Should You Brush Curly Hair? Wet or Dry? Everyday? Before Bed?

African American with a 3C curl pattern wearing red and black glasses with hoop earrings and red lipstick.

When it comes to caring for curly hair, there are many things that you’re told not to do. You may have heard that you shouldn’t brush curly hair or that it doesn’t need to be brushed. What should you believe?

If you are unsure of what role brushing should or shouldn’t play in your hair care routine, this article is for you. In this article, we will illuminate the truth regarding brushing curly hair so that you can give your hair the care it needs.

Should You Brush Curly Hair?

You can brush your curly hair, and it will be necessary in some cases. For instance, if you want to achieve a sleek style or define your curls, you need a brush your curls rather than use a comb.

In addition, you may need to brush your curly hair to remove gunk or help spread products throughout your strands. Lastly, when used correctly, brushes are also fantastic detangling tools.

Cute black girl with a 3C curl pattern wearing a wash and go style created with natural oils and a wide-tooth comb.

What You Need to Know Before Brushing Your Curls

Two main things determine the safety and efficacy of brushing curly hair: the brush you use and how you brush it. We’ll jump into each of these topics in greater detail below. 

The Tool You Use Matters

Some brushes are designed for straight or wavy hair, both of which can withstand more friction and tension than curly hair. If you have curly hair, you need a brush that won’t pull and stretch your curls beyond their limits.

For super tight curls, you need a soft boar bristle brush to smooth your hair and a tangle teezer or Denman brush to detangle. A paddle brush will do the job just fine for people with really loose curls.

Always Brush Wet

Should you brush curly hair dry? Always brush your hair when it’s wet. Brushing dry curls is generally not recommended when your hair is dry because your hair is not as elastic.

This makes it more prone to breakage from tension. In addition to that, dry hair is more likely to snag other strands and tangle further.

When your hair is wet, it’s better able to glide past neighboring strands, making the detangling process easier. Also, detangling wet hair is much less painful than detangling dry hair.

If you’ve ever tried to detangle your hair while it’s dry, then you know the struggle. So, we encourage you to only brush your hair when it’s wet.

A black lady with natural curl definition and medium hair thickness wearing a red t-shirt and hoop earrings.

How To Brush Curly Hair

When brushing curly hair, there are some calculated steps you need to take to prevent breakage and achieve the results you desire. In this section, we’ll tell you how to brush curly hair the right way.

Smooth Your Curls With a Brush

Knowing how to smooth your curly hair helps you to do sleek low and high ponytails, updos, and more. Here’s how to tame your curls without the damage: 

  1. Dampen the area you’ll be smoothing. You can do so by spraying it down with water or putting a bit of water on your fingers and rubbing it onto the area. 
  2. Apply a smoothing gel or cream to the hair.  Be generous with the product. There are tons of smoothing products on the market, but among the top are Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel, and Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Shaping Creme Gel. All of these high-performance gels are free of alcohols that can dry out your curls and formulated with hair hydrators. 
  3. Use a boar bristle brush to begin smoothing your hair in the direction you’d like. Smooth from roots to ends. As you smooth with the brush, hold the hair down with your other hand to keep the section from curling back up.
    • If you have particularly unruly strands, you may need to smooth your hair in layers. This means that you’ll tackle the area in a few layers, brushing one layer at a time. Doing so will enable you to get your hair flatter and smoother overall. 
  4. Continue with your styling routine

Define Your Curls With a Brush

Female with coily hair wearing a wash and go hairdo with red lipstick, hoop earrings, and pink eyeshadow.

Defining your hair with a brush is easier than you may think. Start by wetting your hair down and applying both a detangler and curl-defining product to a section of hair.

Finger-detangle the hair and then brush it with a Denman brush, starting at the ends and then moving to the roots. Once the section is completely detangled, your curls will be more defined.

Detangle Curly Hair With A Brush

Detangling curly hair is thought to be tricky, but it can be a breeze if you follow the instructions below. Here’s what you need to do to detangle curly hair with a brush: 

  1. Start with wet hair – not damp but dripping wet. The wetter your hair is, the more pliable it will be. So, spray your hair down with a spray bottle filled with water or hop in the shower to wet your hair down thoroughly. 
  2. Apply a crème or spray detangler to a section of hair. It’s essential to use a detangler that feels slippery on the hair. The slicker the product is, the easier it will make the detangling process and the less breakage you’ll experience.
    • Be generous with the detangler without using too much. If you use too much detangler, you’ll need to rinse your hair after the detangling process is complete. After detangling your hair a few times, you’ll have a good idea of how much detangler you need to use to get through those tangles.
  3. Start the detangling process with your fingers. Remove any knots you can by hand. You can better feel knots with your fingers than any detangling tool. You’ll know you’re done with this step when you can run your fingers through your hair with little resistance. Be prepared; this step can take quite a bit of time.
  4. Apply more water or detangler whenever your hair starts to dry out or feel tacky rather than slippery. 
  5. Finish up the detangling process with a brush. You can use a shower brush, a Denman brush, or a tangle teezer. Begin by brushing through the ends. When those are free of knots and tangles, move up a bit and continue brushing. By the time you get to your roots, your hair should be completely detangled. 
  6. Repeat the above steps for all of the sections of hair. 
Lady with 3B hair keeping her curls smooth by brushing hair with her fingers and a detangling brush.

How Often To Brush Curly Hair

Even if you take every precaution mentioned above, you can still end up with breakage and thinning if you brush your hair too often. So, limit hair brushing sessions to wash days only.

If you wash your hair every week, that’s how often you should brush your hair. However, you shouldn’t brush it more often than twice per week.

When you’ve got curls, it’s helpful to accept that your hair will rarely be tangle-free – it’s in the nature of curly hair to intertwine with surrounding strands. So, constantly brushing your hair with the goal of keeping it tangle-free is fruitless.

When Combing Is Better

There will be times when combing your hair is better than brushing it. If you’re not trying to achieve a sleek hairstyle, you can get by with a quick detangling session with a wide-toothed comb.

A comb with wide teeth is less likely to cause damage to your hair than a brush. So, if you can get by using a comb rather than a brush, do so. 

Black woman with a thick hair type wearing a pineapple updo with a leave-in conditioner.

Related Articles

As you now know, brushing your curls will be necessary sometimes, and it’s definitely allowed. You just need to do it in a way that won’t damage your strands. We hope that this article has been helpful to you, giving you the information you need to safely and effectively brush your curls.

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