Backcomb Hair, Sans Damage (It Can Be Done!)

backcomb hair without damaging itWhen done right, backcombing can make such a big difference to hair.

But as wonderful as it is to get more volume in hairfake dreadlocks, or creating updos, though, backcombing can do some serious damage to your hair.

I’ve been backcombing my hair a lot over the years for my “messy updos” (which is what I do to my hair 90% of the time), and trust me when I say I’ve been there, done that – and I finally figured out how to backcomb hair without damaging it.

1. Keep it clean.

First and foremost: only backcomb on clean, dry hair – don’t do anything to your hair before backcombing.

When you hair is wet or has any sort of liquid product in it, it becomes “weaker”, so backcombing on top of that makes it worse. Furthermore, do not ever backcomb hair that just had some sorta heat tool on it. Whether it’s a hair straightener or curling iron, wait for your hair to be “cool down” first.

2. Use a proper tool.

Do not use anything fancy or even a hairbrush (it grabs too much hair, and can even break some in the process) when backcombing – a fine-toothed comb is the best, or you can buy a special teasing hair comb, which is incredibly easy to use and works much faster.

3. Go slow.

When backcombing your actual hair DO NOT go fast. Watch any backstage fashion show and you’d see how these hairstylists do it so fast (‘cause they don’t have much time), and it is really damaging to the models’ hair – so it’s vital not to use a heavy hand. Instead, think of the motion of petting a dog – slow, sturdy, soft.

4. Lay off the products.

Don’t go crazy adding products on backcombed hair, which can further add stress and potential tangles to your hair. You can add a very light mist of hairspray, but that’s it.

5. Remove carefully.

When undoing backcombing, add some water and a big gunk of deep conditioner to your hair. Very gently massage the backcombed area, and slowly run your fingers through it, separating the teased hair. The deep conditioner will make it easier to undo the backcombing, and condition it at the same time. Don’t try separating your hair when it’s dry, you will break off a lot of hair (this one took me a long time to learn, unfortunately).

Backcombing your hair is vital in certain styles, but definitely it can be quite damaging – so keep these tips in mind!

P.S. Just in case you made a mess, check out How to… Remove Hair Tangles, Knots & Stiff Hairstyles (without damaging your hair further).

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  1. Fab article Renee. Thanks for the awesome tips! Now I know to stay away from the hairspray prior to backcombing *yikes*
    I’ve got these notes on my phone now, and this backcombing experiment is going down in the weekends 😉

    p.s. Don’t want to be a nitpicker, but I spotted a typo first sentence into the 2nd para, “creating undos”.

    1. Hey Maria, thanks so much, and SO glad they are helpful – let me know how it went? Anything else you may need help with? 🙂

      And oh gosh, no please tell me these things – thank you, my laptop has autocorrect for some reason, it’s useful sometimes but a bit annoying other time!

      1. Opps, I totally forgot to report back with my progress :p To be safe, I did just a little back-coming on my crown with your tips and I’ve got to say they really help! Definitely takes a little more time than what I did before, but it saves me a lot of damage. Thanks again for the awesome tips Renee!

  2. Yoooo this post is on fire! This is fantastic! Just reading about it is soothing. I’ve backcombed my hair before but I was scared of damading it too so I did so slowly like you advised. It looked great but came undone cuz my hair is a bit silky. (Should have used hairspraaaaaay)- I usually avoid hairspray cuz it smells weird and no matter how little I use, I can smell it allll day/night until my next wash and honestly sometimes its just so sticky and makes your hair look like a stiff wig. It clumps your hair together after enough hours outside and the mild ones don’t hold my hair well. But I haven’t used them in years so maybe I should try some out again soon.

    And great tip on the conditioner! Never thought of that before. It makes sense! Whenever I had knots in my hair I’d soak it in shampoo and a lot of water and make sure it’s super soapy before finger brushing it, I can see how the conditioner would work even better!

    1. Thanks Nayla, I’m glad you enjoyed it too! Yep, conditioner is the way to go, it really helps getting hair untangled. And yeah, I know what you mean about your backcombed area “slipping” ’cause your hair is so silky. What could help is: make sure your hair is not “shampoo ready”, meaning that’s a bit dirty (maybe Day 2 without shampoo). When your hair is not as silky smooth it helps holds styles much better.

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