How To Brush Curly Hair: Everything You Need To Know

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Running a brush through your tresses can be a relaxing, rejuvenating experience — unless you have curly hair.

For those with wavy, curly, or coily locks, working out knots while trying to fluff up your curls and reduce frizz is straight-up stressful.

A frustrated woman is combing her curly hair with a brush.

Even worse: it hardly ends with great results.

Luckily, there are certain tricks that you can comb through to maintain your mane AND have a good hair day.

Yes, you read that right; achieving both is possible.

You just need to learn how to brush curly hair the right way.

The Problem With Brushing Curly Hair

Curly hair comes with a unique set of characteristics that make it particularly challenging to maintain. 

And it’s why you need Curly Girl method-approved products to help guide your way.

Brushing it is exactly the same.

The main challenge in brushing curly hair is rooted in the shape of the hair follicle. 

Unlike those with straight hair, curlies have to contend with curved hair follicles, which are more prone to knotting and breakage.

Add to that the fact that curly hair tends to be naturally dry. 

The oils produced by the scalp can’t travel down the length of each strand as easily as it does when hair is straight, which predisposes the hair to frizz.

There are also various types of curl patterns. And you need to brush or comb yours according to your specific hair type.

As such, when you brush or comb curly hair, you need to be extra mindful of your technique. The careless brushing or combing of your tresses can lead to several issues.

Common Issues When Brushing Out Curly Hair

When you brush your curls carelessly, you subject your locks to several potential issues.

First off, you can have knots. If you mindlessly run a brush through your curly mane, your hair may get caught in the bristles and create a nightmare of a tangle to work through.

This mess can lead to frizziness, dryness, and breakage. Not to mention the stress.

Using the wrong brush or comb, not incorporating enough hair products, and touching your curls while they’re drying off after brushing can also lead to the same results.

Also, improperly brushing curly hair can compromise your curl patterns.

One of the best things about having curly hair is the unique characteristic that comes with your locks. 

But haphazardly or hurriedly putting comb or brush to hair might cause your curls to go in the wrong direction, lessen curl definition, even making hair appear straight, reduce lift at the roots, and compromise volume.

Why Brushing Your Curly Hair Is Important

So if it’s that difficult, why should you bother with brushing out curls?

Contrary to what you may read on other parts of the internet, brushing your curly hair is not only recommended, it’s also beneficial.

Brushing or combing hair distributes the natural oils produced by the scalp throughout your mane, which is important for hair health.

It also serves as a mini massage for your scalp, which can encourage hair growth and promote better blood flow.

If you use a lot of hair products, the act of brushing can remove product buildup too.

And if done correctly, brushing can detangle hair and lead to more defined, more aesthetically pleasing ringlets.

To Brush or To Comb Curly Hair?

Now, when it comes to styling curly hair, curlies have to decide between combing or brushing.

Many think that combing curls is better than brushing them, but the truth is, the answer depends on your specific hair needs.


For example, combing is indeed better if you want to preserve your curl pattern while also reducing potential breakage. Brushing, on the other hand, can flatten out curls and create frizz, if done incorrectly.

A close up photo of a woman brushing her long brown curly hair with a wooden comb.

Combing also involves less pulling on your hair; with brushing, hair strands may snag on the bristles, which can be painful. 

Combing works even for those with tight curls. Meanwhile, brushing is not ideal for some hair types, such as damaged curly hair that needs extra care.


On the other hand, if you need more flexibility with styling, brushing is better than combing curly hair. The right brush can add more lift at the roots to create volume and can even help you create specific curl styles.

Brushing is also beneficial to hair health as it can stimulate the scalp. And it can evenly distribute styling products throughout your tresses for optimal health.

So when it comes down to it, the choice of combing or brushing your hair depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Step-by-Step Guide To Brushing Curls

An infographic featuring step by step guide to brushing curls in 6 steps

To get the best results, follow this detailed, careful routine when you brush curly hair.

1. Get All the Tools That You Need

Curly hair needs a small arsenal of tools to look and feel great. And brushing it is the same.

The following are especially ideal:

  • Brush. Go with brushes that come with boar or nylon bristles. Their softer textures are easier on your curls, lessening chances for frizz, dryness, and breakage.
  • Combs. Stick to wide-toothed variants with minimal prongs. These are especially recommended by experts as they’re great at smoothening out knots and preparing the hair for styling. 
  • Detangling picks. As their name denotes, they’re designed to detangle curly hair. And they’re specifically ideal for brushing out dry curls.
  • Moisturizers. In addition to your brush or comb, you need an array of products to hydrate your hair. These include conditioners, smoothing gels or creams, and curl creams.

2. Wet or Dampen Hair

Hair is usually at its weakest when it’s wet, which is why it should be brushed when it’s dry. 

But for curly hair, it isn’t the case. 

