This Brush Is TikTok's Most Popular Tool for Curly Hair—And It's Actually That Good

Melissa Goldberg
·7 min read
Photo credit: Temi Oyelola
Photo credit: Temi Oyelola

From Oprah Magazine

Those with curly hair know: A great hair day starts with the right routine—and that often involves years (if not decades) of trial, error, and a whole lot of product sampling. Which is why you might be hesitant to add anything new to the tried-and-true cocktail of creams and conditioners, mousses and masks, and tools and techniques that work for you.

Trust us, we get it. We were that way too—until we started seeing seemingly endless Amazon reviews, TikTok clips, and YouTube videos in which women (all with perfectly defined ringlets and traffic-stopping spirals) raved about how good the Denman brush is for curly hair.

So, what's so special about the Denman brush? "The strong nylon bristles provide the kind of tension needed for shaping curls, while the rounded cushion cuts back on static and frizz," says Fae Norris, a hairstylist at Rock Paper Salon in Los Angeles. "Because of that, it's easy to form a perfect curl with the right technique." (Don't worry, we've got more on that below.) Not to mention that the cult-favorite tool comes in a few different versions with different numbers of rows—the original, called the D3, has seven rows, while the D4 (ideal for tighter curls) features nine rows and the D14 has five, widely spaced rows—which means there's a brush for every type of curl.

Ready for a brush with greatness? We asked a variety of stylists and experts for everything you need to know about the Denman brush, and how to use it.

First things first, what is a Denman brush?

Sooner or later, everything old is new again—and that includes the Denman brush. Despite its recent popularity among curly-haired TikTokers (the #denmanbrush tag, where users share tips, tricks, and tutorials, has 23.6 million accumulated views and counting), the top-notch tool is actually over 80 years old.

In the 1930s, inspired by his sister's struggle with unruly hair, John Denman Dean— an entrepreneur from Northern Ireland—decided to take matters into his own hands and created what's now known as the Denman D3 Original Styler. "What set his design apart from other brushes was that it featured pins made from nylon material," says Frances Courtney, Denman's head of marketing. "Since the pins wouldn't melt under high heat, it could be used with a hair dryer." Not to mention the unique teardrop-shaped handle (to make styling easier and more comfortable) and the half-round pad (to help shape and smooth hair).

Two decades later, the brush first became famous, when legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon used it to create his trademark angular bobs, like the signature style worn by miniskirt pioneer Mary Quant. "For years, the Denman D3 has been hailed as the best brush for styling sleek bobs," says Courtney. "This will never be disputed, but little did people know that with one simple twist of the wrist, that same brush could revolutionize curls."

Why is a Denman brush good for curly hair?

Despite its roots, the Denman brush has earned top honors from curly girls everywhere, who say it enhances the shape and bounce of ringlets and coils, detangles any knots, and fights frizz. (In fact, it's racked up more than 33,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, including ones like this: "Ladies, don't walk, run to place this order," a very enthusiastic reviewer wrote. "I ran this brush through my hair and OMG...it was magic!!!")

That's because the brush's shape, weight, and strong nylon pins create exactly the right amount of tension needed for defining spirals, says Courtney, who compares it to curling ribbons with a pair of scissors. Just as running a piece of ribbon between your thumb and a sharp scissor blade results in a spirited curl, the brush grips the hair enough to pull it taut, so spirals spring to life when you reach the ends.

Which Denman brush is best for your curls—the D3, D4, or D14?

While the D3 Original Styler is the most well-known Denman brush, there are a few other versions with different number of rows—which means there's an option for every curl type and texture. To choose the Denman brush that's best for your curls, here's something to keep in mind: Generally, more rows of pins (like the D4 Original Styler, which has nine rows) produces tighter curls, while fewer rows of pins (like the D14 Mini Styler, which has five rows) coincides with looser curls, according to Norris. "If the brush snags on the hair or doesn't glide easily, the pins are set too closely for your hair type," she says. "Switching to one with fewer rows will not only be best for your curls, but also the health of your hair."

If that feels too complicated, you may want to consider this: "You can easily remove or replace rows of pins at home, so if you purchase a brush with more rows, like the D3 or D4, you can customize and change it depending on the style you're trying to create," says Norris.

Here's how to use a Denman brush for curly hair.

Ready to try TikTok's most popular tool? Before you break out your Denman brush, it's essential that you start with wet strands. “You do not want use it on dry curls as that can cause frizz, damage, and/or breakage,” says Janet Jackson (who, yes, shares a name with the record-breaking music icon), founder and CEO of Toronto’s Jou Jou Hair Studio.“So you should either wash your hair first, or, if you want to just refresh your curls, saturate your strands with a water-based leave-in spray.”

After getting out of the shower, prep damp hair with the proper styling products for your texture. If you have thick hair, first apply a leave-in conditioner, then run a wide-tooth comb through your hair to gently detangle and follow with a heavier curl cream (which you can even mix with a hair oil); for thin or fine hair, skip the leave-in conditioner, and apply a curl-enhancing mousse or light cream, says Norris.

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While there are many different tricks and techniques for how to use the brush, this is the one Norris recommends for beginners: Turn the brush so the pins face up, then working in sections (“If you have thicker hair, smaller sections will add definition and volume,” says Jackson. “For thinner hair, use larger sections.”) and starting at the root, slide the brush down the length of the your hair, tucking the brush under as you approach the ends. Once you remove the brush, give the hair a good scrunch, before moving onto the next section. “After the whole head is whipped into ringlets and properly scrunched, you can go in and break up curls and twist smaller sections as needed,” says Norris.

Alternatively, for those with hair types 2A through 3B, Jackson recommends this: “Work in sections and twirl your hair around the brush,” she says. “If the section forms a perfect ringlet, great! If not, you need to twirl your brush in the other direction.”

Regardless of the technique you choose, finish by diffusing your hair and twisting the ends with a light oil or pomade (if you have types 2A to 3B), or drying your hair naturally or with a hooded dryer, then twisting the ends with a heavier oil or butter (if you have types 3C through 4), says Jackson. "A few spritzes of shine spray is great for everyone," adds Norris.

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