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Curly Nikki

The Best Tool for Detangling and Curl Definition

By January 27th, 202132 Comments

Leeza writes:

I have a question about hair detangling and curl definition. I dislike the Tangle Teezer and Denman Brush due to them both ripping and breaking off my hair (4a/4b/4c). However, I loved the curl definition they both offered. Are there any other tools out there that can give me curl definition without the breakage? Thanks in advance.

CN Says:

Them 10 digits! I’ve used everything from the Tangle Teezer to the K Cutter, but always come back to finger detangling. It’s much, much more time consuming, but totally worth the effort. And although I don’t wash and go anymore, trust that finger styling will lend itself to some amazing definition.

I notice that when I ditch all the tools, I retain length and enjoy much welcomed volume. My ends never look as good as they do when I’ve been finger detangling for a few months. But time constraints and Baby G often lead to amnesia and I find myself back in the grips of ‘the next best detangling tool’.

The Denman, aka Shredder, wasn’t the best detangler, but left me with the most gorgeous clumpy curls. Unfortunately, it also left my already fine hair feeling even more sparse. After a few months of regular detangling and styling use, I experienced a for real set back.

The Tangle Teezer detangles like a friggin’ dream. It’s quick, doesn’t pull out a ton of hair and gives your dry hair the look of a blow-out. All good, right? No. After a few weeks of use, I noticed my ends looked like I’d sent them through a paper shredder. It tortured my fine strands and again, I experienced a set back.

I’m not a fan of the wide tooth combs or paddle brushes. Every few months, I get the notion and impulsively pick one up while on a field trip to the Beauty Supply… but the affair never lasts long. Wide tooth combs feel woefully ineffective, both during the process, and after when I discover rogue mats and tangles. Also, I got zero definition from wide tooth combs, just frizzy, peicey curls. Paddle brushes, like the Denman, give great clumpage, but harshly pull through the hair, which of course leads to damage in the long run. I do still like and use the Ouidad Double Detangler. I don’t use it often, but if I had to recommend one tool, that’d be it. It provides no help in the definition department but is great at effective, gentle detangling.

Which brings us back to Finger Styling. It rocks… it’s time consuming… but it rocks. It’ll take a little practice (and a crap load of patience) mastering the technique of detangling solely with your fingers, but you’ll enjoy a much happier head of hair. I do it in small sections, working from the ends up, and I’m able to gently remove shed hairs and tangles with minimal (if any) breakage. One of the benefits is that you can actually feel where the knots and problem areas are… that’s a major advantage! Also, as long as your finger nails are trimmed, you don’t have to worry about snagging your strands on anything sharp or jagged, which reduces breakage and split ends as well.

In the styling department, fingers also win. Have you ever heard of shingling or finger curling? I got the absolute best wash and gos from these techniques.
After applying a leave-in, I’d rake gel (Herbal Essence Totally Twisted Gel) through small sections at a time. The raking motion (which captured chunks of hair between my fingers) would create perfect little spirals.

The Best Tool for Detangling and Curl Definition
If you haven’t tried finger detangling or styling, and you’re dealing with breakage and splits, ditch the tools and take up this practice for a month or more. It may be just the remedy you were looking for.


  • Stacy Christie says:

    I will have to try finger styling, I find the comb gets rid of any definition my curls have. Especially in the front, my hair looks frizzy.

  • Anonymous says:

    I basically use a denman brush the same way a permed style would use a flat iron. I make sure my hair is detangled (usually with fingers), strong, and clean (but instead of heat protector I'm using something to make it slippery) and then do a pass over to smooth and define. I treat a wide toothed comb the same way a straight style uses a blow dryer…make sure it's clean, damp, and work in very small sections. And, use it sparingly, mostly after washing.

  • Anonymous says:

    After getting my hair trimmed yesterday, I was going to post about the dangers of using brushes to detangle. The biggest lesson I have learned since becoming completely natural is to be gentle and patient with my hair. Time is not always on my side, so there have been times when I have rushed the process, and I have paid the price for doing so.

