Every hair type and texture has its own set of idiosyncrasies, but helping curly hair reach its maximum potential can, at times, feel like a dizzying game of chutes and ladders. Especially once you throw a brush into the mix. Not only are curly hair types fragile and more susceptible to breakage due to the natural formation of the hair cuticle, but when you do (or don’t) brush can also have a huge bearing on the end result of your look. So, in order to get the most out of your curls you A) need to know when and how to brush them to protect your natural curl pattern and B) need to have the right brush handy to protect your strands and scalp while applying minimal sacrilege to your god-given texture.
As for that first part, most experts recommend only brushing curly hair when it’s wet. According to celebrity stylist Christian Wood, brushing dry curls—unless you're simply getting ready to wash or going for a stunning Diana Ross disco vibe—will make your curls fluffy, ultimately pulling out the natural curl formation. If you're looking to maintain the definition, pattern, and shape of your curls, exclusively brush your strands when they’re wet, and then do your best to remain hands-free. (The more you touch, the more frizz and fuzz will abound).
Now, for that second part, the brush. Since certain styles, shapes, and bristle types are far more strategic for curly hair than others, I asked three top celebrity hair experts (Wood, included!) to share their top picks, and the exact brushes they use on their curl-blessed clients. Keep scrolling—13 of the best brushes for curly hair are just below.
The Expert Picks
Sure, $95 is a pretty big investment as far as a hairbrush is concerned, but this isn't your average hairbrush. The gilded bristles glide effortlessly through wet or dry hair, gently detangling curls and simultaneously stimulating circulation in the scalp—a key perk for healthy hair growth!
"I find that the best brush for curly hair is something that is gentle and will not interfere with the cuticle of the hair—detangling bushes like this hand-crafted, Italian-made one from Yves Durif are amazing," says Eliot.
It's important to remember that all hair types (from thick to thin) can be curly, and using a brush marketed towards thick (but not curly) hair is a major no-no if you're looking to maximize your curls' shape and bounce. "You want to avoid brushes that create a lot of tension on the cuticle," explains Eliot. "Brushes for thick hair tend to create a lot of tension on the hair and are intended to blow out the hair until it's smooth." Therefore, he recommends a brush like this one from Christophe Robin if you have curly hair that's on the thin and/or fine side of the spectrum.
If you have curly hair that's thicker or coarser, Eliot suggests opting for this number from YS Park.
"The biggest mistake people make with curly hair is to over brush and rough up the hair after it's been freshly washed," notes Eliot. "You’ll want to gently brush with a detangling brush (I love this one from Raincry) then leave the hair alone!"
In addition to getting your hands on one of the best brushes for curly hair, (Eliot likes this one from Harry Josh for fine hair, especially), there's another important tip when it comes to getting the most out of your natural curls:
"With curly hair, touch your hair as little as possible after you wash and do not fuss with it—too much touching will rough up the cuticle, which will make your curls frizzy and sad," Eliot warns.
Technically, a comb isn't a brush, but this is one of Eliot's top product picks when it comes to styling and caring for curly hair textures. "A wide-tooth comb like this one from Crown Affair won't interfere with your curl pattern and helps to style, as well," he shares.
"A scalp massager shampoo brush has soft, thick silicone bristles that provide a soothing massage, stimulating blood flow to the scalp while relaxing the scalp muscle," says McDaniels. She recommends using it before you shampoo for the best results. Another expert tip? Steer clear of brushes that have stiff or spiky bristles because they could ultimately cause damage or disrupt your curl pattern.
According to McDaniels, this popular brush from Denman is another must-have pick for curly hair. "It gently detangles and reduces frizz while perfectly smoothing, shaping, and defining curls when the hair is wet," she explains. "When brushing wet hair, you always want to start at the ends and work your way up. Then, once the hair is tangle-free and you can get the brush through it freely, you can start brushing from the scalp to the ends."
"I would also recommend an edge comb or brush for a finished curly-hair look," adds McDaniels. "This type of brush helps tame and lay little frizzies around the forehead and also helps create soft baby hair designs or a smooth push-back—whatever type of look you prefer!"
"The best brush for curly hair will depend on whether the hair is wet or dry," Wood tells us. "Curly hair is generally more fragile and prone to damage due to the natural formation of the hair cuticle, so I typically recommend brushing the hair when it's wet with either GHD's paddle brush or a Mason Pearson brush to remove all the tangles. Paddle brushes like this one have wider teeth which makes it perfect to brush through curls without getting stuck in tangles."
According to Wood, Mason Pearson brushes are known for how gentle they are on the hair—especially curls—and will help curb excess damage or breakage. "If you are brushing pre-wash, a Mason Pearson brush will work wonders," he notes.
"If you wanted to brush the hair while washing, say, when you're working your conditioner in, the Wet Brush is another great option," says Wood.
"Try to avoid any metal-based brushes," advises Wood. "They tend to tear through the hair, causing more breakage, and will in effect make styling and curl maintenance harder. Boar bristles, like this Ibiza brush, are much kinder on the hair which makes it perfect for heat styling curls. If you wanted to blow dry tighter curls into looser ones, this is hands down my favorite."