by Cassidy of NaturalSelectionblog.com
Fact: textured hair is prone to tangling.
Fact: detangling can be damaging.
Fact: it doesn’t have to be.
Tangles come in all different forms from fairy knots to matting roots to wishbone snarls at the end of your strands to shed hairs caught mid strand to a pony tail elastic that has somehow ensnared itself in your coils. Each of these tangles is unique in its own way and requires a different way of dealing with it. But before we talk about different detangling methods for different tangle scenarios, let’s start with basic assumptions about prepping fine hair for detangling.
- Start with a wet head. Hair doesn’t have to be soaking wet, but it should at least be damp.
- Scratch that, before your head is wet, make sure its deep conditioned. Dry hair is more prone to break. A recent deep conditioning is a great way to ensure that your hair is in tip-top condition.
- Add some slip. I like to use creamy conditioners to help my detangling tool glide down my strands. Other options are oils and butters depending on your preference. Whatever you choose, be sure to have some sort of lubrication on your hair to help out the process.
- Eyes on the prize. If you are busy, in a rush, or distracted, drop the comb and step away. Improper detangling can break your hair and cause irreversible damage. To prevent both of these tangle travesties, make sure you’ve got time, energy, and focus to dedicate to the process.
- Bottom up not top down. Never detangle from the root to the tip. Make sure you go in the other direction from the tips of your hair towards your scalp. Going from root to tip will just cause more tangles at the bottom of your hair.
- Work in sections. This will help you manage the process and keep your task organized.
- Shed hairs be gone. The human head sheds on average 50-100 hairs each day. If you have curly coils, these little buggers are probably getting stuck in your coils rather than slipping out on their own. Detangling will help you get these hairs out and prevent tangles from reforming.
- Timing is everything. Chances are you don’t need to detangle once a day. Take sometime to figure out how often you really need to be detangling in your regular regimen. Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly are all good choices!
Ok, now that we’re done with the foundation of detangling, lets talk about the various detangling methods. I am a firm believer that each of these methods have their own time and place. The great thing about being the boss of your very own self is that you can mix and match these techniques as you see fit within your own routines and hair care regimens.
Perhaps the most gentle of all detangling methods. Your fingers are like nature’s combs and the great part about using your own hands is that they are part of your own nervous system, meaning that unlike plastic, they can really feel out knots and use their dexterity to work through them. Finger detangling is great for focusing on major knots and working to break them up one strand at a time. Never ever ever do the thing where you stick two fingers into a section of hair and pry them open to pop open a knot at the tip of your hair. That popping sound is your hair breaking. Sad.
Finger detangling is also a great option to use before combing or brushing to get rid of any big snarls before really getting into the nitty gritty of the process.
The most polarizing detangling method in curly hair-dom. While some curlies’ hair starts to break at the mention of the word ‘Tangle Teezer’, others should be posed on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel with their modified Denman D3. The thing about brushing is that if it works for you, it WORKS. With all of those rows of teeth, after a thorough brushing there will be no tangles to be found on your head. The key with brushing is that you must, must BE GENTLE. Be delicate, be tender, be soft. You are not MarciaMarciaMarcia Brady and should not aimlessly brush your hair as if you were. If you hear snapping: stop. If you see short strands covering your sink: quit. If you notice split ends: call it a day.
Probably the safest bet in the detangling department. It’s thorough, it’s efficient, and unless you’re not following the basics, it’s gentle. Select a model with widely spaced teeth and a good grip for holding. A basic wide tooth comb will run you a couple bucks at a beauty supply store, but you can upgrade to jazzier versions such as a seamless comb, shower comb (hangs in the shower), or the Ouidad Double Detangler (with it’s 2 rows of teeth) to name a few.
Ok, fine I get it. But what do YOU do, Cass??
Ouidad Double Detangler all the way baby. That thing is a workhorse (and probably as heavy as one too). The double spans of teeth slice and dice my detangling time in half, while the wide width of the spaces between the teeth ensure that I’m not doing damaging my fine strands while I pull the comb through my hair. I also like that it’s pretty sizable so that I can work through large-ish sections of hair. I’ve noticed no breakage or splits with this comb and its more efficient than using just a single wide tooth comb. I detangle religiously once a week, and if I push this any longer, I will really be paying for it and cutting out locs that form at the end of my coils. Again, sad.
