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What are boar bristle brushes?
Basically just a brush that uses tightly spaced boar hairs as bristles. This type of brush became especially popular in Europe in the 1800s but there is evidence of stiff boar hairs being used as bristles in many cultures for thousands of years [i].
Benefits for you hair
Boar bristle brushes are quite soft so they detangle slowly and gently. It takes a little longer than some other bristle types but I have found I lose less hair than I did with other brushes.
Conditions your hair
The bristles are designed to take the oil from your scalp and spread it down the hair shaft. The key is to make sure every stroke starts at the root and slowly goes down to the ends. This conditions your hair by coating it in a little bit of your natural oils to get a shiny finish. It is important to mention that you don’t get results after one day! It took me a few months to notice a difference in my own hair.
Basically for the same reason it conditions your hair. The oil coats the strands and helps smooth your hair overall reducing frizz!
Stimulates circulation in the scalp
The bristles are at the perfect point between hard and soft so when you run them on your scalp it feels like a massage. This massage can improve your circulation which means more oxygen and nutrients [ii] being brought to the hair follicles which helps grow healthier hair. Improved blood flow in the scalp and around the hair follicles has also been associated with decreasing male pattern baldness [iii].
A styling tool
Before all the styling products we know came out the main styling tool was the hair brush! If you have curly hair using a boar bristle brush can help loosen it into stylish soft waves (hello classic Hollywood).
I would not recommend using a brush that only has boar bristles when styling the hair. There are some nice half boar half nylon options as well as some vented brushes to use with a hair dryer.
Some I would recommend:
Can help you transition to the “no poo” method
The no-poo method is a method where you wash your hair without shampoo. Because a boar bristle brush spreads oils from the scalp down the hair it can help you train your hair to produce less oil! Even if you just want to use shampoo less to give your hair a break (I think we are all doing this during isolation whether we want to or not) this type of brush can help decrease oily build up on your scalp.
How to use it
Only on dry hair
The brush can’t distribute the oil through the hair properly if it’s wet!
Detangle the ends
Start by slowly and gently detangling any bigger knots at the end of the hair.
Root to tip
Once the bigger knots are cleared away make sure to spend the rest of your time brushing going from the roots to the ends of the hair. I like to spend a little extra time on the scalp with each stroke since the little massage feels so nice.
The Gold Standard in Brushes: Mason Pearson
Something else to keep in mind
Boar bristles are obtained from boars that are raised for their meat, hair, and other byproducts. Finding out where a company obtains their boar bristles is pretty difficult but many seem to source them from Chinese farms. It is important to mention that welfare laws for farmed animals in China are not as thorough as many other countries and prioritize meat quality not animal welfare (although these two do often have similar requirements) [iv]. There were decent improvements made to farming laws in 2015 and 2017 but many changes were added as general requirements and not specifically mandated [v]. Essentially farmers aren’t really required to comply.
If you are planning on buying a boar bristle brush you definitely have the right to ask where they source their bristles (especially if you have a certain Mason in mind). Companies are more likely to change where they buy their bristles if you tell them that that's what you want!
Although there are negative impacts of these brushes there are big environmental positives too. These brushes (if cared for properly) can last way longer than a standard plastic brush, meaning buying less plastic. Once they do need to be thrown away they can actually biodegrade since they are mainly composed of wood and boar hairs, both very environmentally friendly.