What is a bone comb?

A bone comb can be beneficial for those with long hair.

A bone comb is a type of comb made of bone or horn. These combs were among the first human-made personal hygiene implements and still offer some concrete benefits. This type of comb is likely to be especially attractive to consumers interested in historical reenactment and to those who enjoy collecting unique art and craft objects.

Bone combs fell out of favor with the invention of the cheap plastic comb.

Archaeologists have identified several types of bone comb dating back thousands of years. A comb can easily be carved out of a piece of bone or animal horn. A flat piece of material was prepared, which was essentially a blank comb. Then, small grooves were made in parallel to form the teeth of the comb and, in some cases, decorative elements were added. Bone combs were practical and extremely common for thousands of years.

Bone and horn remained the standard materials for comb construction until the advent of plastics in the 20th century. The mass production of cheap plastic combs led to their widespread adoption in place of bone combs. A bone comb may still be a better choice for some consumers, however.

Long hair that is prone to drying or splitting can benefit from using a bone comb. The bone and horn work with the natural oils present in the hair, spreading them out rather than sucking them out of the hair. Unlike plastic, which is impermeable to natural oils, bone absorbs and redistributes them more evenly throughout the hair. This process leads, over time, to stronger, healthier hair.

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Combs made of bone are often much more visually appealing than their utilitarian plastic or metal counterparts. Bone is a natural material, and as a result, two bone combs will never look quite alike. Each comb has a unique pattern and appearance that some consumers may appreciate. Combs made from different types of horn and bone can have unique and distinctive appearances.

A bone comb can also be decorated or carved. This practice was common in ancient times, when the wealthy combed or decorated their hair with ornate bone or ivory combs covered with elegant miniature carvings. Some artisans continue these practices. A hand-carved ornamental bone comb is not cheap, and a typical consumer may choose to treat it as a display piece rather than a utilitarian hygiene aid.

People interested in historical reenactment of any period before the modern era may also want to buy bone combs. Simple bone combs in antique styles are available from major retailers. More original, ornamental or primitive examples can often be purchased directly from the artisans who carve them.

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