Combing and brushing are two different things. Surprised?
Well, grammatically speaking, the act of “brushing hair” and “combing hair” are almost synonymous.
But, in the hair care world, brushing and combing are entirely different.
Knowing the difference between the two will be life-changing for you and your beloved tresses.
In this article, you will know more about:
- The difference between a comb vs brush
- How brushes and combs cause hair damage and how to prevent it
- Choosing between a comb or a brush for your hair type
What is the difference between a brush and a comb?
We often interchange combs with brushes and vice versa because we assume that they serve the same purpose — to groom the hair.
Well, both are indeed used to groom hair. However, there are several not-so-subtle distinctions between the two.
1. They look different
First, combs and brushes look different. Combs are usually stiff and have only one line of teeth. The space between the comb’s teeth can be wide or narrow, depending on its purpose.
Meanwhile, hair brushes have several bristles placed on their “head,” right above the handle. The bristles are made from different materials, each of which produces a unique outcome.
2. They serve a different purpose
Second, brushes and combs each serve different functions when used daily. The primary purpose of combs is to detangle hair.
When we “comb” our hair with our fingers, for example, we do so to make sure that it is knot-free. That is the same purpose that hair combs serve.
Unless you have naturally straight hair, combs can neither straighten nor smoothen the hair, just untangle it.
Brushes, on the other hand, are not as good as combs at untangling hair. But, they are undoubtedly better at straightening and smoothening the hair.
We use brushes to rid our hair of flyaways and even tame static baby hairs.
Hairbrushes also clean the hair by removing lint and other dirt that simple washing may not have removed.
3. They produce different results
Finally, when styling the hair, using combs and brushes each produces different results.
Stylists mostly use hairbrushes to add volume to the hair. Meanwhile, they use combs to flatten the hair and section it, such as creating multiple-sectioned braids.
Is it better to use a brush or comb?
As discussed above, brushes and combs each have their forte. So, it is not fair to choose what is better between the two solely based on their specialized functions.
However, if we put it into context, we can tell which one is better. In other words, if we judge the usefulness of combs and brushes based on different hair types, we can gauge what’s helpful and what isn’t.
Both Combs and Brushes Cause Hair Damage
When used incorrectly, combs and hairbrushes can cause damage. Sadly, most of us often unwittingly use our hair groomers incorrectly.1
When we get tangled hair, our first instinct is to yank the comb repeatedly or forcefully brush through the tangle.
Although forcing the comb through the knot seems like an effective way to untangle the hair, it isn’t. Instead of untangling the knot, it will only uproot or break the strands.
To avoid this, we should change the way we untangle our hair. Instead of combing from the root to the tip, try combing from the tip upwards.
This way, we can untangle the knots with minimal breakage. After detangling, we continue combing our hair as usual.
Another way to minimize breakage while grooming the hair is to choose which hair groomer works best for your hair type which we will talk about later.
But before that, we’ll first discuss the main advantages of using combs and hairbrushes to groom our hair.
Advantages of Combs
Combs come in various colors and lengths and are cheaper than hairbrushes. Usually made of plastic, combs have stiff teeth — perfect for detangling.
The gap between the teeth of the comb also varies.
Those with narrow gaps and fine teeth are used for sectioning the hair or flattening it with the help of hair gels, especially for sleek hairstyles.
Meanwhile, those with wider gaps are good for detangling coarse or curly hair.
Combs are versatile. Surely, there is a comb for every hair type.
Advantages of Brushes
There are numerous kinds of hairbrushes, each having a special purpose.
Instead of teeth, brushes have bristles that are either soft or stiff depending on their purpose.
The good thing about brushes is that their heads, the part where the bristles are attached, come in different shapes. They can be round, square, curved, or barrel-like.
You also have the option to choose from natural and synthetic bristles.
The unique structure of every brush caters to varying hairstyles, hair thickness, and even head shapes. However, not all brushes are appropriate for coarse and curly hair.
Some brushes heat up to serve both as a brush and a hair iron. Other brushes have holes in its head that serve as “vents” when blowdrying.
A specific hairbrush serves a specific function — they are not as versatile as combs. But brushes do numerous things that combs can’t, such as adding volume and taming static hair, among others.
Choosing Between Comb or Brush For Your Hair Type
Now that you know the advantages of using combs and hairbrush and their purposes, we can already gauge which one of these will best suit your needs.
In the following subsections, we’ll further discuss the types of combs and brushes suitable for your hair type and how to use them properly.
Comb or brush for straight hair
People with straight hair can easily choose either a comb and a hair brush when styling or simply grooming their hair.
No matter your hair length or texture, you can simply choose the usual comb with normal space between the teeth. This comb can do its duty of detangling knots for straight hair.
If you have straight, fine, and short hair, you can match it by using a fine-toothed comb.
As for the brushes, people with long, thick, and straight hair can take care of their crowning glory by using paddle brushes regularly.
Paddle brushes have fairly soft bristles neatly aligned on a flat and wide “head” that is either round or square-shaped.
This brush will help distribute natural oils from your scalp throughout your strands, keeping your mane healthy and moisturized.
