Is a Boar Bristle Brush Good or Bad for Your Hair?

Submitted via the FutureDerm.com Facebook page via private message:

Why do you advise readers to stick with a conventional plastic brush for hair health, instead of a boar bristle brush? I have read many places that boar bristle helps grow long healthy hair by spreading oil from the scalp along the strand. Boar bristle brushes are also nice because they remove loose hairs and clean out dust and lint. Are they actually bad for your hair?

-Kendra

Dear Kendra,

You are probably referring to my earlier post, Which Hair Brush is Best for My Hair?  Actually, I do recommend boar bristle brushes for the hair, as they do exactly what you said:  Distribute the hair and the natural oils of the scalp along the hair shaft, as well as pull dirt or dust particles off the hair.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using a boar bristle brush:

1.)  Choose a boar bristle brush based upon the spacing between the bristles.

Flat hairbrush

Narrow spaced brushes are best for thick hair. This is because less hair is grabbed with each stroke.

Easy to remember:  The thinner the hair, the thicker the space needs to be between the bristles!

Boar bristles are lighter and finer than nylon bristles, so they move more quickly and easily than nylon bristles, creating more volume with every stroke.  This is a beautiful thing for those with fine to medium hair, but a nightmare for those with thick or curly hair.

So the key for those with thin hair is to use a brush with wide spacing, so more hair can be grabbed with each stroke.  Try the Scalpmaster 12 Row Wire Bristle Brush #125 ($19.99, Amazon.com).  Those with thick hair, on the other hand, want narrow spacing so less hair is grabbed with each stroke – and less volume is introduced.  Try the Sephora Collection Boar Detanging Brush (shown right, $24.00, Amazon.com).

2.)  If your hair is short and oily, skip the boar bristle.

Hairbrush

Nylon ball-tipped brushes are best for those with shoulder-length or shorter hair, as the ball tips provide resistance that prevents static. But these tips just get caught in longer hair. (Photo credit: chrisinplymouth)

Sure, I love a boar brush.  But if your hair is short (shoulder-length or above), you’d be better off with a nylon ball-tipped brush.  These brushes have more resistance as they travel through the hair, so they will introduce less static to your hair, allowing you to maintain your cute little bob or whatever ‘do you are currently rocking

Actually, round, spiral brushes are great for those with short and/or layered hairstyles: Use one with a 1″ barrel to recreate a fresh-looking hairstyle, every time you blow dry your hair. An excellent one is the Conair 88014 Tourmaline Round Brush ($5.99, Amazon.com), which holds the heat better than many other varieties.

Those with longer hair, on the other hand, may prefer non-ball-tipped, straight boar brushes, as these tend to get tangled in the hair less. I once got a round, ball-tipped nylon brush stuck in my hair…but that’s another story…:-)

3.)  The Longer the Hair, the Bigger the Brush.

silver hairbrush

The longer your hair, the bigger the paddle of your brush should be. (Photo credit: Joanna Bourne)

Similarly, let’s consider the fact that those with long hair shouldn’t use ball-tipped brushes.  That means their brush introduces static into their hair with each stroke.

How to combat this?  Use a bigger brush!  Not only does this prevent static, but it also eliminates the probability that you will break your hair, as fewer strokes are needed.

4.)  Cost matters.

Few people disagree: Some of the best hairbrushes in the world are from Mason Pearson.

A high-end boar bristle brush is worth it.  Most cheap boar bristles brushes contain bristles from domesticated boars in China and Japan.  And as you might expect from a boar spending his days chillaxin’ indoors, he has much softer bristles than his wild, untamed cousins.  But the softer bristles won’t distribute oils through the hair as well as the harder, wilder ones.

For this reason, a great investment is a boar bristle brush like one from Mason Pearson (starting at $67; Amazon.com).  The company is well-known for making world-class hair brushes; in fact, Princess Diana was known for carrying one.  That said, keeping things from a scientific perspective here, high-quality boar bristle brushes are well worth it for both efficacy as well as durability – the brush should last a lifetime with proper care and cleaning.

