Are Plastic Brushes Bad For Your Hair?

Did you know brushes are great styling tools, but when you use them, you should be careful. Some hairbrushes can give you frizzy hair. But there is more to the story. If you have frizzy hair and want to know how to avoid damage read my article called how to tame frizzy hair. You should read my article on “Are brushes bad for your hair“. It could save you from sabotaging your hair. Incorrect brushing and the wrong brush type can cause extensive hair and scalp damage.

If you are interested in more articles like this one you may be interested in others I wrote like “Is it bad to brush your hair a lot?” You may be causing more damage than good. Or I am sure you will find my article on “What happens if you don’t brush your hair” very informative. I was actually surprised after my research while writing this article.

Is Using Plastic Brushes Harmful To Your Hair?

Using plastic brushes is harmful when over brushing or using bad brushing techniques. In this case plastic brushes and other brushes can damage your hair. It’s not the plastic bristles that damage your hair but more importantly other factors that actually cause damage. For example, vigorous brushing can remove some of the cuticle or the outer cell layer of your hair. When the cuticle is weakened it can break. Sharp points on a bristle or comb can scratch or irritate your scalp.

Types of bristles and when to use them

Natural Bristles

When I talk about natural bristles I am referring to boar bristles. Wood is natural so it would also fall into this category but for this article I am referring to boar bristles only. Boar bristles comes in different stiffness, flexibility or pliability. I like to refer this condition to penetration because the stiffer the bristle the more penetration you will get.

For example, a soft boar brush is not going to have stiff bristles and it will not have much penetration. These are often referred to as Second-cut boar brushes. These type brushes are going to be good for polishing your hair and are mainly for folks who have thin hair. It’s going to be easy on the scalp.

At the other end of the spectrum there is what is called First-cut. These bristles are going to be much stiffer and thus have much more penetration. They are going to be great for folks who have thick hair because they will be able to penetrate deeper grabbing the hair and have the stiffness to hold tension while styling. These brushes are going to be good at waving.

And lastly there are Medium boar bristles and these are just what it says. They have a medium stiffness and are good for normal to thick hair. So depending on the stiffness of the natural bristle you can go from gently smoothing and polishing your thin hair to styling thick hair with good penetration of a fist-cut boar brush.

Synthetic Bristles

Are plastic brushes bad for your hair

These are going to basically be nylon bristles or plastic. Typically nylon is thought of to be stiffer than boar bristles but they can also be manufactured to be very soft as well. But most folks think of synthetic bristles to be stiff and have good penetration but you should always read the label to double check. They are going to cause less static and be able to get out knots better and is generally used by folks who have thicker hair.

Combination Bristles

And lastly these are made of both natural and synthetic bristles. They are considered the best of both worlds and primarily used by folks who have normal to thick hair.

Hairstylist Bill Rowley shows you how to choose a brush

I love this video because Bill does an excellent job at describing what you need to know. It’s a quick video but he manages to pack a lot of valuable information into just a few minutes. I highly recommend watching.

Bill Rowley is a highly respected Canadian hairstylist and broadcast personality. Rowley’s eye for style and ability resulted in a dedicated customer and faithful television following.  Rowley, as a regular guest artist and guest host on Cityline, has entertained audiences for 25 years.  His combination of wit and charm has made him one of the most engaging spokespeople in the industry and host of the prestigious Contessa Awards gala.  Rowley’s work appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, FASHION, Flare, Chatelaine.


According to Stacey, Hair Research Analyst, “Combs overall are generally considered more gentle and better for your hair than brushes, however they won’t give you as much control when styling.” I recommend to use a comb to ease tangles and a brush to shape your hair when blow-drying, thus you can  achieve the best styling results.

In addition to considering the type of bristle, look at how close they are on the brush to each other. Generally speaking, the closer they are to each other, the better they work for fine hair. Farther-apart bristles are the better they are going to be for thicker hair.


Image courtesy of

A hairbrush is a handle brush with rigid or soft spokes used in hair care for smoothing, styling, and detangling human hair, or for grooming an animal’s fur. It can also be used for styling in combination with a curling iron or hair dryer. A flat brush is normally used for detangling hair, for example after sleep or showering. Wikipedia