Old-Fashioned Hair Care Tips: The Benefits of Brushing Your Hair

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Old-fashioned hair care tips: the benefits of brushing your hair | ourheritageofhealth.com

One of the most effective old-fashioned hair care tips is also the simplest:

It’s brushing. Just plain, simple brushing.

In just about every Victorian-era book and magazine I’ve read about hygiene and beauty, brushing is the number one advice for good hair care. But “100 strokes” brushing isn’t just for Victorian ladies or for Marcia Brady. Brushing can help us 21st century women to have beautiful hair too.
The May 1857 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular lady’s magazine of the 19th century, gives the following advice for natural hair care:

“Carefully avoid all lotions and pomades. Keep the hair and scalp clean by the use of the brush and comb. Twice a day, at least, comb it out in such a manner that the air may pass through it freely; then, with the fingers, moisten the roots with soft water, at the same time gently rubbing the scalp.” (Pg. 464)

Hints for Health, a home and family health manual published in 1852 says the following about the care of the hair:

“Cleanliness here, as in all other cases, is of the first importance. With the hair, it is to be attained, first by the comb, — one with very fine teeth; and next, by the brush, — each of which should be used at  least once a day.” (Pg. 120)


benefits of brushing your hair

Here are some of the benefits of brushing your hair the old-fashioned way with a natural bristle brush:

Brushing Redistributes Oil

Using an old-fashioned boar-bristle brush rather than a synthetic bristle hair brush helps to distribute the scalp’s natural oils more evenly throughout the strand. When you brush your hair with a boar-bristle brush, you’re allowing your scalp’s moisturizing oils to coat the whole strand rather than just staying concentrated at the top of your scalp.

This is great news for anyone who is trying the popular “no poo” experiment or who is transitioning from regular shampoo to a more natural method of hair washing. Since brushing distributes the oil more evenly throughout the hair, it brings some of the oil from your scalp (where you already have enough oil, especially if your hair is in a greasy transition stage between the chemicals in most store bought shampoos and natural hair washes) and brings the oil to the ends of your hair (which are usually drier and can actually use the extra oil.)

Brushing isn’t a miracle treatment, so unless you have really dry un-oily hair you probably won’t be able to go a week without washing your hair and still have it look amazing, but it can help your hair to look a little bit better during those transition periods or if you ever have to go longer between washes than usual.

Brushing Adds Gloss and Shine to the Hair

Because brushing with a boar-bristle brush allows the scalp’s natural oils to coat the entire strand, the oils condition the hair evenly, giving it a natural sheen. If you are trying to transition to natural hair care and you’re missing the glossy shine that silicone-based conditioners give your hair, boar-bristle brushing is a great way to restore some of that shine naturally.

If your hair has been really badly damaged  by commercial hair-care products, you might not see great results right away, but over time as your hair starts to grow out, it should start to develop a beautiful natural sheen to it.

I’ve been using a boar-bristle brush on my hair for a couple of months now, and I can definitely see and feel a difference in my hair. My hair feels softer and smoother now than it did back before I started brushing regularly.

The Best Kind of Brush to Use

The brush you use doesn’t have to be a super fancy, expensive one, but the best kind for making your hair smooth and shiny is one that is 100% boar bristle. Synthetic materials won’t give you quite the same results. You also want to look for a brush where the bristles are fairly close together. As far as the texture of the bristles goes, you want them to be firm enough that they won’t just flop when you pull the brush through your hair, but you want them to still be fairly soft.

It’s probably best to buy a brush from an actual store so that you can feel the bristles yourself to see if they have the right texture, but if you can’t find them in any stores, you can find 100% Soft Boar Bristle Brushes online. There’s quite a wide range of prices from really cheap brushes to really expensive ones. The brush I use wasn’t an expensive one, but it’s still been working well for me.

How to Brush

1) Before you brush your hair using the boar-bristle brush, it’s best to get out all the tangles first with a wide-tooth comb or brush. Otherwise, you usually just end up tangling your hair more by trying to use the boar-bristle brush and you could risk breaking strands or damaging them if you drag the brush through the tangles.

2) When brushing, just brush as you normally would, making sure not to brush to hard, and making sure you get the undersides of your hair near your neck too as well as the outside surface of your hair.

