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My sister is still using the same hairbrush she used in high school, and I would be too, if I hadn't lost mine. Apparently, we should not be doing this. Hair brushes are breeding grounds for bacteria, dandruff and yeast—and all of that gets continually recycled throughout your scalp whenever you brush. Yuck. Not only does it sound gross, but it also can do bad things to your scalp. The bacteria and yeast can lead to irritation, and it can eventually clog your hair follicles, causing breakouts. We spoke with hair experts about how often to replace your brush, and how to know when to toss it. Keep reading to find out more.
Why You Need to Replace Your Hairbrush
"Your hairbrush contains bacteria and dust that builds up on a daily basis," says Dawn Clemens, a hairstylist, beauty blogger, and the founder of LarweHair. This sort of bacteria and dust clings to your brush and becomes impossible to remove. And if you have dandruff? Every single time you swipe that brush through your hair, you’re putting the dandruff back into your hair. If your brush has product in it, you’re sweeping the product through it, and so on. Finally, if your brush is missing bristles, it’s not going to work effectively, and you will probably end up using more heat when styling, leading to damage and split ends.
"Say you have a round brush and the bristles have gone bad, so you’re not able to get the style you want as easily as you used to—so, now you are using more heat, doing it over and over to achieve the style. That's damaging to your hair," says Sabit Hantal, hairstylist and founder of SH Fifth Avenue Salon. "Bent bristles on any type of brush can cause breakage as well."
If you hair is curly, thick, or you use a lot of product before brushing, your hairbrush will likely need to be replaced more often.
How to Clean Your Hairbrush
You probably already pull the hair out of your brush when it builds up (if not, do this!); but you should also be doing a deep cleanse once a month. Remove all the hair from the bristles, then rinse the brush with warm water and a few drops of shampoo. Shake it a few times and leave it to dry. If you have a wooden brush, make sure not to submerge it all the way under water (plastic brushes can be left in a bowl of water for up to 20 minutes to really get a good soak).
Signs You Need a New Hairbrush
"The most obvious sign is when your brush is missing bristles or spokes, or when it’s too dirty to get clean," says Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and hair expert at The Right Hairstyles. "Missing bristles or prongs in a brush means work like it's designed to," Abdullah says. “In the worst case scenario, the brush could catch in your hair and cause breakage. If your brush is so dirty you can’t just remove the hair and lint, it’s time for a replacement.”
Another sign: When the cushion or pad is too squishy or when it’s cracked, the brush is likely causing more damage to your hair than good, says Essie “Tiffany” Button, a former esthetician, hairdresser, and makeup artist.
How a Hairbrush Typically Lasts
“I suggest replacing your hairbrush every six to 12 months, especially if it’s a plastic or rubber hair brush,” Clemens says. “Similarly, if you own a boar bristle hair brush, it should be replaced every six months.” That said, How long your hairbrush lasts depends on the quality of the brush, the type and texture of your hair, and the treatments and products you apply, according to Button. Unfortunately, however, there isn’t a steady rule because of the varying factors at play. So, make sure to watch for the above signs or simply replace it annually if you're unsure.
The good news? If you splurged on a fancy Mason Pearson or Raincry brush, you can expect it to last for a few years as long as you clean it regularly. "High-quality brushes are usually engineered to last longer," Hantal says. "They also tend to have heat-resistant bristles, so not only will there be less chance of damage to your hair, but the brushes will also last longer," he says.