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Here's the thing: Every set of curls is different. There are different curl patterns, types, and textures—it's never one size fits all. It's easier to know what products work with your curls (it'll likely explain on the bottle or you can see the result in real time), but brushes are a bit more complicated. How do you know which one is best for the health of your curls?
To answer that question, I spoke with a slew of hairstylists (plus several of our editors and contributors) on that very subject.
Keep reading to discover the best hair brushes for curly hair.
"This brush and I go way back," says Byrdie associate social media editor Star Donaldson. "I used it when my hair was relaxed, transitioning to natural, and even to this day with a full head of 3C curls. This is my go-to brush to fully detangle my hair. Whether your hair is wet or dry, this brush works. I do recommend small sections because if there is a tangle in your hair, this brush will find it."
Byrdie contributor Bianca Lambert is also a big fan: "The Denman brush is what I'd call the OG," she says. "It's the first brush I used when I went natural. I use this as a styling brush once my leave-in conditioner and gel are applied to define my curls before diffusing my hair."
“The Diane Oil Detangler Comb is awesome for keeping tighter curls intact—especially when wet," says celebrity stylist Bridget Brager. "If you are lucky enough to have beautiful ringlets, you’ll want to minimize breakage and snagging. The wide teeth mimic finger combing to gently detangle and keep curls in shape. The comb is also coated in vitamin E and omega-3 oils to give curls the extra hydration they need.”
"This is my wash-and-go buddy," says Star. "It has a special place in my heart and in my shower. It glides effortlessly through my curls with very little pulling or pain. It is the perfect curly hairbrush because no matter how you use it, it won't cause breakage or damage. If detangling is your enemy, this brush will be your hero."
Bianca also swears by this Felicia Leatherwood brush: "It's one of the best brushes I've used to detangle," she says. "Since my hair is 4C, I used to think my ends snagging was just a part of life, but this brush changed that for me."
"It's best to use a wet brush or a wide-tooth comb on your hair when it’s wet and you’re planning on letting it dry naturally,” says Mizani artist Daryce Brown-Willis. “For blow-drying, use a Denman Gentle Styling Brush. These brushes are great because the bristles are wide-set and will help detangle without snagging your hair. Plus, they help with smoothing before you begin the styling process.”
This one is my personal go-to. My hair is curly but very fine, so it's prone to breakage (especially when it's wet). For this reason, I've made it a point to be extremely careful when I brush it and use a brush that's made for wet hair. “After rinsing and careful towel blot, run this brush through hair for a gentle detangling,” says Adrianne Johnston, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
For everyday dry brushing, celebrity hairstylist and Byrdie contributor Ashley Rubell recommends a soft, all-natural boar bristle brush like this one from Christophe Robin—even though it's a bit of an investment. "This brush has a really delicate touch on the hair," she says, "And it doesn’t rake itself through the curls so much that it drastically pulls curls out and stretches their shape or pattern. Instead, it softly glides its way through your strands, keeping them shiny and voluminous."
"For detangling, I like to recommend a wide-tooth comb in the shower post-conditioner or treatment," Rubell says. "I think doing less to your curls after the shower actually does a lot more for them in the long run. Leaving the hair to shrink up and find its own instead of raking through your curl pattern with a detangling brush is a much kinder approach to your strands, leaving them less prone to breakage."
For styling, Rubell says to opt for a round brush that's a bit smaller—approximately the size of your natural curl. "It’s a great tool to have on-hand for touching up any small pieces that you want to let fall down around your face," she explains, "Or when you just have a kink that needs to be smoothed out. This YS Park round brush, which has bristles made from both boar and heat-resistant nylon, is thoughtfully crafted with a comfortable, easy-to-use grip and provides a really smooth finish."
Brager breaks it down even further: “If you have wavy hair and want to get a smooth blowout without losing your volume, grab a brush with mixed bristles. Although round brushes give an amazing finish, they can sometimes be tricky to use on yourself. Fromm’s The Intuition Glosser Brush is a must-have for wavy locks, as it has a mixture of boar bristles and synthetic bristles, which help to detangle while also giving a great, glossy finish with body.”
For us, top marks go to the Denman Classic Styling Brush. “It has nine row bristles and a rubber backing that's anti-static,” raves Johnston, which works well on almost every curl type. It’s also beloved by hairstylists all over the world. For something reliable and affordable, the Wet Brush Original Detangler is another one of our favorites, and you also can’t go wrong with the Kristin Ess Wide-Tooth Detangling Comb, a must-have for that post-shower comb-a-thon.
What to Look For in a Brush For Curly Hair
The density of a brush's bristles or teeth are important and should be tailored to your hair type. For styling or blow-drying curly hair, you typically want quite a bit of density, so your brush is strong enough to get through your hair without bending or breaking. This also ensures that you get good tension for smoothing out your hair, especially when blow-drying. When it comes to detangling, make sure your bristles are far enough apart to prevent breakage during use.
The heavier the brush, the more energy it requires to use. Lightweight brushes make it easier to detangle and style quickly—no need for a workout here. However, be careful not to choose a brush that feels flimsy or cheap. These tend to break faster and sometimes break while you’re using them!
A smaller-sized brush works best for those with thick, tight curls. It also helps to brush through the hair in sections, which may take some time, but it’s absolutely worth the work. A larger brush or longer comb is ideal for fine to medium hair with looser curls. But, as always, test out a few brushes and see which one suits your hair best.