Shannon R., SELF magazine
Commuting. Living in a polluted city. You do some things despite the known side-effects. Another one: combing and brushing your hair. Even though it causes damage, most of us have got to do it (rather than face the very tangly consequences). But: you can make it less damaging. Here's the lowdown on the damage combs and brushes cause, and which ones are healthiest for hair.
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Brushes and combs inflict damage because hairs become "looped" around individual bristles. Once they are looped, the friction increases (translation: you have to pull harder) and the hair can be yanked out or broken.
A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science compared hair breakage resulting from a paddle brush, a round brush and a basic comb (not a wide-tooth one). Brushing causes more long hairs to break, while combing does just the opposite: it produces more short broken hairs.
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It's too bad this this study didn't include wide tooth combs. Theoretically, they would cause the least amount of "looping" since the comb teeth are far apart and therefore lead to less damage.
Moving on: Let's talk material. You've probably heard a hair stylist, a friend, or a magazine article recommend a boar bristle brush. There isn't research proving that this kind of brush is best, but because boar's hair have a great affinity for oils, it makes sense that they'd be good at spreading scalp oils throughout the hair. That's a good thing if you have dry hair and want your scalp oil to help moisturize it. It's a bad thing if you already have oily hair.
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Choose a wide tooth comb for detangling your ends (especially those of you with long locks!) and a natural fiber bristle brush (like boar's hair) to distribute oils throughout your hair (f you have dry hair). This combo provides the least amount of damage and hopefully the smoothest, shiniest hair!
Reference: J. Cosmet Sci., 58, 629-636 (November/December 2007) Hair breakage during combing IV: Brushing and combing hair. Clarence Robbins and Yash Kamath.