It’s probably what you remember most from black and white Hollywood movies; the actress is draped in a silk robe, facing the mirror and brushing her hair over and over again before bed time, 100 strokes to be exact. You may have dismissed the practice as a myth, in fact causing excessive breakage, unnecessary friction, and therefore frizz. We’ve taken a deep dive, and come up with some surprisingly interesting facts. We’re not saying 100 strokes, but when done right, brushing your hair well, is actually very good for you.
When we look back on why hair was brushed so thoroughly each night, a lot of it had to do with the fact that they washed their hair less and had less products to help control their hair. Everything that we take for granted today: shampoo and conditioner, anti-dandruff and anti-frizz treatments, and even scalp-stimulating products were not as accessible, and that is where brushing came in. The 100 strokes a day would aim at reducing dandruff, manually exfoliating the scalp with the brush. The brush also distributed the sebum (aka grease) from the scalp throughout the hair, giving it ‘shine’. The action of brushing also served to increase blood circulation in the scalp, which is known to promote hair growth and overall wellness of the hair.
Before jumping the gun and deeming the activity as a myth, it is important to consider the type of brush used, which really makes all the difference. Many of the brushes we have today, are wide-toothed with synthetic bristles, which is not very helpful in the ‘100 brush strokes’ domain. If you are keen on trying this activity, you need to use an old-fashioned all natural boar bristle paddle brush, or a synthetic/natural combo. The iconic Mason Pearson brushes, that will set you back around $175, are probably the best type of brush for the 100 brushes practice. Fear not, there are plenty of brushes that mimic the Mason Pearson, so you are not obliged to splurge.
The Features of The 100 Strokes Brush?
We’ve just coined the term, ‘100 strokes brush’ and we like it! In addition to the brush having relatively dense bristles in either all boar, or part boar-part synthetic, it is crucial that the brush have a padding. What we mean by padding is that air filled cavity that separates the bristles from the brush paddle. This padding allows the brush the flexibility to brush deeper or more superficially depending on the thickness of the hair and of course on how tangled it is. Many times, when a brush lacks this flexibility hair is broken because it is handled too roughly.
So why boar bristles? Natural materials have pores that help hold onto the valuable oils that you want to spread. Additionally these pores also help remove dead cells and flakes from excess products. When using a sparse synthetic brush, it is difficult to retain anything on the brush. They are great for detangling wet hair though! Our question to you is; how many hair brushes do you actually own? You need at least two, one for detangling and one for brushing, it is unlikely that one brush can effectively handle both activities. Most of you will probably also use a comb which is useful in parting your hair or for styling purposes but unfortunately little else.
100 Strokes is A lot!
Before we get started on the perks of brushing your hair repeatedly, it is important for us to clear up any confusion, we are not encouraging 100 strokes exactly. 50-60 will do, it will be kinder on your biceps as well. These 50-60 strokes should also be varied in direction, so you get the full on experience. You should brush your hair back from the hairline as usual, but then also flip your hair over and do the same for the base of your scalp. Also, keep in mind that brushing doesn’t need to only start from the outer hairline. Feel free to part your hair into four segments and brush each one individually. Additionally, we find it interesting how many of us brush our hair on the outside, to make it tidy, forgetting the importance of massaging the scalp with the hairbrush itself.
Once you have gone over your hair once as discussed above, simply to ensure that there are no tangles, we suggest you then concentrate your brushing on the area of your hair that have the most sebum, which is the crown of your head. When you start at your crown, you are collecting precious sebum on your brush and distributing it throughout your hair. It is also where your dandruff collects, so you’ll be working on exfoliating your scalp as you do this.
Why We Love Brushing Repeatedly?
Just because we don’t have the same reasons for brushing repeatedly, it doesn’t mean we don’t have reason to do so! We are assuming that most of us wash our hair at least 3-4 times a week. Most of us will have either dry hair, a greasy scalp or thinning hair, or unfortunately a combination of all three. Repeated brushing is actually great for all.
