Despite the tousled locks of Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln, the comb has been around for thousands of years. Used first as a rudimentary grooming tool, the comb has evolved into many forms for all types of hair. The type of comb you need will vary depending on your hair’s thickness and texture, as well as the purpose of the comb. Parting hair requires a different comb than combing or styling hair.


The earliest use of the comb can be traced to as far back as 5,000 years ago. In fact, primitive versions of the comb have been found throughout history by archaeologists. As early as 5500 B.C. the ancient Egyptians carved out combs among other remnants of the emerging cultures. In ancient China, combs were worn as hair accessories that reflected one’s social status. Over time, combs have evolved into more efficient tools for hair maintenance and hair care. Today, there are hundreds of different combs depending on your hair length, texture and type.


Combs serve different functions for different hair types and styles. Typically, combs are used to tame stray hairs and detangle wet hair. Another common use for the comb is to secure hair in one position before placing it in a ponytail. Combs may also be used to part hair for coloring, conditioning and braiding. Combs can also be worn as decorative accessories that hold hair in a specific style. During the 1930s and 1940s, when sophisticated updos were the fashion, the decorative hair comb emerged as the accessory of choice.


In its earliest incarnation, the comb was carved from wood and, sometimes, bone. Tortoiseshell and ivory were common high-fashion combs, but concerns for animals’ rights shifted to predominantly wooden and plastic combs. General use comes in beauty salons, barbershops and bathrooms are most commonly made from plastic, while specialty combs and high-end combs can be made from steel, gold and platinum. All combs have teeth, called combdrumbs, but the size and spacing of the teeth vary by comb. Additionally, combs may have a small thin handle called a “rattail” used for parting hair.


Generally, there are three types of combs; hair combs, decorative combs and flea combs. Hair combs are used to style and maintain hair. Decorative combs are simple accessories meant to dress up the hair and serve no purpose in taking care of your hair. Flea combs, although used on the hair sometimes, are used to search for incredibly tiny parasites like lice, fleas or crabs. Running a flea comb over the infected area will damage the parasites, effectively killing them.


Sharing combs is not recommended, as sharing a comb is a common method of transmitting lice, fleas, crabs and other infections. Additionally, consistent build-up of dirt and oils in hair can lead to certain scalp conditions. To keep your scalp and hair healthy, wash combs regularly with shampoo.