Since curly hair has a lot of elasticity and stretch, it needs hydration for slip. 

Slip ensures that your brush, comb, or fingers can easily stroke through your tresses and get them ready for styling. 

Without it, there may be pulling or tuggling, which can weaken strands and cause them to break. Or dry up.

So make sure to brush your curly hair in the shower with conditioner. You can also do this after you’ve dampened your hair with water or a misting spray.

3. Condition Your Hair Before Brushing

Whether you’re in the shower or not, applying a conditioner to your curls before you brush them is important.

As with brushes and combs, your conditioner will be significant to the looks of your locks. 

If you have fine, curly hair, opt for a lightweight conditioner that won’t weigh down your curls.

But if you have thicker, coarser hair, you’ll benefit from a creamier conditioner with lots of oils.

4. Detangle and Section Hair

Next, work out the kinks in your hair with your fingers. 

You can also opt to use a detangling brush or pick, but using your fingers is better for gently smoothening stubborn knots without damaging your curls.

Afterwards, divide your hair into multiple sections. It’s up to you to decide how many sections you’ll have; just make sure that each one isn’t too thick so you can easily brush through it.

5. Work Your Way From Bottom to Top

Once your hair is wet, moisturized, and sectioned off, you can proceed to brushing your curls. 

Start from the very ends of your hair, working your way upward little by little until you reach your scalp.

Why do you need to brush curly hair from the bottom to the top?

Starting at the roots runs the risk of you pulling out your hair follicles, as well as creating more knotting as you make your way down your locks.

When you start from the bottom, you can take care of knots along your hair shafts while minimizing the risk of breakage. 

It’s also gentler on your hair as it might lessen tugging and pulling. Tugging and pulling your hair will not only rip strands off but also hurt.

6. Apply More Moisturizers

Finally, finish off the process by sealing more moisture into your hair.

Some of the best hair products that you’ll need for this stage are as follows:

Then dry your hair.

Tips for Brushing or Combing Curly Hair

Whether you’re combing or brushing your curly hair, there are a couple of things that can elevate the experience and deliver the results that you want. Consider the following.

A beautiful young woman smiling while combing her curly hair in front of a mirror.

Comb or Brush Your Curls Evenly

While working on your curly hair, make sure to brush or coat your tresses evenly. Overdoing one section can create frizz.

Don’t Overbrush or Overcomb

It’s also important to limit your brushing or combing to a few times a week. For those with tighter curls, do it once a week.

Be Patient

And don’t forget to be extra careful and gentle when trying to make your hair look its best after brushing.

Curly hair is more sensitive than other hair types, so it needs more time and patience.

Proper Ways To Brush Curly Hair

How To Brush Curly Hair Without Losing Curls

The key to keeping your curl pattern intact is to combine the power of proper brushing with great hair products.

Moisturize your hair with your favorite conditioner or leave-in conditioner; alternately, you can use a hair oil or smoothing gel/cream.

Then take your brush and clump your curls gently. Apply a curl cream, and then dry your hair with a diffuser.

How To Brush Curly Hair Without It Getting Frizzy

Your fingers are important to detangling knots in your curly hair.

But they should be kept out of your hair after you have brushed and dried it.

Keeping your hands to yourself will help your hair retain its moisture, which will prevent not only frizz but also split ends and breakage.

How To Brush Curly Hair Between Washes

On non-shower days, you can still brush your curly hair by spraying it with a hydrating mist or dampening it with water.

Or if you don’t want to make it too wet, you can always apply a leave-in conditioner or lather it with some hair oil.

Remember, curly hair is best brushed while it’s wet.


How Often Should You Brush Curly Hair?

It depends on your specific hair type; for instance, those with tight curls should brush their hair only once a week.

Generally, a few times a week is best.

Is It Okay To Brush Curly Hair Every Day?

It’s not recommended to brush curly hair every day. Doing so might cause dryness and, over time, frizz and breakage.

If you need to style your hair on the daily, use a detangler pick to work out knots in your tresses.

Which Is Better for Brushing Curly Hair — Comb or Brush?

It depends on what you’re trying to do.

A brush is best if you’d like to evenly distribute hair products through your hair, add volume and lift, or achieve specific styles (such as an updo).

A brush is also better if you need a mini scalp massage.

But if you want a better curl definition, less frizz, and more effective detangling, a comb is recommended.

Using a comb over a brush is also advisable for those with tight curls.

Is Brushing Curly Hair Painful?

No, brushing your hair should not be painful.

To make sure that you’re not putting any unnecessary strain on your tresses, use a soft-bristled brush or your fingers to smoothen out stubborn knots.

The Secret to Perfectly Brushed-Out Curls

Achieving great-looking brushed out curly hair takes a lot of time and patience.

a close up photo of a woman combing her curly hair with a pink comb.

Don’t skimp on the conditioners, use the right tools, and be gentle with the process.

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  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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