The best brushes for curly hair: caring for your curls and coils

Use one of these best brushes for curly hair to give your 'do the love it deserves

Three of the best brushes for curly hair products in white circles on a pink background.
(Image credit: Future)

Those graced with waves, coils and ringlets know that the best brushes for curly hair are necessary to style that gorgeous 'do, especially after you've made the effort to follow all the vital curly hair tips. Luckily, we've combed our way through several  options to find the best brush to make caring for your curls a breeze.

Using the wrong brush with the wrong products can be a recipe for frizz and lack of definition—or worse, tangles and knots. So it's a no-brainer that we're after the best of the best. There are certain hairbrush features to look out for when it comes to catering to curls. The space between the teeth of the brush is pretty important, for example; the wider the teeth are spaced, the better it'll be at getting through thick hair.  

While our tester found that the Denman D3 was the best versatile brush for curly and coiled hair, there are loads of other options on the market that offer different designs for various curl patterns once you've nailed the curly girl method for beginners. Keep reading to find your brush made in heaven, with options for every style you might want to rock.  

How we tested the best brushes for curly hair

When testing the best brushes for Afro hair, I’m was looking for a brush that serves its purpose without snagging or dragging my hair. Afro hair is often thick but still delicate so needs a gentler approach.

If I’m looking for a brush to slick my hair, the bristles have to be firm and synthetic to encourage shine. For detangling, they have to be evenly-spaced and long to get rid of tangles with ease.

I tested each according the purpose of the brush. For instance, if it a smoothing brush, I used on days that I was slick my hair back. I tested detangling brushes in the shower with loads of conditioner on my hair to test how well it untangled any knotty bits.

I also looked for the following:

  • Teeth spacing. This is crucial for how effective it is at getting through thicker hair
  • Handle size
  • Handle grip
  • Durability of the teeth
  • Length of the teeth
Meet the tester
A photo of Keeks Reid wearing a red top.
Meet the tester
Keeks Reid

I have super-coily Afro-textured hair. If we’re speaking in curl patterns, my coils range across 4A to 4C and each strand is very thick. Because I’ve had balayage, I tend to opt for colour-specific ranges and products for dry and dehydrated hair. However, my hair doesn’t respond to products that are thick or buttery– light layers are always better.

I’m looking for a brush that serves its purpose without snagging or dragging my hair. Afro hair is often thick but still delicate so needs a gentler approach. If I’m looking for a brush to slick my hair, the bristles have to be firm and synthetic to encourage shine. For detangling, they have to be evenly-spaced and long to get rid of tangles with ease.


The best brushes for curly hair, tried and tested

A hairbrush with a thin black handle and bright pink body with white teeth.

(Image credit: Future)

1. Denman D3 Classic 7 Row Styling Hairbrush

This great all-rounder for styling curls and coils is suitable for all types of curls

Specifications

Showerproof: Yes
Detangling: Not really
Dry styling: Yes
RRP: $21.95/£10

Reasons to buy

+
For forming curls
+
Versatile for definition and heat-styling

Reasons to avoid

-
The handle can get slippery
-
Can only lightly detangle

Firstly, there’s a reason this is a cult buy for the natural hair community—while many brushes are used to work the product into strands to create definition, not many can actually be used to create definition like this one. If you are used to finger-coiling your hair post-wash then you’ll know just how long that process can take, but using this cut my styling time in half. 

This versatile brush is also great for gently stretching curls if you ever want to brush them out for volume. Just make sure you detangle beforehand, even if it’s just with your fingers, as I found that the teeth weren't the best for cutting through knots.

Overall, the  Denman D3 brush is the perfect buy if you are looking for something that can pretty much do it all, and especially if you want to learn how to brush curly hair without losing curls .

A matte black hairbrush with a round oval body.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Wet Brush Pro Detangler

This premium brush makes light work of detangling

Specifications

Showerproof: Yes
Detangling: Yes
Dry styling: No
RRP: $13.99/£6.95

Reasons to buy

+
Glides through curls easily
+
Comfortable to hold
+
Non-slip handle

Reasons to avoid

-
Base can fill with water
-
Not for dry hair

We all love the O.G. Wet Brush, but this Pro edition is way more hard-wearing than the original. I found that the best time to use this was when you have finished rinsing out your conditioner in the shower and need to detangle before you start to dry your hair and use serums, like Olaplex Number 8. What I loved is that it doesn't snag at knots; the flexible bristles move with your hair rather than pulling at it. 

To get the best results from this brush, rinse your hair, squeeze out the excess water and spray in your favorite water-based leave-in conditioner. Then, brush through your hair in sections to detangle and ensure you have an even coating of your product for hydrated curls once styled.

A wooden look hairbrush with a round oval shaped barrel with diagonal cuts carved in between teeth.

