Why Not Brush Wet?

In Educate by El Rubio18 Comments

And Why The Hell Do We Care?

We care because we’re longhairs, and there’s a few things every guy with long hair needs to know. This is one of them.

In our video, How To Brush Your Hair For Men, we strongly advise not to brush when wet (or when angry, but that’s a different subject). We got a great question in the comments from our boy Ilja in Germany:

Why shouldn’t I brush my hair when it is wet and straight out of the shower? Decided to grow it out for a lot of different reasons and I’m one year and a couple of weeks in the process already and determined to get it to a proper mid-back length.

I have straight hair as well and feel like it’s way easier to brush hair while it’s wet. Another benefit would be that it stays in form the whole day after brushing it while it’s wet. When my hair is dry and brush it, it loses its form pretty quickly.

Since we’ve asked this question ourselves, and probably others as well, we thought it would make a great post.

So, why not brush wet?

It’s a fair question. And truth be told I often thought the same—it was easier to brush wet right out of the shower. Especially if you’ve just conditioned, it seems like your brush just glides right through. So that’s what I did, naively, stroking this dripping wet mane time and time again until it was detangled and smooth, ready to tackle the day.

However, there is a sinister truth I never knew about.

The answer to the question, why not brush wet, is simple yet profound: damage to your hair.

Dry hair is relatively strong and elastic. It has a little bounce to it, and won’t break easily. When it’s wet, your hair loses that strength and elasticity. You probably even notice your hair is longer when it’s wet—that’s because essentially wet hair is already stretched out to it’s maximum length.

What happens is the microscopic pores in your hair shafts open up when exposed to moisture. As these pores open, water is absorbed into the hair swelling it until saturated. While it’s thicker and longer, the saturated hair shaft is also weaker.

Try it. Pluck out one long hair. Hold it with both hands and gently stretch it out, you’ll feel the elasticity. Next, soak it in water for 10-15 seconds, and stretch it out again. You’ll find it will stretch far less before breaking.

So predictably, when you brush dry, your hair stretches and bounces back. When you brush wet, it breaks.

This is because brushing creates friction and resistance, especially when it’s tangled. While you might not notice, every brush stroke puts stress on your individual hairs. It’s like sending your hair into battle and seeing how many troops are still standing when it’s over. Thankfully you have millions of hairs, so from a numbers standpoint you only lose a small percentage. But how many men are you willing to sacrifice?

Just look at your brush after the deed. Wet or dry some of your hair ends up in the brush every time. Some of that older hair is ready to come out and start regrowing fresh, but when you brush wet you’re more likely to have hairs break somewhere in the middle. Broken hair is worse, because they’ll never reach their full potential length. They’re also more likely to become a split ends, causing uneven length and even a frazzled appearance.

Do you want to look frazzled?

Furthermore, if you’re trying to grow your hair faster, and it seems like it’s taking FOREVER, breakage is probably part of the problem. Each of those individual hairs lost or broken took a year or longer to grow, and it’s going to take another year to grow back.

The name of the long hair game is keeping your hair healthy and avoiding breakage—ESPECIALLY when you’re trying to grow it longer.

Case in point: I’ve been growing four years. After the first two years, I was a little past my shoulders but it seemed like it wasn’t getting any longer. This was the case for months, and I thought I’d reached terminal length, the genetic point for every individual where it just doesn’t grow any longer.

That’s when I started paying more attention to caring for it properly and avoiding breakage. I stopped brushing wet, I started being more careful putting hats on, I made sure to rinse with fresh water after chlorine or saltwater. And since then it has gotten noticeably longer, now extending to mid-back length.

At this point dedicated readers may be asking themselves, didn’t you just post about the wet brush a couple weeks ago?

It’s true. The wet brush is an exception to the rule. It’s different from other brushes in that when its bristles are met with resistance, they give way and release the hair. This innovative bristle technology makes it relatively safe to brush wet.

While the wet brush is an excellent design, and especially useful in a hurry, ultimately you’re still putting stress on your hair when it’s at it’s weakest point. So you might not want to lean on the wet brush exclusively, but if you insist on brushing wet, it’s the only way to go.

One last question we can tackle here is, how can you brush dry and still get the same benefits of brushing wet? Ilja suggested his hair keeps its form longer after brushing wet, and certainly it feels easier to brush wet because your hair is lubricated.

There are good spray-in products that will give you the desired effect. I like to use “One N’ Only” brand argan oil, which detangles, smooths and all kinds of good shit. There are other good ones out there, but everyone’s hair is different and responds differently to products. Try a few different detangler or spray-in conditioners and see what works best for you.

There ya have it boys. Brush it dry or suffer the consequences, but don’t say you didn’t know.

Now that we’ve covered why not brush wet, there are a few other things you should know. Get them with Longhairs Quick Tips: a collection of basic hair knowledge every man with long hair needs, from brushing, washing, growing, caring and more.

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