Why you should stop brushing your hair

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By not brushing your hair you allow it to remain strong, healthy and even looking better. Can this really be true? Photo / Getty
By not brushing your hair you allow it to remain strong, healthy and even looking better. Can this really be true? Photo / Getty

This is a terrible thing to admit, but I'm a beauty slob. I paint over chipped nail varnish, I shave only the parts of my leg that will be on show - and, on more than one occasion, I have sprayed perfume on a top rather than washing it.

However, one thing I have always done each day is brush my hair.

I was brought up with the idea that we should brush our hair with 100 strokes every day
to keep it soft, shiny and healthy.

Not that I get anywhere near 100 strokes - far from it - but a brush does get yanked through every morning and night, in the hope that it will tame my tresses.

It doesn't work, my hair still often looks flyaway, but I keep doing it anyway. It didn't occur to me that it's optional.

However, a new beauty trend has emerged that involves not brushing your hair. At all.

Advocates say that over-brushing damages your hair, leading to split ends and breakages, which could end in hair loss. By not brushing your hair, they say, you allow it to remain strong, healthy and even looking better. Can this really be true?

Trichologist Philip Kingsley, who tended to Audrey Hepburn's locks, thinks so.

"I am anti-brushing," he says. "I have been for years, ever since I started doing research into the dust particles in hairbrushes and realised that a lot of it is actually hair broken by brushing and healthy cells that have been stripped off the scalp.

"A lot of women over-brush their hair - either for too long or with too much force. Vigorous brushing can remove some of your hair's cuticles - its outer cell layer - which weakens it and causes damage.

"Constant traction from pulling your hair when you brush can actually pull out your hair, while the sharp tips at the end of some bristles harm the scalp.

"The idea that we should be brushing 50 to 100 strokes a day is a myth that comes from a time when people didn't wash their hair, so they needed to brush in order to remove dirt and dust. We don't live in those times any more."

We sure don't. We live in an era of more hair products than we could use in a lifetime. But could we really do without the trusted brush? Surely we'd become a nation of birds' nests?

I decide to find out by ditching my brush for a whole week. I fear it will make a bad situation even worse. Very thick, dense and wiry - my hair is difficult.

Usually I try to battle it into submission by pulling hard on a paddle brush or sizzling it under straighteners - but the result is never good.

I've had periods where I've tried to embrace my natural kink, but somehow, I've always lost my nerve.

After all, we live in a world where smooth, glossy hair is the epitome of glamour. The only time I think it looks really good is when I get my weekly blow-dry in the salon. The combination of a strong arm and a round brush whips my frizz into bouncy curls a la Kate Middleton.

But my hairdresser, Lance Lowe at The Underground Hairdresser, has warned me against this, too.

"I've seen women with receding hairlines because of their weekly blow-dries," says Lance, who does the hair on catwalk shows for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

"Hairdressers use a lot of force when they're doing them, pulling out hair in the process - you only need to look at the brush to see it."

Philip Kingsley agrees: "Professional blow-dries are a disaster - all the pulling and heat makes the hair brittle. Over the years, aggressive brushing can cause traction alopecia, which is where hair falls out."

Oh dear. I'm hoping for a tousled just-got-out-of-bed-look, but my friends are sceptical.

"You'll look like a ginger Helena Bonham Carter," said one. "I didn't think you brushed your hair anyway," said another.

Normally I comb my hair in the shower after applying conditioner. I know it's not great to comb wet hair - it's at its weakest when wet and can easily snap - but it helps to fight the knots. On day one, however, I use my fingers.

I rough dry it, again using my hands to comb through. I won't lie, the result is triangular. Part curl, part frizz: 100 per cent mess. I put it in a bun.

That night, I take out my hair and it actually looks good. I read online that putting unbrushed hair into a bun or plaits helps to tame it, while keeping its natural texture, so I plait my hair before falling asleep.

The next day is a pleasant surprise. I undo the plaits to find hair that's tousled, not frizzy. I like it.

I wear it down to meet a friend. "You look younger and more fun," she says. "And it makes your face look slimmer. I like it."

By day three, the knots are really appearing. I try to pull my fingers through them in the morning and they don't budge. I put hair oil on my hands and it helps. Day four and my scalp is itching and flaky. I wonder if brushing keeps your scalp healthy?

"Brushing is not necessary for a healthy scalp," says Philip Kingsley. "To stimulate the scalp all you need to do is massage it. You can do this while you are shampooing or with dry hair for a few minutes every day. The massage stimulates and tones the follicles and makes blood flow to the scalp.

"If you are prone to dandruff, you should be washing your hair more frequently as it removes the flakes."

What about the idea that brushing distributes natural oils throughout the hair, making it soft? "Rubbish," says Philip, "who wants oily hair? It attracts dirt."

On day five, I take time to massage in the shampoo. I then comb through my conditioned hair with my hands. It takes ages but I quite enjoy it. It's meditative. When I dry it, I twist up small sections to create messy curls.

I worry it's more messy than curly, but a friend tells me I look younger. "You look more light-hearted, more like you."

What amazes me is how well behaved my hair is when I leave it to its own devices.
Brushing often makes it static and frizzy. By the end of the week, it seemed perfectly normal not to pick up a brush.

So will it catch on? Philip Kingsley says it's a matter of personal taste.

"If you like the look it gives you, then that's wonderful. I think it might work well for people with thinning hair, as well as people with thick hair."

For people who don't want to abandon their hair tools altogether, he recommends combing instead of brushing.

"If your hair gets knotty, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle it," he says. "Start at the bottom of the hair, where the knots tend to form, then work your way up to the top. Pulling a comb roughly from the top to the bottom can worsen tangles and cause hair breakage.

"Only use a brush to smooth hair when you are styling it. Choose one with long, widely-spaced bristles. Plastic bristles are smoother, blunter and kinder to your hair, while natural bristles can scratch."

Lance thinks I should keep going with the natural look.

"I have several clients who have not brushed their hair for years and it is in great condition," he says. "One woman still has a head of long, thick hair and she's in her late 60s."

So it seems not brushing is a win-win. Not only is it a lazy girl's dream, we can justify our indolence with the knowledge that it is protecting our hair for years to come.

- Daily Mail

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