(Image credit: Future)

3. So Eco Biodegradable Detangling Leaf Brush

A budget-friendly, environment friendly curly girl brush

Specifications

Showerproof: Yes
Detangling: Yes
Dry styling: Yes
RRP: $13/£9

Reasons to buy

+
Biodegradable and compostable
+
For wet and dry hair

Reasons to avoid

-
The teeth can become misshapen
-
Won’t dry-style super-tight coils well

Not only has So Eco has raised the game with this brush—and how environmentally friendly it is—but it’s also a really great brush for easing out kinks and knots in curly and coiled hair. 

Whether you prefer brushing your hair exclusively when it’s wet or don’t mind brushing through it for volume when it’s dry, this option can work for both. If you do want to brush in the shower, the flat base means that there’s nowhere for water to get trapped.

However, I found that the super-bendy material of the teeth started to get misshapen quicker than others. This means that the brush will need to be changed sooner than other hairbrushes. Using it to blow-dry can also be an issue, as the bristles soften under too much heat and bend out of shape quicker. 

A wooden slim hairbrush with black bristled teeth.

(Image credit: Future)

4. Kent Narrow Oval Bristle Brush

Best for smoothing curly hair this brush is a must-have for creating updos

Specifications

Showerproof: No
Detangling: No
Dry styling: Yes
RRP: $24/£10

Reasons to buy

+
Encourages shine
+
Affordable and long-lasting
+
Not scratchy

Reasons to avoid

-
Only good for smoothing
-
Can create frizz if used incorrectly

Having this brush in my hair tool kit has truly changed my ponytail and updo game. A medium-firm bristle brush is key for creating a kink-free pulled-together hairstyle on curly hair, so you can recreate Bella Hadid's bun all day long. This hairbrush from Kent is affordable and the perfect size for brushing up curls with no lumps before you secure it into a ponytail holder. If you have coily hair, you can smooth your edges with a bit of gel or pomade before you brush and if your curls are looser then you can spray the brush itself with a bit of hairspray to secure. 

Word to the wise: if you aren’t looking to smooth your curls into a style, then this isn’t the tool you need as using it to brush out curls that you’re wearing down will create fluff rather than definition. 

A round white plastic cover with small light blue spikes.

(Image credit: Future)

5. Hairstory scalp brush

Best for brushing your scalp. If you thought you didn’t need a scalp brush you are wrong

Specifications

Showerproof: Yes
Detangling: No
Dry styling: No
RRP: $10/£11

Reasons to buy

+
Stimulates blood flow
+
Removes build-up from the scalp
+
Self-head massage

Reasons to avoid

-
Only beneficial for scalp care

There's debate on whether you should brush curly hair when dry or wet, but regardless of all of that, if you've never used a scalp brush before then prepare to have your life changed. Yes, we realize it sounds a touch dramatic, but once you have a scalp brush in your life, you won’t do a wash day without it. It’s especially beneficial for curly hair as the gels, mousse, and conditioners used can build up on the scalp. I found that using this brush loosens that build-up, giving me an even cleaner wash day routine.

This one from Hairstory is great for running over your scalp and encouraging blood flow which helps promote hair growth too—something that coily hair types can struggle with. 

If you enjoy a hair massage in the salon, this helps to recreate this experience at home. Your hair doesn’t get tangled either—in fact, you can use it to rinse out any product under the shower if you have type three curls or looser. 

How to choose the best brushes for curly hair

It can be hard to know exactly where to begin—the hair tools market goes on forever and, to be honest, everything kind of looks the same. If you have damaged hair, then the likelihood is you'll be even more desperate to find something that really works. If you're struggling with where to start, there's a simple question that should help guide you to your perfect match: what is it for?

  • If you’re looking for something to use exclusively in the shower because you don’t use tools on your hair once it’s dry, then you need to get your hands on a shower scalp brush, which helps to stimulate blood flow to your scalp as you wash.
  • If you need to mainly detangle, then an exclusively plastic brush will be best as it’ll stand the test of time (no matter how hard your water is) and will be easier to clean. 
  • If you like to wear your curly or coily hair in a variety of styles, then bristle brushes and paddle brushes will have a place on your beauty shelf, depending on the look you’re going for.
  • Paddle brushes work well to stretch coils or use in conjunction with a hairdryer if you ever want to blow-dry your hair. Boar bristle or synthetic bristle brushes work to smooth an updo or edges to finish off your look.

Keeks is an award-winning digital & social content specialist a hair & beauty writer and a brand consultant. You can find her work in Cosmopolitan (in print and online), Refinery29, Harper’s Bazaar, Woman and Home, Women’s Health, My Imperfect Life, OK! Online and Hairdressers Journal

With contributions from