    Perhaps the trusted Denman brush is a blessing for many, but my broken ends that got cut off yesterday indicated it was more of a curse for me. It's trial and error and another lesson learned for this natural. Peace and blessings to all.

  • Anonymous says:

    oops I got it confused…I meant to say I use a wide tooth comb and fingers.

  • Anonymous says:

    I use a combo to detangle my hair. I use my long Piano fingers (a woman once told me I have beautiful Piano fingers! lol) anywho, this works well. Then I go behind that with the old fashion Afro hand held comb (cost $1 dollar)…it works like a charm! :) At least for me it does.

  • Anonymous says:

    Isn't hair shed normal?

  • Anonymous says:

    This is so true!!

    I've been noticing how my ragged my ends are so I finger combed in the shower yesterday and while it was tedious, my curls were definitely popping. I'm gonna have to throw away my wide tooth and denman.

  • Anonymous says:

    bought a spray detangler, at dollar store, use it just before I shower, finger detangle in the shower, then use wide tooth comb through technique, starting from the ends and moving to the roots — Works like the Dickens!
    So simple it made me mad, Yall
    Best of luck

  • BabyCurl says:

    I agree for the most part. I'm still a fan of the wide tooth comb because I think it does a good job of detangling while the conditioner is on my hair. I finger detangle first to get most of the tangles out and then follow up with the comb, leaving the conditioner in a little longer so that my curls and reform themselves before I style out of the shower.

  • iri9109 says:

    @ anon 4:28 PM sally's takes back anything.. after the tangle teezer tore my hair up i took it back like 6 months later without a reciept ( i still had the package though)and they gave me a store credit. i'm liking the ouidad double detangler, and my denman paddle, but the fingers are the best…the think i hate though is sometimes my nails split and then my hair gets caught in the splits and that causes breakage =/

  • Quite says:

    I dont see how I can detangle my hair with my fingers without losing a few! I love the Ouidad double detangler. Now for curl definition, Idk anything about that since I only have coils:-)

  • Carla says:

    My hair is bra strap length and finger detangling is what I have to do to keep from ripping my hair out. I tried wide tooth combs, Demnan, etc and it all tore my hair out. I only use the Denman to smooth my edges back (but never pull through). It does take a while, and I use a LOT of conditioner, but its worth it in the long run.

  • hairscapades says:

    Nik! I was soooo going to do a post on finger detangling this week!! I totally agree with you and what almost everyone here has said. Finger detangling is the way to go. I started doing it last year because of you. Initially, I would take the wide tooth comb after I finger detangled, but it really didn't seem to add anything to the process. So, I haven't used a comb to detangle my hair except one time in the last year almost. The time I had to use it? And really, I still probably shouldn't have … I tried a new shampoo and it created a nightmare of tangles … no matter how much conditioner I applied and slipping, sliding, expanding I did, I couldn't release a couple of tangles. That stopped my PJ ways with shampoo.


  • Ayomide says:

    a little finger detangle, a wide tooth comb, then the tt-last two with loads of conditioner and water. Works for me.
    Finger detangling doesn't work 100% for me, my hair clumps too much especially in the crown area. So I comb to get out the hidden clumps, and then use the tt for serious detangling and smooth definition. No slit ends here, works like a charm for my hair. I only do this once a week.

  • Keisha says:

    After reading this blog I decided to finger detangle in sections on dry hair. It did take long but I liked the fact that my fingers were able to detect the tangled areas better than my denman or paddle brush. I will use my denman for my final detangle session in the shower, just to make sure I got all the shed hairs out. Hopefully there will be less hair in my brush after trying this method.

  • Anonymous says:

    I never finger tangle, but I really need to. Finger detangling takes forever, but it is well worth it!

    Thanks for the post Nikki. I thought it was just me having a problem with my denman brush.

