Tangled hair can be a drag. Knotted strands are difficult, and often painful to detangle.
Certain types of hair are more prone to tangling, but knotty hair happens to everyone. And even though tangles can be a literal headache, if you’re armed with the right products and tools it’s pretty easy to detangle your hair without damaging it. We’re breaking down the dos and don’ts of detangling your hair.
Tangles are caused when the cuticle of your hair becomes damaged and opens up. These open cuticles block each other, forming knots. A hair knot happens when two single strands of hair wrap around each other. When this happens to a few strands, it gets more difficult to remove the tangles. The following can contribute to hair tangling:
photo by @karlibobarley
The following tips will help you detangle your straight hair without causing damage.
The best way to detangle straight hair is to use a paddle brush or wide-tooth comb. These are much gentler on your strands than tail combs and other small-tooth combs, that can cause severe damage and breakage to your hair.
If you’re starting at the root when detangling, you're doing major damage to your tresses. Instead, start at the ends and work your way up. This gives your comb a smoother foundation to glide down. This method also reduces pain from pulling at the roots.
Wetting your hair can lock in the knots, making it much harder to detangle, and much more prone to damage. Work on one small section at a time. If your locks are really matted apply a conditioner on dry hair to help loosen the knots as you go.
Color-treated hair is especially prone to breakage, and mature hair even more so. A detangling spray keeps damage to a minimum by limiting harsh pulling and tugging on the hair, so use a detangling spray on wet hair and work on smaller sections, with a lighter touch.
Your hair will most likely feel dry and brittle after getting the knots out. Apply coconut oil from the roots to the ends and let it sit for about 20 minutes. This will rehydrate and moisturize your thirsty strands after your detangling session. Or as a leave-in option, apply a nourishing hair oil after towel-drying your hair and style as usual.
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase is a great way to prevent knots from happening while you sleep. Your hair will glide against the silk as you move against the pillowcase. The friction caused by your hair rubbing against a cotton pillowcase causes it to become tangled.
Dry hair tends to tangle more easily, so using a hydrating hair mask will help keep the tangles away. A hair mask adds moisture to your hair instantly. Use a hair mask one to three times a week for stronger, less knotty hair.
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The following tips will help you detangle your natural or curly hair without damaging it.
Detangling your hair is an important step in any good hair care routine, but especially for curly and natural-haired girls. A good rule of thumb is to detangle your hair on the days you wash, whether that means once a week or every other day. Not sure how often you should be washing? See our previous post on how often to wash your hair. That being said, you should detangle your curls at least once a week.
For severe knots in coarse, or tightly curled hair, use your fingers to detangle with coconut oil. For looser curls, coat your strands with a curl conditioner before dry detangling with a paddle brush.
Single strand knots refer to a single strand of hair that has knotted onto itself. Pull or snip these out. They can’t get detangled, and if you leave them be, other strands will get caught and the knot will grow.
For knotted ends, it’s best to layer on a hair conditioning treatment, and starting from the bottom up, pull gently on your hair to separate the strands.
If the bottom layer of your curls is constantly knotty, part of the blame probably lies in how you’re sleeping. Make sure you wrap your hair up in a silk scarf and use a satin pillowcase to preserve your hair’s moisture. Soak your strands with a curl prep detangling spray and gently detangle with your fingers. For an added boost, spray a little more on your fingertips. Work from the bottom up in small sections. The process can be tedious, but it’s the best way to untangle your curls with ease.
If you have over-processed hair, you’re only one bad brush away from breakage so your instinct may be to lay off the brushing. But this only makes your hair more susceptible to tangles. Detangling fragile, chemically damaged strands starts with the way you wash your hair. After wetting your hair thoroughly, apply an anti-breakage shampoo, and massage it onto your scalp only to avoid roughing up the rest of your hair. Then thoroughly coat your hair with a hair repair mask before using a wide-toothed comb to brush out hair. Get regular hair trims to keep your ends healthy and you’ll not only find yourself with fewer tangles, but you’ll experience fewer split ends as well.
Most of the same rules that apply to thin straight hair apply here. Be sure to keep your hair hydrated and conditioned, use patience, and dry it with care. The key difference is you have very curly or coiled hair, using your fingers is easier for detangling knots than using a brush or a comb. Especially if you have tighter curls. No matter what tool you prefer, be sure to work in small sections slowly, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
No matter what your hair type or texture, memorize the following tips for detangling knots without damage. For more at-home hair tips, see our previous post featuring expert advice from Davines stylists.
A good conditioner is key for keeping tangles away. After you wash your hair, coat it in conditioner and let it sit for a few minutes, then use your fingers to run the conditioner through your hair from root to tip. This will help immensely to loosen knots, and it’ll also help distribute conditioner throughout your hair.
Choose your tools carefully, especially if you have fine or damaged hair that’s prone to breakage. Instead of tackling tangles with a brush, use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. At least once daily, gently untangle knots by gently pulling apart the tangled strands.
Combing down from your roots to your ends causing breakage, split ends, and even hair loss. Start by combing through the bottom few inches of your hair, working upward, combing down as you go.
Pulling at a nasty knot may seem better than having to cut it out, but tearing your brush or comb through a tangled, matted mess will lead to breakage. Soak the tangle in question with coconut oil and work slowly and gently to minimize roughing up your cuticle.
Between hair styling, shampooing, and even just sleeping on our hair, none of us are safe from the trauma of knotted strands. Detangling your hair is often painful, and can cause damage and breakage. But whether you have curly, natural, or pin-straight strands, arming yourself with the right tools and products can make detangling your hair a breeze.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor