When you start trying to create a plastic-free bathroom, you probably think about the hair products you use, like shampoo and conditioner. But what about the plastic tools you use? Luckily, there are a number of bamboo and wood brushes available, but do they work for curls? Today, I’m trying out a bamboo brush on my 3C curly hair.
As I mentioned in last week’s post where I took you through my hair products and tools, I do own a bamboo brush, but I usually reach for my knock-off Tangle Teezer when I detangle my hair. My friend got me the Olivia Garden “Healthy Hair massage paddle brush” a couple years back and she was spot on with getting me a natural material! However, I’ve been nervous to try it because of the ball-tipped bristles. My Tangle Tamer brush (which, admittedly I bought after receiving the bamboo brush) glides so nicely through my curls to break up knots. In my experience, I am able to use less product when I detangle because the Tangle Tamer has its own “slip.”
Olivia Garden describes the ball-tipped bristles as a way to massage the scalp and promote blood circulation and hair growth. To me, this indicates that the brush is made for people with straight hair and probably thinner hair. When I use this brush, it almost never touches my scalp, making the ball ends pretty much useless for me. I used a ball-tipped Conair paddle brush for years before I got the Tangle Tamer though, so I knew it wouldn’t be too bad for my hair.
(Note: I am definitely not promoting Oliva Garden as an eco-friendly company. They have no environmental statement on their website.)
I tested the brush on a wash day and while styling my hair. In the course of washing my hair, I always detangle while rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. Using the bamboo brush to detangle my hair, I did notice more shedding than usual. Around 30-40% more shed hair than detangling with the Tangle Tamer. Shedding is generally not a huge concern of mine because my hair is so thick, but if I used the brush more regularly, I would probably be more worried about it.
As I was noticing more shedding, I did end up finger detangling and using my hands to distribute the deep conditioner, when I normally use the Tangle Tamer. Since finger detangling is supposed to be gentler and reduce breakage/shedding, if I continued using a combination of finger detangling and the bamboo brush this might actually lead to less hair loss.
Styling with the bamboo brush was totally different. I used the bamboo brush to work products into dried, detangled hair and the brush was very effective here. In this case, I think the ball-tipped ends helped work the product through my hair more than the Tangle Tamer because the oils stick to wood but not plastic. I think a big difference here was that my hair was already detangled, otherwise this would not have worked as well.
I’m honestly very torn on this. Keeping it real, I like my Tangle Tamer A LOT and since I mainly use brushes to detangle, I don’t think the bamboo brush is a good alternative. But I also know the huge environmental cost of producing plastic, and it doesn’t seem worth it for hair, even as much as I enjoy styling and expressing myself through my hair. I also recognize how hypocritical it would be for me to tell you to buy a sub-par bamboo one when I get to keep using my plastic one.
Bottom line: I would NOT recommend this to a friend. It’s just too damaging for detangling regularly.
I wish so badly that there was a brush like the Tangle Tamer made from a plant-based plastic. I think that would be the best of both worlds. This issue is truly at the crux of why I started this blog. Some of these “zero waste swaps” just don’t work well enough for people with curly hair and we have to keep demanding that hair companies make products that are environmentally friendly and that environmental companies make products that work for everyone.
Bonus: Brush materials + EOL
Wondering what the heck the bamboo brush is actually made of? I emailed Olivia Garden about the materials used for the brush and they said this: “In regards of the cushion, it is made of rubber. The brush is made of bamboo with a varnish on top.”
With respect to the brush’s end-of-life (EOL), they said this: “In regards of composting, we are not familiar with the composting criteria in your area.” This is a cop out answer imo. Since they weren’t specific about whether or not the rubber was natural or synthetic and since they didn’t say what the varnish is made form, I’d assume that the EOL for this brush is the trash 🙁