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Best Barber Tools: The Best Combs and Brushes for Barbers

Barberhacks is your online resource to learn to barber better. So far we’ve covered barbering basics and tools. Be sure to go back and read some of our previous entries. This entry we’re discussing combs and brushes.

Disclaimer: I provide links to Amazon to products that I believe in. Feel free to purchase these products from the links that I provide. You will not be charged extra, but it will provide me with a small percentage of profits. Thank you.r

Brushes and combs are something I use everyday, and I don’t really think about them all that often. To be completely honest I use mostly generic versions of most of these items, and don’t think twice about it. This isn’t to say that I haven’t spent a lot of money on these items, when I was working as a hairdresser having good brushes made the job a lot easier, and there were plenty of emerging technology in brushes and combs to keep me doling out top dollar. These implements are in our hands all day every day, so I believe that they deserve a little attention.

If you’re a barber you should know how to use these tools, you should know how to part hair and how to style it any way your customer wants it. Combs and brushes manipulate and style the hair. Some of these things I learned as a hairdresser but these are techniques that I see barbers co-opting every day on Instagram. Skills with brushes and combs create incredible styles, and while these styles may not be what you see the everyday person asking for day to day, these skills are useful in this job, and will help you understand how to finish hair with more style.

Regular combs are generally about 7 ½ inches long, have one side with wider teeth and one with finer. The finer teeth are used for precision work, for parting and lifting the hair from the head in fine panels so as to create precise and uniform layers. The wider teeth are generally used for detangling and for allowing hair to fall easier through the openings, allowing scissor over comb and graduation of the hair. These combs are classic combs, and if you are creating an all scissor cut on straight hair, these combs are incredible to use in concordance with a tapered barbering comb. These are what I used for years when I was a hairdresser, and they are great, but I have fallen out of practice with them, and rarely use them, although now that I write this I’m going to break one out and see if it makes any difference in my cuts. I admit that Josh Lamonaca and his Vidal Sassoon micro-sections have got me thinking that I’ve gotten sloppy with my sectioning and that I should be working tightening my craft back up in certain regards. Denman makes a really good comb in this regard.

Clipper combs, or flat top combs, range in size and variety. They come in inch to several inch in height and are about 6 ½ inches in length, and about a ½-1 guard in width.  I use the general Wahl clipper comb for just about everything. It has wide teeth for scissor or clipper over comb and it sections hair easily. They also come in wild colours which makes you more capable of seeing hair, light or dark, when you are cutting (so you don’t need a white and black comb, you can use a bright red one and nothing blends in with it). Pro tip: you can attach your Wahl guards to the Wahl comb.

I also have an Oster clipper comb, one of the large flat ones, they are incredibly thin, so if you want to blend clipper over comb right down to a .5 you can. If you are a fan of the thicker brand I like the Andis clipper comb, but there are millions of brands out there for you to try. I love them for clipper over comb due to the large surface area that they cover, you can take a large weight line out in just seconds.

I like flat top combs for flat tops. They appeal to that ocd part of me, and are pretty dummy proof for smashing out a flat top. If you want a more modern flat top you’ll have to round out the back edge by hand, but I’ve got the one with the level on it, and yes, I can do a flat top without one of these, but I’ll still pull this out from time to time.

I dig tail combs and I use them a lot to create perfect parts and sections. There is nothing that annoys me more than looking at someone’s hair when they have an undercut, or any definitive parting and seeing that it is jagged and carelessly parted. I like my parts crisp and clean, and I like order when I’m putting together a haircut, and I believe it shows up in the end results. Almost every haircut I use a tail comb to section the hair on the top of the head away from the hair on the sides and back before I attack the sides.

I use a large pick, for beards and coarse, curly hair (although I use paddle brushes for this as well), as well as finishing pompadours (you dip the pick into the pomp to provide lift in the front after you’ve greased the hair). I prefer the long five to six inch steel picks, although with these you have to make certain that you are not digging them into your client’s heads because that sucks for them. I have one with a Superman symbol and a black power fist mixed together. I imagine this isn’t licensed by Warner Brothers, but I couldn’t bypass the Superman (the new Justice League movie isn’t as bad as they say it is).

Barbering combs, or taper combs, are useful if you want to cut a short taper with just your scissors. The comb itself tapers from thick to thin and can be used to blend temples and nape with precision. Learn to use one, if just for the simple fact of knowing how to use your shears properly. Like I’ve said before and will always say, knowing your tools so well that you can perform any cut with them is what will help you master your craft.

