Next: utilize these healthy brushing habits
Now that you have a brush that is hair loss-friendly, you need to make sure that you use it correctly. You wouldn’t want to spend your hard-earned money on a brush only to use it wrong and worsen your hair loss now would you? Didn’t think so.
I will cover the four most important things that you need to do and/or avoid when brushing your hair. They will provide you with the benefits for hair loss so that you can avoid worsening it and give you an edge as hair brushing habits are something not a lot of hair loss sufferers consider.
1. Brush gently
Avoid rigorously brushing your hair at all costs. When you brush your hair aggressively it can be damaging to your hairs cuticle.
The cuticle is the outermost layer of your hair and it works to protect the hair shaft. It is structured similarly to shingles on a house, and even functions in the same way.
Imagine if you stripped the shingles off of a house? There would be a whole host of problems like water leakage, damage to the inside of the home, etc. Your cuticle is the same, when it is damaged UV rays, pollution, and irritants alike can much more easily damage your hair.
2. Do not brush wet hair
When your hair is wet, the normal protein-protein bonds that it has when it is dry are instead protein-hydrogen bonds. Protein-hydrogen bonds are much weaker than protein-protein bonds, meaning that your hair is much more prone to damage in this state. This is because the “shingles” on your hairs cuticle open up when the hair is wet and when you brush them this can cause much more damage than if they were closed.
When you damage your hairs cuticle your hair is weaker and therefore more prone to breakage. Breakage is someone who is balding’s worst nightmare because it makes the hair appear uniformly thinner over time.
For people with longer or curly hair the solution might not be as simple as “just don’t brush wet hair.” Knots can form (which can damage your hair if not properly managed) which can be very annoying. People in this situation should definitely brush their hair when it is wet to avoid knotting, but make sure you brush it extremely gently. Yes, it will take longer but will be much better for your hair in the long run, and once all the knots are gone put the brush down.
3. Do not use a dirty brush
It’s best if you can clean your brush every two weeks, but make sure to clean it at least once a month.
Over time brushes accumulate dirt, oil, hair products and more. If you do not regularly clean your brush you could be redistributing this buildup back on to your hair and scalp. This can lead to clogged hair follicles which can cause a whole host of problems including inflammation, slowed hair growth, and even folliculitis.
Your hair brush can also start to grow bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms on it. Bacteria may lead to inflammation (which has been shown to contribute to hair loss) and yeast could lead to dandruff. If you already have dandruff redistributing yeast onto your scalp could worsen the condition.
How to clean your brush:
First, mix the brush around in a bowl of warm water.
Second, add several drops of shampoo to the bristles and scrub in with a toothbrush until it appears clean.
Third, rinse the brush in a clean bowl of water.
4. Do not brush too frequently
Most haircare experts recommend brushing your hair at least once, but no more than twice a day. Doing so will allow you to reap the benefits while also avoiding potential damage. This is because no matter how gently you do it, brushing causes friction to the hair. Your hair can only handle a certain amount of friction before the cuticle starts to get damaged (we already talked about what happens when your cuticles are damaged). By minimizing the amount of time/amount of strokes you do, you will be protecting your hair against the potential risks associated with damaged cuticles.
Finally: use other hair loss treatments
You now know what brush you should use and how to use it, but this still is not going to stop your hair loss. Though brushing your hair (the right way) offers circulation and other benefits, hair loss ultimately still happens inside your body.
Use treatments that have been proven to be effective against the root causes of hair loss such and finasteride and minoxidil(amongst other effective treatments) to tackle the main causes of hair loss. If you have that taken care of then the healthy brushing techniques we talked about will compound on those treatments to give you a better chance at overcoming hair loss.
Hopefully after reading through this article you now realize that the way you brush your hair is very important. How you brush can either strengthen and improve the condition of your hair, or it can damage it and accelerate hair loss. By implementing these simple tips and tricks into your daily routine you will be giving you (and your hair loss!) a much better chance of being healthy.