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Dear Color Crew: Do I Really Need a Different Brush When My Hair Is Wet?

by May 08, 2019

Madison Reed Detangling Hair Brushes

Image by Madison Reed

Dear Color Crew is a recurring blog post where we answer hair-related questions—no matter how hairy they may be—from readers like you. Got a question? Email our team of professional colorists at

Dear Color Crew,
I’ve noticed there are different brushes for wet hair and dry hair (not to mention curly hair, straight hair, etc.). Do I really need a different brush when my hair is wet?

From paddle brushes to round brushes, brushes with synthetic bristles, natural bristles, vented backs, wood, metal and more...yes--there are A LOT of brushes on the market. The question of which brush to use on your hair and when can be confusing. But the question of which brush to use for wet hair is thankfully simple. You should use a detangling brush designed specifically for wet hair.

What is a wet brush? Good question. A wet brush is essentially just a detangling brush marketed for wet hair. These brushes are designed with soft, flexible bristles to painlessly detangle wet hair (hence the name detangling brush, or wet brush). If used consistently, a detangling brush can help minimize breakage and split ends.

So why do you need a special brush for wet hair? Here’s the thing: when hair is wet, the cuticles are open and filled with water, making the hair weaker and more fragile. Wet hair stretches when you brush it. If you use the wrong type of brush or pull too hard, the hair can stretch too far and break. This is why it’s a good idea to wrap wet hair in an absorbent microfiber hair towel or turban to wick away as much moisture as possible from your hair. (Never rough-dry your hair with your regular towel as that can damage your strands.) We also recommend using a leave-in conditioner or heat protectant (a must if you blow dry or use heat tools for styling!)...then you are free to brush through using a detangling brush, working your way from the ends of your hair and up.

Of course, detangling brushes can also be used on dry hair. Because their bristles are soft and flexible, they are gentle enough for everyday use on all hair types and textures, and are especially great for kids. That is, children’s hair is finer and more prone to tangling. A good detangling brush is a must to avoid tears and tantrums (for both parents and kids!). 

Another pro tip: make sure you clean your brush periodically. A dirty brush filled with hair, built up product and oil is a breeding ground for bacteria which can also be bad for your hair. Think dull color and no shine. Luckily, detangling brushes are easy to clean with a mixture of baking soda and warm water. Try to get in the habit of cleaning your brush at least once a month.

So there you go. An easy answer for a great question. Keep your questions coming...we love answering them!