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Ernesto Alonzo, salon owner and industry expert, offers some things to consider when investing in brushes for your business or advising your clientele:

Professional brush lines have a range of sizes and styles of brushes for different tasks and different hair types. All brushes are not created equal. The shape and composition of a brush will determine how it performs, holds up over time, and even the amount of stress it puts on your wrist after hours on your feet doing hair.

It’s important to choose the right brush for the task.


  • BOAR BRISTLE — Natural boar bristle is an important component of a high quality brush. Because they are porous, boar bristles literally transport the oils from the scalp to the hair strands. This is the only way to actually nourish the hair. That’s why your grandmother always told you to brush your hair 100 strokes every day.

Boar bristles have a second benefit, in that they also act on hair cuticles, closing them and creating a natural polished look one can only achieve with boar bristle.

Not all boar bristles are the same quality. Boar bristle comes in three different cuts. The highest quality is called “first cut.” One-hundred percent boar bristle is best on fine, straight hair because it is flexible and minimizes breakage. Always use boar bristles for finishing—it creates shiny, polished, healthy hair.

  • MIXED BRISTLES — Mixed bristles are a combination of 100 percent boar bristles and nylon bristles. Nylon bristles are stronger than boar but unlike boar, they aren’t porous or soft.

Nonetheless, nylon is important in styling brushes because it helps create more pull, to help you grab the hair better. Some nylon bristle is crucial when you are working with medium coarse hair or very curly hair, although it is not recommended to use a 100 percent nylon bristle brush because that can cause breakage.

  • PORCUPINE BRISTLE — A porcupine bristle brush is comprised of tufts of pure boar bristles with a longer nylon quill at the center. This nylon quill provides extra tension which is extremely helpful when working with extremely difficult hair that is very coarse or very curly or both.

The way the bristles are set in the brush is very important too, since one configuration is best for styling while another is best for volume and extra lift.


Barrels are made out of ceramic, wood or metal. Ceramic is a fantastic material for the barrel of a styling brush because it holds the heat a long time and conducts heat evenly and naturally, without burning the hair.

Wooden barrels or wood with ceramic coating are also good options. The ceramic coating can make the wooden brush as efficient as a ceramic brush, but it will retain heat without overheating and damaging the hair.

The shape of the brush barrel is also crucial. An oval-barreled brush will give you extra tension and added control over difficult hair, from the roots to the ends, which are equally important in smoothing very curly hair. The oval shape is also best on over-processed hair. The flat area of the oval allows you to create extra extension, especially at the ends, giving you a flat iron finish.


Handles should be light. Remember, you are wielding this tool all day. A well-engineered brush will get the job done without added weight. Let the brush do the work.

Most of us don’t skimp on our scissors. Why should we make the mistake of thinking all brushes are the same?

Article from California Stylist & Salon - October 2009

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