Valerie Monroe
Photo: Jonathan Skow
Q: Is it good to brush my hair vigorously?

A: Funny you should ask. A stylist recently told me, after giving me what might generously be called an "energetic" shampoo, that since I have my hair washed in a salon only every five days or so, I should brush it hard daily "to distribute the oils on your scalp." (She also told me, with obvious concern, that my scalp felt "tight," which got me wondering about how loose my scalp should be. Not very, I decided.) But Philip Kingsley, a New York City and London trichologist (hair specialist), says, "It's definitely bad to brush your hair vigorously, ever. Hard brushing tends to scratch the scalp and will also tear out the hair and break it, particularly if it's long." It's fine to use a brush for styling purposes, he says, but not to distribute oils, because who wants oily hair? Dry hair is due to loss of moisture, not oil. He suggests using a conditioner or moisturizer (like his PK Preen Cream, $35). And when you do use a brush, look for one with long, plastic, malleable bristles on a rubber base with vents. Ball tips on the bristles help prevent breakage, Kingsley says.

Bottom line: The less you brush your hair, the better.