Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/2/2023
When you want to make your hair look good, chances are you reach for a brush. Gliding one through your strands can get tangles out, make your hair look shiny and sleek and help you achieve whatever style you’re going for. But what if you start noticing hair loss when brushing?
Some women say they experience brushing hair loss. This may sound confusing, given that brushing your hair is usually associated with being a good thing — if it wasn’t, why would so many of our moms tell us to brush your hair before leaving the house?
To find out whether or not hair loss when brushing is a real thing, we dug deep into the topic. Here’s what we discovered.
Brushing hair loss is indeed a real thing. But there’s a caveat — how you brush and how often you brush plays into it. That means that gently brushing your hair when needed is unlikely to be an issue.
You should also know that a bit of hair loss each day is totally normal. The average person loses between 50 and 100 hairs per day. If you notice much more than that, you could be dealing with female hair loss and it is worth investigating what may be causing it.
Brushing the wrong way could be one of those causes of hair loss.
Bad brushing can cause you to tug too much hair out or weaken strands, which makes them more prone to breakage.
Specific moves that may lead to brushing hair loss include:
Brushing when hair is wet: Your strands are weaker when they’re wet, but like many people, you may have more tangles when you get out of the shower. If you’re yanking a brush through wet hair to deal with those tangles, it may lead to breakage.
Overbrushing: You know how there’s that saying that you should brush your hair 100 strokes per day? It’s a total myth. In fact, that’s too much brushing and could cause hair to weaken or break.
One very small study of 14 women looked at women who brushed frequently versus women who did not. It concluded that the women who didn’t brush as frequently had less hair loss.
Getting rough: We get it, sometimes you’re in a hurry. But quickly tugging a brush or comb through your hair is never a good idea. The bristles can get snagged on tangles and rip hair out.
Using a hot tool: Hair dryer brushes have become quite trendy. People like them because they let you style your hair easily as you blow dry it. However, using hot tools too often — including a blow dryer, dryer brush or curling iron — can lead to hair damage.
When hair is damaged, it is more likely to break and shed.
While we are on the subject of bad hair habits, it’s worth discussing other habits that may cause hair loss, since brushing your strands incorrectly is just one of many actions that can lead to damage, weakened strands and hair loss.
Other common habits that may lead to hair loss are:
Coloring, perming or relaxing your hair: These things can be especially harsh on your hair. Doing them frequently makes you even more prone to damage and, therefore, hair loss.
Too-tight hairstyles: A ponytail or bun that tugs on your scalp can cause you to lose your hair, leading to a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. In some cases, it may even lead to permanent hair loss.
Skipping conditioner: If you shampoo but don’t use conditioner, your hair won’t be as moisturized. So, when you brush, hair will be rougher and brush bristles may snag.
Using certain hair products: Frequently using gels and hairsprays that promise long-lasting hold can be bad for hair.
Weaves and hair extensions: If your weave or hair extensions are too heavy, they can tug on the scalp and cause hair to fall out.
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If you are noticing hair loss when brushing, you don’t just have to live with it. There are treatments available that can prevent further hair loss and even encourage regrowth. You can choose one of them, or try a combination of a few to encourage healthy hair regrowth.
Is brushing your hair bad? No, but as we established, doing it the wrong way can be. But picking up some good brushing habits can help mitigate hair shedding and damage.
Avoiding brushing soaking wet hair. Whether you have more of a fine, straight hair type or textured coils, let hair dry slightly so it’s just damp and then use a wide-tooth comb to get out tangles.
Don’t over-brush your hair. Only brush it when you need to style it.
When it comes to dealing with tangled hair, be gentle. A wide-tooth comb can help you carefully detangle hair. Still having trouble? Use a leave-in conditioner spray to lubricate hair and help get knots out.
Topical minoxidil, also known by the brand name Rogaine®, is an FDA-approved medication used to treat a variety of types of hair loss. It does not require a prescription and can be found in a 2% solution or 5% foam.
This medication is thought to work by opening your blood vessels, which increases blood flow to your scalp and allows more nutrients and oxygen to get to your hair follicles.
In addition, it lengthens the growth period for your hair, which means more follicles are created to replace the hair you lose.
Given that damaged, dry hair is more likely to break, boosting hydration in your tresses can help.
One thing you can do to keep your hair hydrated is to use a volumizing conditioner after using a volumizing shampoo. It is important to use a conditioner anytime you shampoo to help add moisture, prevent tangles and make brushing strands easier.
To bring even more moisture to your strands, you can also apply a hair mask once a week.
If you are on a mission to keep hair healthy, you may want to consider certain supplements. One such supplement is biotin, a B vitamin that has a reputation for encouraging thicker hair.
There is some research that supports this — though, truthfully, more research needs to be done.
One study that has been done concluded that taking biotin may produce faster hair growth in people with thinning hair.
There are a few ways to increase your biotin intake. You can get it through a healthy, balanced diet. Eggs, milk and bananas are all solid sources of biotin. Another option is a biotin supplement.
Hers offers a biotin gummy that contains Vitamin D, since low levels of this vitamin may lead to hair shedding.
Another supplement that may be good for hair health is collagen, which is available in gummies, capsules and powders. Research that backs collagen as a solid option for encouraging growth is limited, but there are some small studies that suggest it may.
One study had 15 women with thinning hair take either a collagen supplement or a placebo two times a day for six months. Those that took the collagen found that they had shinier hair by the end.
Is brushing your hair bad? No — as long as you do it in a smart, gentle way. When it comes to the connection between hair loss and brushing, here’s what you need to know:
Bad brushing habits may lead to hair loss: Actions like yanking a hair brush through wet strands, brushing too often, using the wrong type of brush to detangle hair or excessive brushing, may lead to hair loss.
Other hair habits can cause damage, too: Bad brushing isn’t the only thing that can lead to thinning or hair breakage. Wearing tight hairstyles can tug hair out at the scalp. Not using a conditioner can lead to dry, brittle hair strands. And using certain styling products (like hair gel) can also cause damage.
There are treatments available: Being more careful about how you brush and practicing other healthy hair habits can encourage healthy tresses and help you avoid broken hairs. But if hair loss happens, you can also consider topical minoxidil and certain supplements that may help different forms of hair loss.
Brushing your hair the wrong way isn’t the only thing that can cause hair loss. To learn about other reasons you may be excessively shedding hair, read our guide on female hair loss.
Then learn about other hair loss treatments in our guide to treating hair loss. If you need help navigating potential hair loss causes and treatments, you can also talk to a healthcare professional today.