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What is Teasing?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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Teasing, also known as backcombing, is the process of styling hair to make it seem large. To tease a person’s hair, the hair is typically separated into small groups; the groups are then held upright while the hair is combed from the ends toward the scalp. This process gives it the alternative name of backcombing because the hair is combed backward from how it is usually brushed. The hair is typically held in place after a tease by hairspray or another styling agent.

Hair styled by a tease was especially popular during the 1950s in the United States (US) when so-called big hair styles like a bouffant or beehive were quite popular among young women. Since then, however, the hair styles have changed and large hair has lost a great deal of popularity in most regions. People in some areas of the country still desire women to have big hair that requires teasing to achieve. There are also occasional retro movements when people want to recreate the styles of previous decades and during that time some women will often choose to make their hair into a beehive or other large hair style. In recent years, a person will usually tease his or her hair to achieve greater volume and body from otherwise flat or thin hair.

The process of actually styling the hair involves several steps and though it can be achieved by a person styling his or her own hair, usually the help of someone else does make it easier. To tease someone’s hair, the hair should be flat rather than wavy or curly. Flat hair is less likely to be damaged or tangled by the process of backcombing and hair that is not straight should usually be straightened first. The hair is then usually worked through with a natural bristled brush, such as those made with boar’s hair, to remove any tangles.

To tease at this point, a person’s hair is simply separated into small bunches. The bunches of hair are then pulled upward, and using a teasing or ratting comb, the hair is then combed downward in short sharp strokes from the tips toward the head. This process can be repeated with the section of hair if desired volume and shape is not achieved on the first attempt. Once the desired look is achieved, the hair should then be sprayed with hairspray or other firming product.

The process is then repeated with the rest of a person’s hair, teasing small groups at a time and spraying them into place. A person should not tease his or her hair too often, as the process can lead to damage or breaking of hair. Deep conditioning of hair between styling is also advised to help repair any minor damage that is done during the teasing process.

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