For Dry Hair
If your hair is dry, it is likely that it is over-processed. Dry hair is brittle and breakage is very probable. When you brush your hair repeatedly, the very little sebum that you do have is distributed throughout your hair which is a good thing. Instead of it just sitting on your scalp. Another great thing to do is to add some nourishing oil onto your hairbrush before brushing. This saves you the mess of trying to distribute oil through your hair using your hands, which may result in oil dribbling down your forehead. We are over-analyzing at this point but we are guessing that you don’t often brush your dry hair, simply because it creates frizz and static. This means that a lot of the residue from the products you use will remain in and on your hair. It is important to remember that in addition to detangling and distributing sebum, brushing also rids the hair and scalp of product buildup which will help make your hair shinier and healthier. Part of the reason for your dry hair could be that your pores are blocked with product buildup which doesn’t allow for your pores to produce the necessary sebum that keeps the hair soft and supple.
You are probably thinking, ‘if I brush my hair a lot it will frizz up, so let’s just keep things as they are’. True, if you are using a completely synthetic hairbrush. Use the right brush and you will find a substantial difference in your experience.
Yes we know the word sebum, or grease is not the most attractive of words but the truth is, our sebaceous glands are the grease to our engines, without it we would be terribly uncomfortable! The issue is that some of us have an over-active gland which causes a greasy scalp and is also the primarily cause of acne.
For Greasy Hair
We are guessing that if you have a greasy scalp you spend a lot of your time trying to reduce it, so the thought of spreading your excess sebum through your hair is ridiculous! Well, let’s start by saying, don’t brush your hair in this way in the morning! You need to do it before bed, just like in the movies. Consider it a treatment of sorts. In the morning you will have the opportunity to restyle your hair to your hearts desire. With greasy hair, the primary goal is not to distribute the sebum, it’s probably already distributed.. What you are attempting to do is improve the health of your scalp, which may reduce the sebum secretion. With repeated brushing you are exfoliating your scalp, again concentrate on those areas where there is most secretion. Often times these areas are also where you have your most hair loss, because the sebum blocks the hair follicle and prevents the hair from growing. You are literally sweeping the sebum buildup away, thus encouraging a healthier scalp and hair growth. A lot of times, when people say they have a greasy scalp it is more a matter of buildup than actual greasy. Sweep it away and you may not experience it as dramatically.
They weren’t kidding when they said that oxygen keeps us alive! Oxygen allows our cells to rejuvenate, which is why increased blood circulation is so important. If you were to consider the blood as a vehicle transporting oxygen to the different parts of the body. The faster the circulation, the more oxygen you get. When you brush your hair repeatedly, you improve the circulation of the blood. This allows for a healthier scalp and therefore healthier hair.
Repeatedly brushing your hair is the equivalent of a facial, in the sense that you look a little worse for wear right after. The skin needs to settle, and it needs to be in a safe environment to do so. There is no use brushing your hair repeatedly and then leaving the house, you will look a mess, and it is also possible that the pollution and humidity may affect your hair in a stronger way. So brush your hair before going to bed, and if you can either wrap your hair in a silk bandana or sleep on a silk pillow case for added protection. Silk helps reduce friction between the pillow and the hair, which will keep the hair smoother and also helps with breakage. Do you remember those baby bald spots at the back of their head where they sleep, keep that in mind…
Keep Your Brush Clean
We’ve just spent a good part of 30 minutes telling you about all the sebum, dandruff and product buildup your hair brush will collect so we probably need to encourage you to wash your hairbrush with soapy water once a week. Wash it right after you brush, and allow to air dry over night. There is a little trick we found that you may also find entertaining if you are keen to know exactly what your hairbrush as collected, veil it with a pair of nylon tights, and brush as usual. Firstly all the sebum, product build up and dandruff will stick to the nylon fibers instead of the hair brush and it will also keep your hair brush clean. Food for thought!