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Curly Nikki

Finger Detangling 101

By January 27th, 202134 Comments
Finger Detangling 101

by Shelli of Hairscapades
As many of you know, I’m a fan of finger detangling. I started employing this method of detangling almost exclusively in February 2011 when I joined the Curly Nikki presents Kim Coles’ Grow Out Challenge. Prior to that, I used a wide tooth comb in the shower with conditioner saturated hair. However, last year I started experimenting with finger detangling and just found it to be far more gentle on my fine strands. I definitely attribute part of my length retention over the last year to it.
Finger detangling allows me to “feel” tangles so that I can carefully separate the hair and ease them out. With a comb, unless I hit a major snare that would stop the comb or brush in its tracks, I realized that I had more than likely been tearing through tangles. As I finger detangle now, I wince to think of the damage I was doing in the past with a comb because I didn’t feel the knots and ties. For those with hair of hardier stock, this may not be a problem. But, at the very least, I believe that combing through significant tangles prior to finger detangling disrupts the cuticle and, on the more severe end of the spectrum, causes breakage.
I finger detangle at a variety of stages. During my weekly pre-poo session, I “dry” detangle with Vatika oil and de-shed (remove “captured” shed hair) as I demonstrated in How I Pre-Poo. Dry detangling was something I would have NEVER though that I would do!! But, because my hair is almost always stretched from TnCs, twist-outs or bunned WnG and was well detangled the prior wash session, I am able to gently detangle and de-shed my dry hair with oil. That first finger-detangling session tends to take care of most of the heavy-hitters. Then, I will finish detangling under the water stream while rinsing my deep conditioner and finally after I apply my leave-in. As my hair is pretty detangled once I get to the leave-in step, I will sometimes gently “chase” my finger detangling with a wide-tooth comb. However, I don’t use the comb regularly. I have discovered that making certain that I do a final detangle after I apply my leave-in results in an easier detangling session the next wash day.
Anywho, here are a few tutorials that show how others finger detangle. As you’ll see, there is no one “right” way to do it. There are a variety of techniques, so you just have to figure out what works best for you!
Do you finger detangle? If so, how and why? If not, do you think that you would try it?


  • hairscapades says:

    Decemberpumpkin, so glad that you found this helpful! It takes a little more time, but for me, it's worth it! I hate going to salons that rip through my hair with a comb or even their fingers now!! I just KNOW the damage that it's doing to my fine strands *shivering*!! LOL!!


  • DecemberPumpkin says:

    thanks for the article about finger detangling i never though i could do this till I tried and love it ;o)

  • hairscapades says:


    I think most of us are referring to less broken hairs because we aren't ripping through knots and tangles inadvertently, causing breakage. You are right, we want to remove the shed hair as that can tangle around other hair. However, I feel that I do a better job getting out the sheds with my fingers because I feel those single strands that are wrapped around a couple of strands that I might completely miss with a comb.

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone!!


  • Anonymous says:

    Its one of those things where I know it's better for my hair because the amount of broken hairs changed drastically the first time I tried it BUT I just can't keep up with it. It takes forever for me!

  • Tamika says:

    I've been finger detangling for a good while now and love it over using a comb. It may take longer if the roots are really tangled, but it's worth it. It takes me about 15-30 minutes to detangle. Sit down, watch some TV, and detangle. My hair is about 3c/4a texture and APL-BSL length around. I don't think I got as many tangles out with a wide-toothed comb.

  • NaturalArtMaven says:

    I just recently began finger detangling exclusively a couple of months ago and I'm loving it! I actually think my styles look better. It took me awhile to figure out the best method for me. I've got a lot of hair on my head, but I found that baggy-ing the night before with my deep conditioner works best for me. My hair is saturated and really pliable and doesn't take any longer than when I used a comb.

  • Sophie says:

    I have a question: what do people mean by "lose less hair"? I actually like when I feel like I've gotten all the shed hairs out because leaving shed hairs in causes tangles, right? At any rate, I try to finger detangle most of the time because my hair is really fine and I could feel/hear snapping (I cringe now to think of it!) when I pulled a comb through when in the shower. But I don't have a ton of hair (medium length, not very thick) so it doesn't take long.