  • Tiffany says:

    I finger detangle sometimes but I think I am going to do it more often. The hair in the photo is beautiful.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate,

  • Chaka says:

    I finger detangle and follow up with my detangling comb depending on what style Im goin to do after I wash or cowash my hair. If I plan on doin something intricate that involves highly detangled, stretched hair I'll use the comb. I also find that I don't have to detangle my hair more than once a week by keeping it in stretched or protective styles.

  • Anonymous says:

    I finger detangle all the time and it has been a life saver! I detangle with grapeseed oil on my hands and twist my hair in sections before washing. I actually did a little bit of experimenting. After my last trim of split ends with the Split-Ender, I challenged myself to strictly finger detangle for six months. Six months later my ends and coils have never looked better. I'm on my eight month and I can't see myself using anything but my fingers to detangle.

  • jmh says:

    is it possible you just need a better detangler product (conditioner with more slip)?

  • socialitedreams says:

    my last wash with only finger detangling gave me the best wash n go i've ever had, along with proper product placement (taking the TIME to get each strand instead of slapping it on and hoping for the best. i'm down with finger detangling and will use my modified denman or the wide tooth sometimes

    Vonnie of

  • LaNeshe says:

    Modifying a denman brush is a good idea. You still get curl definition, but with less teeth it doesn't pull at the hair so much.

  • Cassandra (C.) says:

    finger detangling trumps all other methods, it just takes a lot of time and patience, so if you are impatient or strapped for time; you may need to look into another method. I finger detangle because brushing or combing takes out my hair even though it does leave my hair detangled. And wide tooth combs dont cover enough surface area!! After using a wide tooth comb I still find patches of undetangled hair, so I then have to use my Goody detangling brush, and by then I'm tired and rush through it= lost hair.

    in short, just do what works for you, but be careful and take your time.


  • Anonymous says:

    UGH. After almost three years natural I had to learn this the hard way. My hair is very very very fine and coily 4 type and I've come too the conclusion it's just too fragile for combs and brushes. It was fine when I had less length but now at shoulder length (and I should have retained more length that that UGH!!) I am faced with lots of breakage and split ends all over the place. I keep having to trim and it's robbing me of length. I am going to braid it up for the next few months to give it a break before more damage is done! (sigh)

  • Anonymous says:

    I hate finger deatngling but its really the only way. It just takes forever.

  • Erika says:

    I wish i had the patience to finger detangle but i may give it a try and see how it goes. I normally just use a wide tooth comb but you're right, it does probably pull out more than it's fair share of hair.

  • Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty says:

    I totally agree. Brushes of any sort seem to be no good and rip the hair out – if not in clumps, slowly at a time. I finger detangle and finger comb. I only use the edge of the brush to smooth edges once in a blue moon.

  • mangomadness says:

    I'm a finger-detangler and finger styler too. I have way less breakage because of it. The only comb (or brush) my hair sees is a rat tail comb for parting (rarely).

  • CURLYNIKKI says:

    If you still have the receipt (maybe if you don't, lol) you may be able to return it. I used to work there and we took back some of everything! Sorry to hear about your set back. Live and learn :(

  • Anonymous says:

    I wish this article was published a couple weeks ago. I just bought a denman brush after reading many reviews. I love the curl pattern it gives when I detangle but I have noticed that I a fair amount of hair loss. This weekend while styling I noticed some shorter pieces of hair and so i examined to see if it was new growth or breakage and sadly it was breakage. I am 5 months completely natural and my hair is thriving so well that I do not want anything to set me back. if I could I would return the brush to Sallys. Oh well, lesson learned and $10 poorer.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm a finger styler too. It reduced my shedding drastically.

  • Anonymous says:

    yeah, the best way to get clumpy curls is to smooth your hair. some naturals swear by the Denman, but using your hands also works. i use the Prayer Method. i palm my styler through sections of my hair. squeezing the section through my palms as if i were praying really smoothes the hair shaft and clumps curls. See here:

    also, shaking/wagging the curls can help. after putting in your styler, take the section and shake it while releasing it slowly. See here:


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