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When it comes cleaning hair brushes, there’s something we can all probably admit: we rarely ever do it.
That round cylinder or rectangle paddle with tiny little spikes (aka bristles) that you store in your bathroom or purse actually plays a pretty important role in determining whether you'll having a good or bad hair day.
“Hair brushes keep the outer layer of the hair smooth and help redistribute oil from the scalp, but they don’t work as well when they’re filled with hair," Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist specializing in hair loss at the Cleveland Clinic, told TODAY.
But it’s not simply hair that the brush fills with over time. Imagine that each time you use a hair product, it coats each strand. So when you go to use your brush afterward, say, to polish up your look after work, the brush is not only picking up strands of hair, but also residue from the products.
“A clean brush is important because you don’t want scalp and hair residue on your brush to be applied back on top of clean hair,” wrote J.B. Shelton, hairstylist and strength specialist for Bosely Professional in an email to TODAY. “Think of the exfoliating power of your brush; that dead skin stays on bristles and pad of brush if not removed. Yuck!”
Now the questions arises, how often should you clean it? If your brush looks anything like ours, it's piled high with tangled hairs caught in the bristles.
Dr. Piliang recommends the average person clean their brush every one to two weeks. For those with longer hair, however, she recommends doing this more frequently. And if you use products, a sure sign that it’s time to clean you brush is if you start to see residue form on the bristles.
To clean your brush, Dr. Piliang suggests first using a rattail comb (like the ones they have in the salon or "Grease") or pen or pencil to pull out the hair. If you have a round brush, she recommends using scissors to snip the clumps of hair on both sides, so that they can easily be removed. Then fill a bowl with warm water and mild shampoo before swishing the brush around. When you’re done, place the brush bristle side down and let it dry.
To make this process easier, Shelton suggests that you remove loose hair from the brush regularly, at least three to four times per week. He also recommends that those who use their brushes quite often, or even share it with multiple people, try using a sanitizing spray. Shelton DIYs this by using one part water and one part barbicide in a spray bottle and spritzing after each of his clients. For someone at home, he suggests using this spray one to two times per week.
If you're now worried about gunk on your brush, don’t panic. It turns out you actually don’t need to brush your hair that often.
“The Marcia Brady rule that you have to brush a 100 times a day is not true,” said Piliang. “Just brush in the morning and before bed. You don’t want to over brush because that damages the hair.”
Both experts agree that the type of brush you use is equally as important to how clean it is in terms of your hair health.
For wet hair, either a wet brush or wide-tooth comb will do the trick. Shelton likes wet brushes because the flexible bristles help detangle while Piliang likes a wide-tooth comb, especially when used with conditioner in the shower, because it pulls the hair less.
If you’re using a blow dryer, Piliang recommends finding a brush with a ceramic or ion center as they help the hair dry faster, giving it less exposure to heat.
For everyday use, Shelton is a fan of boar-bristle brushes because they do pull less and smooth more, but admits that these pricier varieties aren't an absolute necessity.
There is one type of brush you should steer clear of, according to Shelton. M metal bristles "will tear your hair up,” he explained.
And once you find the right brush for your hair, know when it's time to let go and replace it.
Both Shelton and Piliang agree that once you start to see missing or bent bristles or can’t seem to get it clean, it’s time to say goodbye and send it off to the place where everyday is a good hair day.
This article was originally published on Feb. 15. 2016 on TODAY.com.