The process of washing, detangling, deep conditioning, and styling your natural hair can steal hours of your day. It’s called wash day for a reason. Of this multi-step process, detangling is perhaps the most dreaded part. Curls and coils don’t only get caught in scrunchies and rubberbands (no matter how “ouchless” they claim to be); they also get tangled into each other, leaving you with knots of all strengths and sizes. They can get so intense you might think you have the beginnings of dreadlocks — but before you reach for the scissors, there’s a better way. We talked to seven hair-care professionals about the detangling brushes strong enough to brush through your natural hair with minimal pain and hair loss. Most of the brushes on this list are pretty similar, because there are time-tested features that are proven to work for naturally curly hair. They all have flexible bristles that are dense enough to comb through all the hair but are spread out enough to avoid damage. They all can be used following the same instructions, too. Everyone we spoke to recommends only detangling on wet hair, starting at the ends and working your way to the root. With these tips, and one of the seven brushes below, your wash day might turn into a wash afternoon.
Best overall detangling brushes for natural hair
Four of the stylists we spoke to mentioned the Denman brush, and three specifically love this seven row version. “The Denman brush is an industry trusted, high quality, multifaceted brush that stands the test of time,” says Kadeisha Placide, the owner of Classic Beauty Studio salon in Brooklyn. “It is an oldie but a goodie.” The brand has been around since the 1970s and the brush is praised for how versatile it is. Our experts agree that it’s great for all hair textures and tasks like “reducing frizz, blow drying, gently detangling, straightening, and adding shine and volume,” adds Placide. For natural hair specifically, however, it has the added function of “helping to define curls,” says celebrity stylist Ro Morgan, whose clients include Naomi Cambell and Precious Lee. Morgan also thinks the bristles on the brush make it safe for delicate natural hair. It has “flexible bristles that are widely spaced apart enough to prevent damage to hair from breaking,” he says. Not to mention, “it also helps reduce harshness to the scalp while grooming and styling,” says Placide. And while our experts are professionals and could probably work with any tool you gave them, Erica Legagneur, a stylist with mobile salon Yeluchi, says the Denman brush is foolproof. “I love the size of the brush itself; it fits well into my hands, allowing for better control when brushing,” she notes. “The seven rows of teeth glide through hair evenly and never get tangled, and as a stylist, my favorite feature is how easy it is to clean loose hairs from the brush, further ensuring that the detangling process is a seamless one.”
In terms of how to use this brush, all of our experts emphasize the importance of using it on wet hair. “When it comes to detangling curly hair, it is always best to start on damp to wet hair, starting from the ends and slowly working your way up to the roots,” says Morgan. Placide explains that working from the ends of the hair prevents damage and reduces shedding. She also recommends separating the hair into four to six sections to start. The more hair you have, the more sections you should use. To ensure your hair stays damp while you’re detangling, Legagneur says keep a spray bottle close by.
Mika English, a stylist at the Ursula Stephens Salon and founder of Grew by ME hair-care line, prefers the Denman brush with nine rows. She likes that the bristles are firm and closer together, which speeds up the detangling process. “You don’t have to keep going over the same section of hair,” she says. “Once you go over it once or twice, you can go on to the next section. For me, it’s all about speed and getting as many clients in as I can throughout the day.” Denman, she says, “always does the job.” English also likes that the base of the brush isn’t a cushion, like a paddle brush, which makes “the bristles gather together when you’re brushing your hair,” tangling your hair even more. The Denman, on the other hand, “doesn’t squeeze or hold water so when you use the brush, it’s a firm grip and it’s not re-tangling the hair — it’s detangling the hair.” The base of Denman brushes also have a slight curve, which stylist Koni Bennett looks for in a detangling brush because it “gives your hair a little bit of bounce,” she says. When detangling, in addition to sectioning off your damp hair, Bennett suggests clipping the individual sections as well “so that it doesn’t get caught up in the next section that you begin to detangle.”