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What is Backcombing?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Backcombing, also known as teasing, is a hairstyling technique in which the hair is brushed against the usual combing direction to achieve lift and volume. Typically, this technique is used to create hairstyles that are large and usually stand up on a person’s head. Styles such as the bouffant and the beehive are achieved through liberal backcombing and a great deal of firm hold hair spray. A teasing or ratting comb is usually used to produce the best results and though someone can backcomb his or her own hair, it is often easier with the help of an assistant or professional stylist.

Hairstyles achieved through backcombing were especially popular during the 1950s in the United States (US). These styles, such as the beehive, are still popular in some regions where women wear big hair to be fashionable. A woman may also wear a bouffant or beehive if she wishes to achieve a retro look and will typically accompany the older hairstyle with a dated mode of dress, such as a poodle skirt. Today, backcombing is typically used to add volume or body to hair that may seem otherwise thin or flat.

The process of backcombing involves first ensuring that a person’s hair is flat and straight. Though wavy and curly hair can increase volume in a hairstyle, any hair that is not straight has a greater chance of tangling during styling and can cause damage or breaking. Once the hair is thoroughly straightened it should then be brushed with a stiff, natural bristle brush to be sure there are no tangles.

To start backcombing, the hair is then separated into small groups and one group is teased at a time. A small bunch of hair is pulled away from the head and then combed with a ratting or teasing comb in short sharp strokes from the tips of the hair toward the scalp. This process gives the technique its name and produces the typical body and volume of the hairstyle. If one combing does not create the desired effect, the hair can be combed again to achieve the look that is wanted.

The hair is then sprayed with firm hold hair spray or a similar product to maintain its volume and shape. After this, the next bunch of hair is similarly combed from tip to scalp to create more body and add shape to the initial bunch. The entire area of hair is worked through in this way until the desired look is accomplished. Most experts do not recommend daily teasing, as it can damage or break hair if done too often. Deep conditioning of hair between styling is also advised to keep hair healthy and strong.

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Discussion Comments

By anaBanana — On Mar 18, 2011

i did! good luck with all your future articles.

By wiesen — On Mar 17, 2011

Glad you enjoyed it!

By anaBanana — On Mar 17, 2011

i love this article. Your hair looks really hot and soft when you spice it with backcombing.

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