I was in shock the first time I had to go to the BSS to find a brush after I cut off my locs. I didn't need much in the way of styling tools for those eight wonderful years. At the same time, one of life's little pleasures is the feeling of bristles gently massaging your scalp. Ahhh.
There are so many brushes on the market, it can be hard to choose if you're transitioning to loose natural hair. Plus, the way you use each brush varies depending on your desired result. Also, certain types of brushes are generally considered no-no's for natural afro-type kinky/curly hair. Right from the jump, I can tell you it's probably best to avoid any brush with little plastic beads at the end of the bristles. Most stores have tons of these kinds of brushes! The problem is our little coils will wrap and tangle around those beads, causing too much tension and then breakage. I imagine this type of brush is OK on straightened or stretched natural hair, but with other options on the market it might be best to avoid the beaded ones.
Here's my short review on three brushes -- two which work well for me and one "meh." At the same time, please remember the old familiar disclaimer, what works (or doesn't work) for one head of hair may not work (or might work!) for another.
This is a great brush for detangling on wet/damp hair only when it's loaded with slippery conditioner or gel. On shorter natural hair, this method produces springy little curls, as long as you don't disturb the curls after brushing by touching them before they dry. I don't use my brush as much now that my hair is longer, because it's just a lot more hair to work through, but I whip it out once in a while.
I bought my Denman D4 brush for about $14 on Amazon.com. I used it for four years until the red base fell apart. Maybe I got it wet too often, or it was overexposed to oil and product. I decided to replaced my dying Denman with the Goody knock-off at a fraction of the price, and I believe you can only find it at CVS. One caveat: the base on the knock-off version is less spongy than the Denman, so the potential for too much tension and hair breakage is greater. Just be careful with it.
Flat Boar Bristle Brush
A natural boar bristle brush is great for styling and shaping hair, especially for pulled-back styles like puffs, buns and other updos. Now some naturals say these brushes cause breakage when used too frequently, which could be true, but I personally haven't experienced this issue. I use my boar bristle brush in tandem with aloe vera gel (AVG) or a shea butter-based product to smooth down and soften my hairline.
This brush doesn't do much in the way of detangling, however I do find it creates a great sheen when used on stretched or straightened natural hair with a bit of pomade (e.g. grease or similar product). In contrast, I think the bristles in synthetic brushes are too jagged... maybe it's the way the bristles are cut on the production line? Anyway, I think it's best to stick to soft, natural bristles.
Round Boar Bristle Brush
...And here's where I need some help. So I bought a round boar bristle brush thinking I could use it for an at-home blowout, but it seems I'm just not quite that adept. I thought I could do it like the Dominican salon (#fail). This brush ended up being dedicated to the cat. Cleo loves it, but not as much as she loves catnip on a turbo scratchpad.