  • JackieC says:

    For the past 3 weeks, finger detangling has been all I do, and I'm liking it so far. It's too early to tell if it is making significant differences in length retention though. I finger detangle as part of my prepoo routine. After applying oils to my scalp and pulling out any shed hair, I separate some hair, mist it with water and then apply some Shea Moisture Purification Masque. It has awesome slip.After detangling, I twist it up and move on the next. In the beginning it took me 2 hours. Now I've got it down to 1 hr and 40 minutes. Hopefully with practice I'll get even faster.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't know why I'm afraid of finger detangling, but next time I wash I think I'm going to give it a try.

  • Annie L. says:

    It takes me maybe 1 minute, 5 if my hair has been loose for days.

    I drench my hair in the shower, apply leave-in and work quickly from the ends up. Very minimal shedding. Like ANONYMOUS 3:37, my hair is softened, stretched and detangled by the time I put my hands in it! I use my beloved Magic Star rake for clean parts, or a phenomenal comb-through massage and 'scritching' a few times a year.

  • Micheal says:

    Finger detangling makes me feel like I don't really detangle. I feel that my curls are still clump together. I have been working on some of these methods I have seen to achieve a better detangling session.

  • Anonymous says:

    I do both. Which one depends on my mood.
    I soak my hair with water first ,apply moisturizing conditioner or conditioning shampoo (i.e Wen or Hair one) and that softens and stretches my hair to the point of it being pretty much detangled before I even have to touch it. I lose the same amount of hair with my fingers as with the comb.

    Maybe I should try a different set of fingers? 🙂 Lol!

  • The Melanista says:

    Yup! I'm so #teamfingerdetangling. I just started doing it about two months ago on a consistent basis, and it's much more effective for me. I see much less shedding now. Once my hair is full detangled, I'll smooth with my denman brush to get the rest of the hairs out. It's definitely less stress on my hair. It's awesome.

  • Anonymous says:

    I use Kinky Curly Coily Me's method. I've just started but like it so far. I've tried finger detangling but my hair felt like it needed more after the wash.

  • Anonymous says:

    It is the "Killer C's" that bother me. I do not have large scale shedding or breakage, but I notice tiny little 1/8th inch (4mm) broken "C-curls" all over my shoulders after I style my hair.

    So glad you included Chery818 in your lineup – (luvin de Trini soca). She has my hair texture – and now I accept what I have to do to retain length, since I have chopped at least 4 times due to split ends and mid-strand splits.

    I never had large clumps of hair come out with comb+conditioner detangling – so I never thought that was the problem. Never saw long broken hairs either. As it grew longer, I would get sloppy when detangling it, and over time notice mid-strand splits and the "little letter C's" all over my shoulders. I would then have to cut off INCHES to halt the damage.

    Finger tangling looks so darned tedious, but now I see what I have to do to keep what I have.

  • Anonymous says:

    Yeah, there is no way I'd ever do this. I have a lot of hair, it is really thick, and a wide toothed comb is just fine, and my hair adds length with little extra effort. It's just not that serious.

    Like another person mentioned, my hair kind of "melts" under water so I don't have to struggle to get it combed out after I wash it thank goodness.

    If I had to go through all of this drama, I'd either get a relaxer again or go shorter.

  • mangomadness says:

    I always finger-detangle my kinky, Afro-textured hair. I've been doing it for over year (almost two…) with much success. I have far less breakage during detangling and better length retention.

    I finger-detangle before shampooing on sectioned (12 parts), stretched, conditioner-coated hair.It takes about 45 minutes-1 hour but time flies if I listen to music of watch a movie.

