Take a good, long look at your hair brush. Is there a whole head’s worth of hair entangled in its bristles? Is there so much product residue on it you can’t see the brush’s actual color anymore? If you answered “yes” to one, or both of these questions, your brush is way overdue for a proper cleaning.
Not only does a gunky brush compromise your style, it’s also ruining your strands every time you run it through your hair. “Like all your beauty tools, hair brushes get dirty with repeated use, especially if you are using hair products on your hair,” explains Dr. Sejal Shah, New York dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf Contributor. “ Hair, residue from products, dust (and dust mites) and debris, dead skin cells, and oils can all build up on your hairbrush and this can have an negative impact on your hair and scalp health.”
So what’s exactly brewing on your brush when you continue to neglect it? “The buildup on your hair brush can serve as nidus for bacteria and yeast overgrowth, so there is an infection risk,” says Dr. Shah. “The buildup around and between the bristles does not allow your hairbrush to work properly and furthermore as you brush your hair strands can get caught on some of this residue resulting in damage to the hair shaft. Also, each time you brush with a dirty hairbrush, you are re-depositing all that buildup back onto your hair and scalp, which can make your clean hair look dirty, greasy and weighed down and potentially cause irritation to the scalp skin.”
If the thought of regularly washing your hairbrush sounds like a full-time job, you’re in for a welcome surprise. Paul Labrecque, founder of Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in New York says that a once-a-week cleaning is all it takes to completely rid of any ickiness. Labrecque recommends using a large comb to remove any hairs caught in the brush, then letting it sit a cup of soap and water for five minutes, followed by spraying it with rubbing alcohol.
However, Dr. Shah cautions against using certain household items as makeshift brush cleaners. “If you are planning on using baking soda or vinegar or anything too harsh or potentially irritating, make sure it is sufficiently diluted. Even if you are using a gentle clarifying soap or shampoo, it's best make a dilute solution with it. Also, I generally suggest avoid bleach or ammonia,” she says.