3) How long you spend brushing really depends on how long and thick your hair is. Many Victorian women, especially those who were of the upper classes, spent quite a bit more time brushing their hair every day than 21st century women do. Decorum, a book on etiquette published in 1879, recommends as much as forty minutes of brushing a day, saying:benefits of brushing your hair

“The hair should be brushed for at least twenty minutes in the morning, for ten minutes when it is dressed in the middle of the day, and for a like period at night.” (pg. 315)


That’s a really long to spend brushing your hair! I definitely don’t brush my hair for that long. And most women today probably don’t need to either. Women typically had much longer hair in the 1800s than most women do today. If you have really short hair, you might hardly need to spend any time brushing your hair at all.

My hair comes to about the middle of my back, pretty much right in between shoulder-length and waist-length, so it takes me a few minutes to brush it thoroughly, but definitely not as long as it would have taken a 19th century woman to brush her hair.

Does Brushing Work for Everyone?

Brushing this way usually works best for straight or wavy hair. If you have curly hair, it would probably still work well, but it might be best to brush only right before you wash your hair, or else you might brush out all your curls or turn them into frizzy curls instead.

 Boar-bristle brushing might not be for every hair type, and everybody’s hair is different, but for many people, boar-bristle brushing is an inexpensive, completely natural way to improve the look of their hair.

Recommended Book:

If you like using natural hair care methods, you might enjoy reading The No Poo Method: Your Guide to Natural Hair Care by Ashlee Mayer. Ashlee’s book is a guide to all-natural, shampoo-free hair care with tips and recipes to help you have beautiful hair naturally.

Special discount! Readers of Our Heritage of Health can save 30% by using the coupon code “nopoo30” at checkout.

no poo method


Further reading about natural hair care:

All-Natural Hair Care

Natural Homemade Products for Curly Hair

DIY Shampoo Recipe Roundup

The benefits of brushing your hair | Old-fashioned hair care tips

This post is linked to:Sunday School at Butter Believer, Clever Chicks Blog Hop at The Chicken Chick, Family Table Tuesday at The Polivka Family, Party Wave Wednesday at Holistic Squid, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable.


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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

41 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Hair Care Tips: The Benefits of Brushing Your Hair”

  1. Hello,found you’re blog today because I was going to change my blog name to vintage nostalgia wish it was available.But anyway I love you’re blog it is just all the things I like and enjoy living clean and organic and old fashion is a wonderful thing,again lovely blog.

  2. I have been brushing my natural 4b/4c(back) hair since Saturday and I already noticed a difference. My Mom used to brush my hair all the time with a 100% boar bristle brush. I can recall he counting the strokes and Yep! She use to brush my hair 100x’s a day. My hair was always soft, thick, shiny and long. Since Saturday I’ve experienced all of the above. My hair has even stretched completely (looks like I have a blow out)! I don’t mind not having any curls. I prefer it a bit more straighter b/c its easier to manage. I’m hoping that brushing my hair can some how contribute to length retention! 🙂

    • Me Too Reacee! I have coarse dry ethnic hair but this BBB is really helping to smooth the texture out! It took a whole week to get the oils down to the tips. I’m on week too and my hair is so soft.

    • I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY wish this Victorian hair care routine was working for me! :,( I haven’t washed my hair in a week, been brushing 100 strokes morning and night, and my hair looks like it was dipped in the Exxon Valdez and it stinks to high heaven. I’m not getting any of that glossy, soft hair they talk about in Victorian ladies’s magazines, instead it looks waxy and flat and matte. Even nowadays they say washing hair less often makes the scalp produce less sebum, but my scalp is still producing enough oil to fry a vat of French fries in. I wanna keep chunneling through this experiment and hoping that the teeny tiny oil factories in my scalp will go into undertime and I will have Sutherland sisters hair, but my family and friends are complaining about how bad it looks and smells and I’m tempted to reach for the bottle. The shampoo bottle. 🙁

      • That’s sounds so frustrating, and I’m sorry to hear that you’re having such a hard transition with this experiment 🙁 I know that it can often take the hair a long while to adjust to not using regular shampoo, but I’ve also heard that for some reason the transition goes more easily for some people than for others. Did you go straight from using regular shampoo to doing nothing at all besides brushing? I know that the hair can sometimes go through a detox period for several weeks before it balances out, so you could maybe think about doing some sort of natural shampoo during this transition period. You could either try something like a natural shampoo bar which will still wash your hair but won’t strip the natural oils out of the hair (and depending on the type of water you have they can work very well or not so well. If you have soft water they are great, but if you have very hard water than it can be a bit tricky to wash out all of the soap, and it can sometimes leave a bit of residue.) Another option if you wanted to go completely shampoo free would be to try some other Victorian era methods for cleaning hair like washing with eggs. You can crack a couple of eggs into a cup and add a bit of water and stir them well together and then pour that over your head in the shower a little bit at a time, rubbing it over your hair and scalp. It won’t be quite as effective as shampoo, but it would help to wash some of the oil out of your hair. You can also do a rosemary rinse by steeping a spoonful of rosemary in water like you would make a cup of tea and then rinse your hair with that. I hope you’re able to make it through the rest of this transition period to have beautiful healthy hair! 🙂

