Yes, boar bristle brushes do indeed use real boar hair.
Unfortunately, boar bristle brushes are the “gold standard” when it comes to hair brushes.
They’re especially useful if you’re “no poo” and need to distribute your scalp oil more evenly across your hair.
And while there’s no perfect ethical alternative, there are some vegan options that do a decent job.
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The Most Important Attributes of a Brush
It’s useful to know why boar bristle brushes are so popular in the first place.
The main features of one that set it apart from other alternatives are:
- Being gentle and not causing hair or scalp damage
- Attracts and remove dirt and debris in hair (almost like static attraction)
- Durable – One good boar bristle brush can last decades
So when we’re looking for alternatives we want to try to find brushes that check at least a few of these boxes.
Vegan “Boar” Bristle Brushes
A few companies have made brushes that are certified vegan and made to try and replicate the style of board bristle brushes.
The actual strands are made from various types of plastics, which usually aren’t quite as good as the original, but may be able to get the job done for you.
Here are 2 of the leading vegan “boar” brushes.
This versatile brush is designed to have “boar-like” bristles for all hair types, but is certified vegan.
Most reviews are positive and mention that it’s gentle, even on wet hair. However, there are a few negative complaints about the white balls on the tips falling off, so be gentle if you try it.
This brush is made from 2 different polymers: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and Nylon. In other words, plastics.
For what it costs, it doesn’t have the best reviews, but I thought I’d include it here just for completeness.
In particular, it seems like it’s not as durable as expected, so be extra gentle when using it.
Other Types of Brushes to Use Instead of Boar Bristle
As I’ve learned when it comes to food, sometimes the best alternative is not to try and mimic a non-vegan product.
Instead, there are already cruelty-free options that can work well.
When it comes to vegan hair brushes, you have 2 main options: sisal and nylon.
Sisal is by far the more popular one, and it’s also a natural material that comes from a plant (the ropes on cat scratching trees are also made of it).
High quality brushes made with sisal will work for most hair types, but if you have extra thick hair, I’ve read quite a few stories that they don’t work too well.
They are relatively gentle (not quite as gentle as boar bristle), durable, and can remove debris from hair pretty easily.
2. Nylon Brushes (For Thick Hair)
Nylon, a type of plastic, obviously isn’t as sustainable as sisal, but brushes with nylon fibers are a good vegan alternative to boar bristles brushes.
While it depends on the brand, nylon brushes are typically made to have stronger fibers that will work better on thick hair.
Despite being stronger, they’re not too rough on the scalp, while still collecting dirt, dust, and other debris from your hair.
A final option isn’t to use a brush at all.
A wide tooth comb will still help with oil redistribution a bit, and will help you get out any tangles. They also do a decent job at scraping out any unwanted things or buildup from your hair.
You can find combs in either plastic (cheaper) or wood, so you can even pick an eco-friendly option if that’s important to you.
Combs usually work best on short and thinner than thick hair, so you may have issues using a wide tooth comb if you have thick long hair.
Summary of Boar Bristle Brush Alternatives
So which one is right for you?
If it’s not clear to you yet, let me sum up the main differences between each of these other types of hair products:
- Sisal brushes – The coarsest and most robust option for a brush. It’s also the most expensive option of the 3 in most cases.
- Nylon brushes – The least durable, but closest overall to a boar bristle brush. It’s softer than sisal, and in a medium price range.
- Wide tooth combs – Cheap and fairly durable, and good if you just need to break up tangles. However, combs don’t work well for all hair types, and won’t redistribute scalp oils and well as a brush.