Teasing 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Big Hair

Alle Connell
dolly parton hair

Photo: Mario Casilli / WireImage

The bigger the hair, the closer to God—right? But actually getting sky-high hair means a lot of teasing, and that’s hard on our lovely locks. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way; teased hair doesn’t have to spell breakage and damage. Here’s everything you need to know about how to tease hair the right way; consider this Big Hair 101.

Practice proper technique.
You can’t expect your tease to last if you’re not doing it right—so this is the way that you should be doing it. Starting with dry hair, take a 2″ section and your teasing brush (more on this in a minute) and, starting near the root, gently backcomb the hair. Work up towards the ends, and when you have a good knot, move on to the next section.

Second-day hair is best.
Teasing freshly washed hair is a recipe for disaster—there’s no oil to help protect it from the rigors of backcombing, and so the odds of accidentally breaking your strands are exponentially higher. Only ever tease your hair when it’s a little dirty—second-day hair is good, third-day is even better. Not only will the oil lubricate your locks and protect them from harm, you’ll probably find that the grease helps hold the extra volume a lot better.

Curl, then tease.
If you have hair that tends to falls flat or you need to create MEGA volume, use a narrow-barreled curling iron to curl your hair before you tease. This is an old stage trick we learned from an old interview with Dolly Parton (who i the patron saint of big hair), so you know it really works; the curl provides added structure and uplift, which takes the teased hair even higher.

Use dry shampoo for hold.
Too many people shellack the hell out of their hair with hairspray after teasing—don’t do this. Hairspray is drying and can add too much hold to hair, which makes it even harder to brush out—if you can even do that without breaking all your hair off and giving yourself an accidental haircut. Instead, use dry shampoo for hold. Spray it in, concentrating it at the roots or the sections you’ll be teasing, then backcomb gently. Your hair will stay put incredibly—and you won’t have to rip it out by the roots when you’re done!

Use a brush, not a comb.
Teasing combs are the Devil’s plaything. That’s right, we said it. The teeth are too close together, which means that the rat you create as you backcomb will be way too tight—and therefore impossible to get out. Teasing is knotting, after all, and the tighter you make those knots, the harder they are to get rid of. Instead of a comb, use a paddle brush with natural bristles. Not only will it not break your hair as you tease (which you should be doing gently, of course) and give you an overall looser knot, it will also help you create even more height! That’s the kind of teasing situation we can get behind.

(But a word to the wise: don’t ever use a round brush to tease your hair. It will get stuck, and that’s not fun—trust us!)

Use leave-in conditioner to get it out.
When you’re done with your beehive, bouffant or pompadour, use a great leave-in conditioner to comb it out! This lubricates your hair and makes it practically impervious to damage—which is crucial when it’s well-knotted. And remember: work in sections, starting at the ends of your hair and working towards the roots. You’ll go from Dolly to Cher in no time flat!

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