I am in the process of considering – just considering – using the Tangle Teezer once a month on my hair. I tried it for the first time just yesterday and I loved the smoothness I got, but I’ve read enough reviews about TT imposed breakage to know that frequent use of this tool could wreak havoc on my fine strands. I am considering using it because it really did a great job of pulling out my shed hairs and I liked the thoroughness of the tool.
The Moral of the Story
Detangling is a way of life for naturals and for fine haired naturals is can be a dangerous endeavor. Just make sure to listen to your hair and find a method that works for your your curl pattern and your porosity. Remember that fine hair is more fragile than most so treat it as such. Do not rip, pull, or tug. Break out the scissors if and only if you can’t get a tangle out with any of the above methods (some tangles just won’t budge). Get your combs and brushes through gently and with ease. If your tangles are unrelenting, think about using a different method or getting a trim.
Y’all know my fine self pitched the Denman, aka ‘Shredder’, and threw the Tangle Teezer out the window, despite my brief love affair. Both of these left me with horribly torn and split ends that would pop off if I looked at them wrong. I’ve also recently parted ways with my Denman Paddle Brush. I crave the smoothing action of these tools, but in the long run, they did more harm than good.
These days, I use the Ouidad Double Detangler on wash day (once a month), and my fingers the rest of the month (to detangle, smooth, and re-twist).I oil my ends every night before donning my satin cap, and all is well :0)
LOVE THE QUIDAD and for those of you who think it's heavy, ya'll must be wimps. It feels nice and substantial!
I detangle in the shower. Either with shampoo or conditioner. I comb while the water is running through my hair. I let the conditioner sit while I shower and then comb as the water runs over my hair.
All this information is great, I wonder what she has to say about sulfates and shampoos?
WARNING (Reposted): Beware of the tangle teezer! I just got a trim/hair cut, because I didn't want to accept that this thing was doing more harm than good to my ends. Yes it's a dream to detangle, but a nightmare when you look close at your ends.
I wasn't using it excessively and I have NEVER had ends that felt that shredded. Were there other factors? Maybe, but why take the chance? Trust me this "hot boy" is not worth the hair risk.
Speedy recovery to the victims of Hairicane Tangle Teezer.
once a month:
method #1- on recently deep conditioned or co-washed hair that i have allowed to air dry, i part small sections with my fingers and apply a shea butter product then finger detangle, comb detangle and twist/braid.
method #2- on a wash day i saturate dry, 'dirty' hair with an olive oil/conditioner mixture then cover head with a plastic cap for 45+ mintues. this acts as a prepoo. afterwards i part small sections, finger detangle, comb detangle, twist/braid then proceed to shampoo etc.
p.s. in my opinion the denman is a STYLING not a detangling brush and that's why *some* of us have had issues with it
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Thank you so much for this post. It was very helpful.
@ANON 12:31pm- I have tried both methods-saturating with oil and using conditioner. Oil is okay but using conditioner like the author suggested resulted in easier detangling, less tangles, snaps, etc.
I have very fine and kind of thin 4a/4b hair and I started usin the tangle teezer after I got a trim. When I use it to detangle with a wide tooth comb first. I haven't notice split ends but I think it's reducing my single strand knots. I also think if you do not finger or wide tooth comb first then the split ends you find are from hairs that snapped from being pulled. Not from actual, manual splitting of hairs.
showercomb + denman = all i need
Great information, thanks for all the detail.
The best detangling comb I have ever used costs 3 bucks at Sally's or Amazon.com. It's the one with the wavy teeth.
Is it ok to saturate your hair with an oil while detangling? I thought its bad to manipulate your hair when its damp/wet …
I've recently started detangling with olive oil before washing my hair. I detangle, twist my hair and then let it sit for 30 minutes before starting my wash session.
Speaking of slip…
I *just* used a conditioner that I found at Safeway called "in*kind", the one for curly hair. Never ever ever have I seen a conditioner with this much slip. It doesn't take much and the small bottle is less than $5. So, if you have a Safeway nearby or see this condish somewhere, TRY IT.
I just might try that Ouidad comb. Maybe.
Time to buy a detangler.
Peace, Love and Chocolate