You can also use round brushes to style your hair with waves or if you want to fix flyaways. Doing so is especially helpful for those with a layered haircut or a bob.
Stylists advise straight-haired people to comb their hair before shower. This way, hair will be untangled during the shower so when it dries, it will be easier to style using your preferred brush.2
Comb vs Brush for wavy hair
Natural wavy hair needs a unique kind of care. Wavy hair is more prone to tangles, and improper handling of tangled hair can lead to breakage.
But don’t worry, wavy-haired girls, there are combs and brushes specially made to cater to your needs.
Instead of using regular combs, stylists recommend wide-toothed combs for those with wavy hair.3
They work better for wavy hair because they can detangle knots while still maintaining the hair’s natural pattern.
Unlike normal-toothed combs that separate the wavy strands making your hair look dry and lump, wide-toothed combs maintain the shape of your natural waves and its volume.
With that said, brushes are not a good option for people with wavy hair.
Hairbrushes have neatly aligned bristles that are so close to each other that they can separate more strands than combs do, resulting in more frizz.
However, if you want and need to use a hairbrush, you may opt for soft brushes with wider space between the bristles.
Stylists suggest using a ceramic round brush or a natural boar bristle brush to untangle hair for those with loose waves.3
To sum it up, it is best to detangle your wavy hair using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb.
Is a comb or brush better for curly hair?
Curly hair is prone to tangles. If you have curly hair, you know how hard it is to comb from roots to tips without snagging and tugging every few seconds.
But the good news is that wide-toothed combs can help you cope with your daily struggle.
Wide-toothed combs work better than normal combs because it smoothens the knots while maintaining your hair’s curls.
I found a special wide-toothed comb on the internet that helps untangle curly hair with minimal tugging. It is called the Ouidad Double Detangler Comb.
The double detangler comb looks like two wide-toothed combs an inch apart but attached at the shaft.
This is a strategic hair grooming tool because its structure easily smoothens the tangles while not immediately letting the hair coil back.
The two combs speed up the detangling process while the gap between them leaves enough space for the curls to untangle before they coil back again.
As for the brushes, stylists once again do not advise using a hairbrush on curly hair because doing so will only lead to damage.
But if you feel the need to use a brush, you may opt for those with softer bristles, like wet detangler brushes whose main purpose is detangling wet hair.
Some experts say that it is best to brush curly hair while in the shower.4
You should brush when you shampoo and brush again when you apply conditioner to ensure that the products are spread evenly throughout the strands.
Then, rinse and towel dry. Finally, style your hair using your hands and fingers instead of brushes.
Is a brush or comb better for natural hair?
Just like wavy and curly hair, natural hair reacts positively to wide-toothed combs. You may also opt for the double detangler comb I mentioned earlier.
There are other options, such as an afro hair pick and a shower detangler. Both of these have longer teeth which help penetrate thick and coarse hair.
However, it is not advisable to comb natural hair every day. Coily hair is more brittle than other hair types and is more prone to damage.
Constant combing adds stress and pressure to the hair resulting in breakage. So, it is best to style and detangle using your fingers.
But if you really need or want to use a hair brush, there are rules to follow, especially when you are determined to keep your natural hair healthy and bouncy.
First, you should never brush your hair when it’s dry. Make sure that it is slightly damp or wet before brushing.5
Second, you have to detangle your hair using your fingers before brushing so that your comb will handle fewer tangles.
Finally and most importantly, deep condition regularly. Since you can’t comb or brush your locks every day, the natural oils from your scalp won’t spread throughout your hair.
That’s why it is very important to find a conditioner that will help moisturize your natural coils. Moisturized hair is far more manageable — easier to comb and style.
CHECK OUT: How to make your own DIY Hair Detangler
Groom your hair with the right tools
Each of us has our unique crowning glory. So it follows that we also take care of it differently. To do so, we need to know which hair grooming products are appropriate for our hair.
I hope this article helped you find the right tools to groom and style your hair without compromising hair health! Now go and love your tresses the way they deserve to be loved.
If you’ve got anything else to share, we will gladly interact with you in the comments. If you liked this article, share it with your friends so you can achieve healthier locks together!
- Schmidt, C 2020, Comb vs Brush | Which is Better for Hair Health?, Formulate, accessed 15 August 2021 <https://www.formulate.co/journal/p/comb-vs-brush> ↩
- Comb hair the right way, Schwarzkopf, accessed 17 August 2021 <https://www.schwarzkopf.com/en/home/article-overview/haircare/combing-hair.html/> ↩
- Swearingen, T 2012, 3 Tips for Handling Wavy Hair with Care, Naturally Curly, accessed 15 August 2021 <https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/wavy-hair-type-2/3-tips-for-handling-wavy-hair-with-care> ↩
- Sinrich, J 2019, Are You Using the Right Hair Brush?, Sunday Riley, accessed 16 August 2021 <https://edit.sundayriley.com/best-hair-brush-for-every-hair-type/> ↩
- 5 Best Combs for Natural Hair, Natural Girl Wigs, accessed 16 August 2021 <https://naturalgirlwigs.com/blogs/beauty/5-best-combs-for-natural-hair/> ↩