How to Brush Style Curly Hair – the RIGHT Way



“Don’t brush curly hair!” We’ve all got used to that mantra over the years, haven’t we? But actually, more and more curlies are getting fabulously defined clumps from using a brush to style their hair. 

From ribbon curls to shaking, there are plenty of ways to make a brush work for you. Remember, curly hair is fragile when wet, so always use these techniques gently!

Brush Styling Techniques and How to Do Them

1. Brush and Shake

By far the easiest technique, this is the best way to create natural clumps and looser waves. It works best with upside down styling and can be done on wet or damp hair – although very wet hair will give the most definition. 


Tip hair forward and gently brush through upside down without scrunching. Once all of the hair has been brushed, gently shake your head until the clumps fuse together. They should come together naturally. If clumps don’t form, try adding more water. Scrunch clumps carefully, to avoid separating them. You can then either diffuse upside down, or flip hair back up and leave to dry naturally. 

2. Ribbon Styling

This method will probably create the most defined curls. The best way to describe this is to think of curling the ribbon on a gift. You need to create pressure on the hair along the edge of your brush with your hand.


This can be done upside down or right side up and is best done on wet or very wet hair. Choose a clump of hair; the size you pick will determine the size of the final clump. Firstly, brush through the clump so it is completely smooth. Next, place the brush as close to the root as possible and brush out and away from the scalp. Pinch the top of the clump gently and shake until the clump forms. For extra definition and smoothness, place pressure on the hair over the uppermost edge of the brush as you brush through, and you will see the hair curl in on itself. This will also give a tighter spiral like those pretty gift ribbons!

3. Handle styling

For perfect ringlets and smooth barrel curls, try using the handle of the brush as well. This method takes a little practise but once you’ve got the hand of it, your curls will be popping!


This can be done upside down or right side up and is best done on wet or very wet hair. The size of clump you pick will determine the size of the final clump. Firstly, brush through the clump so it is completely smooth. Hold the brush upside down so the handle is pointing upwards. Then, holding both ends of the brush, place the brush close to the root of the clump and brush out and away from the scalp, twisting and pulling it down gently as you go. Eventually, the curl will spiral through the teeth of the brush and around the handle until the brush pops out of the bottom of the curl. You will be left with a perfectly formed ringlet! Scrunch it gently to avoid disturbing it.

Common brush styling issues and questions

How do you avoid tangles?

Some curlies find it difficult to avoid their curls tangling up with each other, particularly with the Handle or Ribbon Styling. Try using clamps or pins to section off your hair before you begin. You could also brush through your hair completely before styling to avoid tangles.

How do you deal with flat roots?

When brush styling right side up, some curlies – particularly types 3a or below – find that their roots become flattened to the hair with the pulling action of the brush. This is particularly a problem with Handle Styling as you tend to pull the curls down the brush. Try practising the techniques upside down so the roots are pulled away from the scalp. Another tip is to section your clumps using root clips which will keep the hair lifted off your scalp while you style.

Brush styling recommendations

Denman D3

By far the most common brush used for brush styling is the Denman D3 because of its versatility and its relatively wide-spaced rows. You can make the gaps wider by removing rows as well. It’s particularly excellent for coily, thicker hair.

Behairful Brush

For more tension, many curlies are now trying out brushes with more bristles such as the Behairful Brush, which can create gorgeous, glossy ribbon curls.

Scrunch It Brush

The new Scrunch It Brush, with its round smooth barrel and handle, is excellent for rounded ringlets. You can also create smooth curls simply with any detangling wet brush. Why not experiment and see which you like best!

Watch a few of these techniques in action:

Happy brushing!

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