The comb should be made of flexible gum with large, coarse teeth, while the brush should have whalebone bristles. Both, comb and brush, are ‘passed gently over the hair’, not the scalp (Scientific American Supplement Volumes, 1883).
Combing The Hair
‘Fine combs or combs of metal of any kind should not be tolerated. These not only injure the scalp, but pull out the hair and may, by reason of such a wound, cause serious disease of the scalp and, through blood-poisoning, even death.
When a brush is selected, let it be one with long soft bristles. Never use wire brushes. The comb should be of hard rubber with teeth well shaped and rounded at their sides so as not to present sharp cutting edges, and these teeth should be uniform throughout – not a comb half coarse and half fine. Never use a fine-tooth comb – especially on the head of a child. Wash carefully the comb and brush in warm water impregnated with a few drops of ammonia. Dry in the sunlight, whenever possible. […]
The hair should be combed from the free ends upward, toward the scalp, short sections at a time, until a gentle sweep will carry the comb through the hair from the scalp down and through the ends. If tangles occur, the fingers should be used to disengage the hair before the comb is again applied. Comb the hair first on one side of the head and then the other, making the part about the middle of the scalp. Comb until the entire hair is free and falls soft about the shoulders, then follow with the brush, brushing from the scalp down.
Do not press hard on the brush. The objects of its use are to remove the dead cuticle naturally thrown off by the scalp; to remove whatever dirt has been deposited on the scalp and in the hair by the atmosphere, and to distribute the sebum, or natural oil, secreted by the sebaceous glands, keeping the hair pliant and lustrous. Part the hair in sections or strands to accomplish the best results in brushing. Remember that the hair brush does not take the place of the finger tips of the masseuse.’ (Beauty Culture, 1911)
Brushing The Hair
Brushes with metal bristles may cause hair loss. ‘Hair brushes are generally chosen by the whiteness and delicacy of the hair, it is therefore prepared (which is injurious to them) to suit the taste of purchasers. Dark white, coarse thick Foreign bristles make the most durable brushes.’ (The Workwoman’s Guide, 1840)
‘I always spend from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour brushing my hair, so that it may look bright and keep in good condition, and I strongly advise every girl to do the same. If she cannot find time in the morning, because she likes to lie as late in bed as she can, then I recommend her to do it at night before she goes to bed.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)
‘Although I so strongly disapprove of washing the head with water, it is possible […] to keep the scalp and the hair quite clean by brushing it. To do this, perfectly clean brushes are absolutely necessary. My own brushes are washed every day. When once a brush has been used it is never allowed to touch my hair again until it has been thoroughly washed and dried.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2) Massaging ‘the aching part and then well brushing the hair’, may even cure a headache.
Do not brush long hair ‘for fear of breaking it. And in combing it use the comb gently, beginning at the ends of the hair to take out the tangles. Comb gently from the ends first and occasionally shake the hair. This will take out the snarls better’ than brushing the hair. (Chicago Tribune, 1903)
‘To make the hair glisten you can touch the brush with a little oil of sweet almonds. Pour a few drops in the palm of the hand, rub the brush upon the hand and go over the hair swiftly. Do not use more than three drops if the hair be inclined to natural oil. But dry hair can be made to glisten by this method of brightening it.’ (Chicago Tribune, 1902)
Scalp massages in beauty parlors ‘are sometimes harmful because they spread bacteria.’ (A Girl’s Problems In Home Economics, 1926) Brushes and combs shouldn’t be shared, and regularly be cleaned.