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Is it better to brush your hair when it’s dry or wet? (The answer will surprise you)

In this blog post we are sharing some answers to a commonly asked hair question: Is it okay to brush my hair when it’s wet? Or should I wait to brush my hair when it’s dry?

combing wet hair
Hair is very strong and resilient. Don't yank on the knots – instead, "untie" them.

Hair, that is, the “lengths” of your hair, is very strong. It has been said that hair has (by proportion and size) the strength of stainless steel, and by size comparison, it could hold the weight of an elephant! That’s pretty darned strong! So pulling on it may not always do some damage – but again it will depend on the hair type and condition of your hair.

Note: People with Afro/textured hair have low porosity hair, which means that if not well protected, this hair type will absorb a lot of water and suffer from hygral fatigue (that’s the action of constant moisture absorption that swells the hair, then unswells it, then swells it up again, and again) and may more easily break, snap, or split.

The condition of your hair matters too because the more you have done to your hair – bleaching, colouring, blowdrying, curling, or straightening, then you have most-likely broken some of your hair bonds (disulphide bonds, salts, or hydrogen bonds, which link the protein chains of your hair together). In this case, using a comb may be way better for you than using a brush for your hair.

wooden comb is good for hair
Never brush your hair – use a comb instead!

My first advice is to never brush your hair but to comb your hair instead. A large comb can be a lot more gentle on your hair than a brush that has very closely-knit bristles, which most brushes have. A comb has fewer bristles and they are farther apart, which helps prevent tangles – regardless of the hair type you are the owner of!

Brushes also have those little balls on the end, which are made to prevent damage to your scalp as you brush. Most often than not, bristles (and their little balls) are plastic, which can pull and tug at your hair (another reason why combs are better to use on your hair than brushes).

Let’s look at this moving forward, from a ‘combing’ perspective instead:

Combing dry hair – pros and cons

Yes, you can comb your hair with a few conditions:

  1. Yes, if your hair is in good shape and you use a leave-in conditioner, which will help with detangling. This is important especially if you only wash your hair every few days and apply a leave-in conditioner or detangler in between washes.

  2. Yes, if you untie the knots first, using your fingers (not yanking on them with a comb). This is especially important for those knots that form on the back of your neck – you know, “nape knots” (see our Instagram reel [HERE] for instructions and a lil’ giggle).

  3. Yes, if you have hair types 1A through 3A. If your hair is very curly or coily, then combing dry hair is not recommended unless you use a pic or a very large comb, and take your time to unknot – as you would do with a tangled necklace. Even though your hair may be dry, you can still add some conditioner before attempting to comb out the knots! A conditioner bar works great for this purpose!

  4. If your hair is damaged then it will more easily break – especially if you are a brush user because the hair can more easily tangle in the spaces that are between the bristles, and with the added rubber that covers the wooden handle (where the bristles pop up from).

Combing wet hair – pros and cons

Yes, you can comb your hair when it’s wet, with a little advice first:

  1. Yes, combing wet hair is better than combing damp hair (for most hair types). This is because combing your hair when it’s damp means you’re going to be pulling some leftover water from the damp hair onto the already-dry hair, and can make it frizzy and more fragile.

  2. Yes, if you add some leave-in conditioner to your wet hair. Regardless of hair type or how often you wash your hair, leave-in conditioners do a wonderful job at protecting your hair from friction that a brush or comb can create. Less friction = less frizz! There are some very light leave-in conditioners in the market today, so don’t be afraid of using them even if you have thin, pin-straight hair that has a tendency to get oily sooner.

  3. If you have Afro/textured/natural hair then you may want to do the whole combing thing even before you shower: Use a pic on your dry hair instead, and then apply a pre-poo (pre-shampoo) before washing your hair so that not too much water is absorbed by the hair, preventing hygral fatigue that can stress the hair and make it even more fragile. Once you’ve showered, add a leave-in conditioner and use your fingers only, or a gentle comb with a wide-toothed comb.

Hair is much more resilient than we think. Healthier hair that has been looked after, and prevented from undergoing too much stress (from styling, perms, straightening or colouring) will be even stronger and less prone to breakage from combing. So you are able to comb dry or wet hair; don’t let anyone tell you that one way is better than another.

Whether combing dry or wet hair, start from the bottom and work your way up (if your hair is long, of course, otherwise go crazy if you have short hair, or just use your fingers!). Comb the first two inches first, then the bottom 4 inches, and so on until you get to the top of your head. This method can prevent some added knots.

And if you insist on using a hair brush rather than a comb, please, wash your brush often! Brushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria and can quickly build up with dead skin, crusty hair products and scalp oils.

For tips on cleaning a hairbrush, check out our handy Instagram reel [HERE].

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