Bottom Line

When buying a boar-bristle brush, remember the following rules:

  • The thinner the hair, the wider the spacing between bristles needs to be.
  • The longer the hair, the bigger the brush needs to be.
  • If your hair is shoulder-length or shorter, forgo the boar bristle in place of a round nylon ball-tipped brush, which has greater resistance and introduces less static into your hair.  (And, as a bonus, is great for styling).
  • Cost matters.  Invest in a high-quality boar bristle brush.

 

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by Nicki Zevola

13 thoughts on “Is a Boar Bristle Brush Good or Bad for Your Hair?

  1. Janessa says:

    I have been looking into Mason Pearson brushes! They also have a comb. What do you recommend for thinning, short hair on an aging man? I’m thinking to gift my father lol.

  2. Kendra says:

    Thanks Nicki! This was super helpful. I have one more question that may be of interest to other readers- I’ve read in multiple places that massaging the scalp regularly promotes scalp health and hair growth. Any research to back this up?

  3. sue says:

    Hi I have very very fine shoulder length curly frizzy hair that I straighten daily (pls don’t ask me to keep it curly) I’m trying to grow it can you recommend the best brush for styling (not blow drying) to add shine, volume etc I can afford up to £40 thank you

  4. Jenny says:

    I have a concern: animal welfare. Over the years, I have learned that every product that has animal ingredient involves supporting animal cruelty. I will not purchase down bedding, I can afford but will not purchase wool area rugs or clothing, I don’t wear leather, I don’t eat meat… you get the idea. However I do not know anything about where the boar hair comes from. Yes, I know, boars! But what I mean is; is it a satellite industry? Are the hairs harvested humanly? I know nothing about it and wonder if anyone has any reliable info.

    • Em says:

      My understanding is that Ambassador brushes by the Faller Company are humanely collected from boars on private farms; Mason Pearson brushes use bristles that are meat industry sourced. I am not affiliated with either company (and for the record use a nylon brush.) :)

  5. Joanna says:

    I have experience with wildgood brushes and I’m having a very good results, I chose this brush because is 100% natural,and they work with the leather that nobody uses (unfortunately there are people who eat boar ) it’s a ecological product.

  6. Nicki Zevola says:

    Hi,

    I recently received this from the company:
    1) The bristles are a by-product of the food chain.

    In India, china etc. the little black-haired pigs running around in the villages, as we would have chickens, geese and goats in Europe, are wild boar, as a breed, that are being reared for food. So, there is a stream of semi-domestic animals available each year where bristle is a by-product. It would not be economic for a village to feed such animals for bristle alone, unless the hair is removed each year, and we do not know whether this is practical. Given that these animals are quite capable of looking after themselves in a fight, it would be hazardous to expect one to remove bristle while they are alive. How they are slaughtered and so on we do not know, but they are treated in the village as part of its way of life and not as animals hunted down specifically for their hair.

    2) The shed bristles are gathered by locals as a supplementary income.

    We also understand that there is another, wilder breed. These are the ones which moult and the hair is collected.

    Thanks,
    Nicki

  7. Niella says:

    Is it true that brushes that have both boars hair and nylon bristles are better for damaged/thin hair and sensitive scalps? Some say it’s better to use these, but then others say it’s better to use 100% boars hair brushes; I am confused. And what is your opinion on Morrocco Method’s brushes?

  8. Nicki Zevola says:

    Hi @Niella:

    Some brushes have both boar bristles and nylon bristles, yes.

    Which to choose depends on which type of hair you have.

    If you have thin to medium hair that could use some volume, choose boar bristles. Boar bristles are lighter and finer than nylon bristles, so they move more quickly and easily than nylon bristles, creating more volume with every stroke.

    On the other hand, if you have medium to thick hair that does not need any more volume, choose nylon bristles, which move at a slower rate than boar bristles, infuse less air (‘lift”) into the hair, and leave it looking more voluminous.

    A mix of the two bristles is good for everyday use if volume is not a concern either way.

    Hope this helps,
    Nicki

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