  3. When brushing your hair, do you wait until it’s 100% dry?

    I have wavy/curly hair, so the most I do in the morning is comb out the tangles. I’m pretty sure I might have a giant poof of hair if I brushed it too.

    • Yes, I usually wait until my hair is 100% dry. I might use a comb to get out the tangles when my hair is still damp, but for brushing with a bristle brush like this I always do it when it’s dry.

  4. Very good article!!! I agree with you, I prefer to use 100% boar bristles brushes!! It really works in our hair!! I have one called wildgood I bought it because is super natural don’t have synthetic materials and I’m having a very good results, It’s fantastic what a real boar bristle brush can do 🙂

  5. I have naturally curly hair and only brush it when it is wet. Then I pull it back into a ponytail so it dries without tangles or frizz. I’d love to try this, but every single time I brush my hair dry I end up resembling a Chiapet. However, I have also only used brushes with synthetic bristles. Do boar-bristle brushes have a different affect on curly hair than synthetic ones?

    • I don’t have curly hair, so I can’t say from personal experience, but I think the boar bristle brushes would probably have a similar affect as the synthetic ones because the type of bristle wouldn’t make as much of a difference for curly hair as the act of brushing itself would do. One thing you could try, though, is to brush your hair before washing it or getting it wet. That way you could still have the benefits of brushing, but after washing it you could style it as you usually do to avoid frizz.

  6. Will brush made of goat hair do the job of distributing natural hair oils? i have thin and sensitive scalp..kindly suggest..

  7. Hahaha I’m brushing my hair with a boar-bristle brush as I read this article. I’m so glad I found this blog 🙂

    • Hi Catherine,

      I actually have a link to where to find a boar bristle brush in the post. If for some reason it’s not working for you, just let me know and I’ll try to fix it.

  8. I disagree with the comment about brushing kinky hair. I am natural and have afro hair and brush my hair daily (I’m also water only washing) and my hair responds best to the brush when my hair is damp (NOT soaking wet). I scritch and preen and finger detangle by dipping my fingers into a bowl of water infused with rosemary essential oil then brush my hair in sections and twist my hair. In the morning I just untwist and style for the day.

    • By “oiling” do you mean putting oil onto your hair? If so, then it wouldn’t necessarily be bad to brush your hair with the same brush after doing that, but you would probably end up transferring some of the oil you put onto your hair onto the bristles of your brush which would mean that the next time you brushed your hair you might end up getting some of that oil in it.

  9. I naturally have very curly hair (type 3c/4a), and I always found that was impossible to brush my hair when dry, but the boar-bristle brush really works great! I detangle my hair with a brush similar to the famous brand “tangle-teezer”, so I go with a boar-bristle and nylon brush (because of my hair type, I felt better with a brush that have also nylon, to help detangling while the boar-bristle carry the sebum to the ends). My hair now is shiny, wavy, with less breakage and softer than ever!

  10. Thanks for sharing this article.I try to use as many natural products as possible.When using a boar bristle brush I really like the way it makes your hair shine. However, I think if your hair is weak or brittle brushing should be limited until the hair has been strengthened by protein treatments.

    • That’s a good point. Dry brushing is generally much safer for the hair than brushing your hair when it is wet, but if your hair is really weak or brittle then it would be better not to brush too much.

  11. Thanks for your great information about brushing!

    As you write, it is great to brush your hair to redistribute some of the natural oil on your scalp into your hair.

  12. Hey nice article.Thank you for the tips you provided. I was not knowing that brushing the hair is also beneficial. I always thought that by using other remedies I can take care of my hair.Keep sharing such helpful posts.

  13. I can’t brush my hair to much on my top layer or I loose deffinition on my 2a-2c hair and I hate that . I end up having to restyle my hair with water after combing it out. such a pain !


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