Don’t forget to sanitize your combs after every client. Seems like a simple request, but I don’t see a lot of barbers do this. Take it, give a rinse and pop it into your barbicide. Simple as that. This will keep the zombie apocalypse from happening.

If you guys have any combs that you love leave a comment, I would love to hear what you are using, as I haven’t delved into the realm of combs for awhile. I’ll update this if I find some combs that everybody just must have.

Now, onto brushes.

I use a paddle brush for a lot and customers love it, many have exclaimed that it is comfortable on their heads and provides a little massage. For pompadours these brushes are incredible; when blow-drying push the brush into the hair at the hairline and hold it there until the hair is dry. This causes the hair under the brush to retain the pushed back form and makes it easier to style when you are applying product. Paddle brushes are also good for detangling any type of hair (Afro included), just remember to use a raking motion and start from the ends of the hair or you are going to yank half of the hair out of your client’s head. I buy these brushes from the local beauty supply. Buy a good one or the mat that holds the brush will pull away from the handle due to cheap glue being involved. Also, if you’re straightening curls with a blow dryer, this brush will help you get the tension that you need to straighten the hair out before finishing with a large round brush or straight iron.

A vent brush is my second go-to. I use this for general drying, lifting the hair from the head and shaping the hair. If you grab the hair with your brush and lift and roll the hair with some tension you will get a natural bend or wave to straight hair. I always buy Denman vent brushes because they have a super solid make.

I have a set of metal round brushes for sculpting hair into something curly, but I rarely use these because most guys don’t want 80s synth wave hair anymore, but just in case...I have some...because I want the couple of men out there that want 80s synth wave hair to come into my barber shop and get their hair cut (#bringback80shair).

Honestly though, if you want to have fun with a photo shoot or something like that, these brushes will be your best friends. Day to day, you could use them to get a loose curled pomp in loose curly hair, or add bend into otherwise straight hair (they’re great for Asian hair).

I also use a small round brush with plastic quills sometimes, as it is a combination between a vent and a round brush, it allows you to get some shape to the hair with a quick dry. Take a look at the Denman radial quill brush if you don’t have an idea of what I mean.

Boar bristle brushes are something that I use with coarse curly hair to comb down the curl and make sure I’ve got a good blend on a fade, but I also just use a comb to do this, they tend to be easier to clean between clients. I also use this to wipe away hair on skin fades, just to be sure that my blends are silky. I don’t like two-sided ones as the stiffer bristle side is something that I never use, I just tend to piss people off by running stiff bristles down their face.

I regularly take my brushes and clean them (I have a brush cleaner that I got from somewhere along the way) of hair before soaking them in a sink with some barbicide for at least five minutes. I pat them dry and then blow dry them the rest of the way before putting away.

I’m going to put twist sponges in this as well. The main point to remember with a twist sponge is that the smaller the holes the more twists you will have, the bigger the hole the less twists that you will have. If you want stellar curls with a sponge, spray a little hairspray (or spritz) onto the sponge and have a go. Also, if you’re having issues using one of these properly, use a little less pressure than you would think, and if you’re still having issues you can use a little product between your fingers and finish the twists off by twisting them by hand. There are so many versions of the twist sponge out there, but buying a good one will get you better sponge that will last longer. Also, get one with two sides, that will help it last longer as well, and provide you with a variety of looks to choose from. You can clean your sponge with soap and water, remember to do it regularly.

If curl sponges aren’t sanitary enough for you and your barber shop there are also Afro twist combs that are made of hard plastic and loc the hair very similarly to a sponge. Get one and try it out.
 And with that we’ve got combs and brushes sorted. Comment below if you have anything to share that you can’t barber without.

Thanks for reading,

Tools I Use and Love:

All links are affiliate links that help the creator of Barberhack earn commissions.

Andis Slimline Pro LI

Andis Cordless Master

Andis Magnet Purple Guards

Andis GTX Cordless

Wahl Cordless Senior

Wahl Cordless Magic Clips

Babyliss Pro SnapFX

Wahl Professional Guards

Andis Profoil Shaver

Feather Razor

Parker Razor

YS Park Cutting Comb

Babyliss Pro Hair Dryer

Denman Paddle Brush

Denman Vent Brush

Barberology Clipper Comb

Barber Pro Mat

Electric Tool Duster

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