Pick up any beauty magazine, and you’ll likely find an article on buying the right hairbrush. Unfortunately, the information is often wrong.

Let’s start with basic physiology. Hair is a fiber—one whose structure and integrity must be protected if you want lush locks. Our follicles produce these fibers, which are composed of hair keratins: fine, tightly packed structures covered by a protective cuticle.

Think of the cuticle as the shingles on a roof, which form a barrier atop the underlying structure, suggests Paradi Mirmirani, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. When damaged, the cuticle will break apart, exposing those inner fibers. You’re probably familiar with the result: frizzy, flyaway or dull hair.

Choosing the right hairbrush helps you protect the cuticle. While some hairstylists promote boar-bristle brushes (organic and nonorganic) as the best option, Dr. Mirmirani says they’re a bad idea.

“Boar-bristle brushes, which are quite expensive, put a lot of friction on the hair because the bristles come into contact with hair against its natural grain,” she says. “This can cause a considerable amount of damage.”

Dr. Mirmirani recommends using inexpensive plastic brushes with wide-spaced needles. Plastic, however, often contains PVC, so I avoid the animal bristle/plastic problem with my eco-friendly Earth Therapeutics Natural Wooden Pin Brush (see photo, above).

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