Underrated and understated, but perhaps one of the most overachieving tools we’ve ever had, combs are a staple in nearly every single household. They’re one of the oldest and most storied hair tools ever found in history (almost 5,000 years old!) and have been used to groom, style, delouse (!) and manage hair since literally almost the beginning of civilization. Ancient combs were usually fashioned out of stone, wood, tortoiseshell, metal, bone and even animal horns like ivory, and were prized as hair adornments and worn as highly valued accessories (as well as, you know, removing parasites like ticks, lice and other unwanted critters—how’s that for style and substance?). Nowadays, the hair comb, remanufactured in sturdier—and more practical, economical—plastic materials, takes a behind-the-scenes role for the most part and is used mainly to detangle hair before styling. Nevertheless, the humble hair comb still remains a desert-island necessity and has been a part of our bathtime routines ever since we could remember.
Unlike brushes, which may cater to a specific gender, hair type or length, hair combs have a universal appeal that caters to everyone across the board. That’s not to say that this hardworking tool is completely one-size-fits-all, however; it has also evolved with the times into different versions to fit specific needs. Scroll down for our list of all the available combs out there:
Also called a detangler comb, a wide-toothed comb, as the name suggests, has teeth that are wider-spaced than other combs and is used mainly for removing knots in hair. Usually made of rubber or plastic, wide-toothed combs are the best comb to use on wet hair, as they’re more forgiving and manage to untangle any knots with minimal damage.
The teeth in a fine-toothed comb are closely spaced, making this a great tool for creating and refining your hair part, as well as smoothing hair down into a style, such as an immaculate ballerina bun or, yup, a comb-over. Fine-toothed combs also come in fishtail or rat-tail versions, where the comb features a thin, sharp handle on one end that helps create more precise parts.
Just like a flat iron (but with teeth), a straightening comb is an electronic tool used to straighten out wavy, kinky or curly hair. The hair straightening comb, which needs to be plugged in, takes several seconds to heat up and is usually metal-plated (typically gold) and fine-toothed, is used to style hair into a smooth, silky, frizz-free finish.
Straightening coarse, curly hair
Cutting combs are made of teeth that are wider-spaced on one end and taper to finely spaced teeth on the other end. They are used to help stylists trim and style hair in a more precise manner.
Most typically used with curly hair, a hair pick gives volume and lift to African-American or natural-textured hairstyles like the afro. They come with long teeth and short handles (much like a paintbrush, but with hard bristles) and are specifically tailored to section hair and infuse volume into kinky or poufy hairstyles.
Volumizing curly hair
The teasing comb and teasing brush come in a lot of styles: Some have several rows of different-length teeth, or may even have a medium-thick set of bristles that minimize damage when backcombing or brushing the hair from tip to root. The best teasing comb to use for body and lift typically has a few prongs at the handle, similar to a hair pick, to aid in sectioning and parting hair.