  • Anonymous says:

    My hair is just below CBL when stretched. I finger detangle during my weekly pre-poo process. I mist my hair with water, divide it into sections, use olive oil to gently detangle, add deep conditioner. and cover with a plastic cap for 30-45 minutes. Then I shampoo and condtion my hair in sections, using my fingers to detangle as needed. After applying my leave-in, I do a final finger detangle before styling. Sometimes, I run a wide tooth comb through my hair after all the rounds of finger detangling.

  • Anonymous says:

    Im glad u feature 3 different videos with different hair types 'cause all not all natural hair is the same…

  • k.lynn says:

    I always finger detangle then follow with a comb. I did finger detangle only during one wash session and didn't feel that my hair was thoroughly detangled.

  • Anonymous says:

    Finger thriving is IT is for me, and has been for almost a year now. I am so glad I finally tried it. The results have been phenomenal. But I can see how for some ladies it would be a lot of work and futile at that. My super fine strands are medium density and very, very fragile. But I know women whose hair is teflon strong and just doesn't break as easily as mine lol. I would advise that if breakage from tension is a problem for you, then try finger detangling. Otherwise stick to what works for you 🙂 Asea

  • ABRUNNIN says:

    My hair is so coarse it actually does better without a comb… Leaving me with NO other option but to finger detangle!

  • Anonymous says:

    I have started finger detangling in the last few months and I have way less hair coming out! And I only do it once a week when I wash and condition and I'm amazed at how little hair I lose.

  • Anonymous says:

    correction, 13 minutes long.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't finger detangle, I think it's way too time consuming. Notice the shortest video tutorial above is 11 minutes long! Everyone has to do what works for them, but using a comb on my soaking wet hair and being gentle, has done me well and I'm retaining length.

  • Anonymous says:

    I too, like Shelli have fine strands. Finger detangling helps me not to lose so much hair
    in the process. After I am detangled I run a
    wide tooth comb through my hair to make sure
    its prepped for twisting.

  • Anonymous says:

    I do a combo of finger detangling and combing(while my hair is saturated with cond.)Before I went natural I thought I had "Thick" hair. But its the opposite my strands are more on the "fine" side to my surprise!

    However, it's a double edged sword, while fine hair is easier to manuver (thus, easy to use my finer to detangle),thick hair styles better in my opinion ( but I would most likely use a comb to detangle).

  • Fatima says:

    I do finger detangle. I used to detangle with either a wide tooth comb or a denman brush. But finger detangling is much more gentle on your hair and you feel things that a comb cannot. I do it on soaking wet hair in the shower and load up on the conditioner. It only takes me just a few minutes!

  • Anonymous says:

    Agree with Quite!
    I honestly tried that and it took FOREVER!!!! That will NOT be my main way of detangling…My hair is really curly and so as soon as water touches it, it melts..soo I only finger detangle after i had braids for at least 2 weeks and more..otherwise my hair is pretty detangled and no knots.. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    There are many benefits to finger detangling (i.e. length retention, getting to know your hair, learning how to be gentle with your hair). However, it is not conducive to my lifestyle. With my thick, long hair, it would add more time than I want to give in caring for my hair.

  • Quite says:

    Definitely not. My hair is thick and tightly coiled. The only way I could do this would be on hair that was blown dry. I style my hair mostly damp so there's not way my fingers would get through that. Its not practical. It would take hours…

  • kimickeyhouse says:

    I started finger detangling a week ago and the difference is significant. Last year I "pulled" out a lot of hair being heavy handed with my modified denman brush. I started using it less and less and then when I found out about the finger method I decided to try it out. Its pretty painless, ACTUALLY a lot less work than with the combs. Going to try it for a while and see how it goes.

  • UniquelyNatural says:

    I finger detangle because my hair is SUPER fine. If you look at it wrong, it'll break. Combing it while saturated with conditioner doesn't work for me. I've found that dry detangling it after a pre-poo works best. I seem to lose less hair.

  • Braelynn says:

    Yes, I have started finger detangling. I only comb my hair no more than twice a week. It's just past the TWA stage, and it is definitely easier to remove those snarls with oils, conditioners, and your fingers before you run a wide tooth comb through. I have have medium textured hair. I love the way my hair looks afterwards.

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