The Real Difference Between a $5 and $100 Hairbrush

Mason Pearson hairbrush
Urban Outfitters

A hairbrush is one of those beauty products you don’t buy often but use almost daily. A hair staple that everyone owns at least one of, it is often overlooked in terms of its value. But is there a difference between the affordable drugstore brush and the fancy Mason Pearsons of the world? To understand the answer to this question, we asked a few hairstylists for their take and also considered a brush’s different features. There’s the size of the brush, the handle, its shape, and, of course, the bristles.

Think of those little bristles as the backbone—without them, there’s no brushing action. They detangle, polish, and act as the vehicle for any style. Jennifer Matos, a stylist at Rita Hazan Salon in New York City, stresses the importance of bristle quality, noting that a cheaper brush can do more harm than good in the long run. “Higher-priced brushes are made to be heat resistant. So when you’re using a $5 brush, it can actually do more harm on the hair because bristles burn and melt with the blow dryer’s heat. This causes damage, which is why it’s always best to invest in a good brush—especially if your hair is colored-treated,” she explains. Nicole Descoteaux, a master stylist at Butterfly Studio Salon, echoes this sentiment because low-quality bristles lack polishing power, resulting in a mediocre hairstyle. “A brush like the Mason Pearson has become an old staple because it’s dependable. Back in the days of roller sets and pin curls, it was sturdy enough to brush out sets—which is hard to do alone—and polished the hair. With the natural quality bristles, it makes your style look shiny and fabulous.”

When you’re shelling out $50 or even over $100 for a brush, you’re likely going to see a return on the investment because it will last you for years—and that’s something you and your hair can appreciate. Jay Jackson, a senior stylist at DreamDry NYC, says, “When it comes to brushes, it’s the same as good shoes—don’t cut corners for cost. When you have a quality brush, it’s going to stand the test of time.” According to Cristina B., a stylist at Rita Hazan Salon in New York City, an expensive brush is “made with better, with quality materials and lasts longer. I’ve had some of my $150 brushes for about five years!”

Beyond its lifeline, when it comes to styling power a pricey brush, you’ll want to splurge if you love a good blowout since tension and a firm grip are important factors in achieving a shiny, frizz-free look. “One of the keys to a great blow dry is tension. A well-crafted brush with boar bristles, or a boar bristle mix, will grip your hair firmly and help polish the cuticle to a glossy smooth finish,” says Christine Healey, a stylist at Rita Hazan Salon. “They also usually have a wooden handle made out of sturdy wood, like olive—and are made using the root of the boar bristle, which is the densest and strongest part which means a firmer grip,” she adds.

It’s safe to conclude that spending a pretty penny on an essential you’ll use almost every day is well worth the money. Not only will you get a product that will last you a while, but whether you’re simply detangling or styling a blowout, your hair will reap the benefits of your investment. So next time you need a new round, paddle, or nylon brush, do some research and keep in mind that you shouldn’t write off the bigger price tag when it comes to your hair.

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