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Curly Nikki

Going Comb Free for Long Hair- Natural Hair Care

By January 27th, 202145 Comments
Going Comb Free for Long Hair- Natural Hair Careby Dawn Michelle of Minimalist Beauty

Growing up I was that kid who did her homework first, took weekly dance classes, read teen magazines cover to cover, then changed hair styles and nail polish almost everyday or every other day. I was so into fashion and beauty that I was given three teen magazine subscriptions for one of my birthdays. I read every beauty tip and tried many of them.

I was obsessed with those glossy pages to the point that my brother was annoyed that there weren’t any magazines for guys his age. Because of his consistent comments, my mother and I created a magazine just for him with articles about health and dating which my mother wrote, and with fashion and style tips which was my department. His makeshift glossy pages had cut outs of photos from various magazines with especially written articles just for him. I doubt the magazine was really any good, yet it’s the thought that counts. Right?

Now I have no idea why I’ve included this little story other than how easy it is to be influenced and sometimes confused by the glossy “pages” of information on curls and coils out there. There is information in magazines, on blogs, from vloggers, in books, and from product lines and hair stylists. Some say the same thing, while others consistently contradict themselves and each other. I guess the only way to really know what works for you is to try it.

Read On>>>

One Month Comb Free

My latest curl experiment has incorporated only finger detangling my hair. I haven’t used a comb or brush since mid January. The last time I had decided not to use a comb or brush was when I was locing my hair five years ago. I’m still not sure exactly how I feel since I’m not trying to loc my hair now, but I’m going with it.

Why would anyone not want to comb or brush their hair? My decision to try this again stemmed from the 2nd edition of Curly Girl The Handbook by Lorraine Massey. You can read all about my story behind redesigning my hair regimen here. It is now a combination of the Curly Girl Method and the Tightly Curly Method. There is nothing worse than being embarrassed by what God gave you naturally. I decided to do everything I could possible to love my own curls even if that meant no longer combing my hair.

Grooming Taboo

There are certain standards of grooming that are hard to let go of, and not combing or brushing your hair is one of them. I’ve honestly had a fear that if I only finger detangle my hair, then I will have knots upon knots that will turn into a crazy hair disaster. Slowly but surely I’m figuring it out.

A few month ago I tried finger detangling my hair dry using oil before washing it. It was a tedious three hours. I have no idea what I was thinking. I was adding another ritual to my hair care while giving myself an excuse to watch a movie. But I usually try something a few times before I decide it’s not for me. Dry finger detangling my hair didn’t work out and took way too long. There were better things I could do with my time.

My Method

Once my hair is cleansed and saturated with conditioner, I let the conditioner soak in my curls for at least ten minutes. I then add a bit more conditioner and finger detangle my hair in 4-6 sections. It is true that when you use your hands to gently pull and comb through your hair. you can feel where the knots are and slowly release them. Once and awhile I simply cut a knot out with tiny sharp cuticle scissors that I use only on my hair.

After each section is complete, I smooth each curl as I learned in the Tightly Curly Method from Teri LaFlesh. This does add extra styling time to my hair, but it also helps my curls to create smooth clumps that move freely and individually once my hair dries. This method prevents extra tangles and unnecessary knots that I’ve experienced with traditional wash-n-go hair styles. The extra curl smoothing also helps me find previous knots or tangles that I may have missed earlier.

Benefits of Going Comb Free

Going comb free has greatly improved my curl definition, and my hair is no longer frizzed out by combs or brushes. I noticed that my curls weren’t defining themselves easily, especially with my two years of weekly or monthly henna treatments and braid-out hair styles. My curls hadn’t gone any where at all, they just weren’t as defined when I was combing my hair.

If you are curious if your frizzy hair will wave, curl, or coil, why not try a week of using a botanical conditioner only and finger combing your locks from the ends up. Do this just as you would with a comb or brush when your hair is wet and saturated with conditioner. Leave most or all of the conditioner in your hair depending on your hair texture.

I will say that finger detangling your hair is a completely different hair care experience and takes some time to get used to. I’m honestly not sure if I’m going to stick to this for life or invest in an extremely wide tooth bone comb, but so far so good. It is certainly a bit more minimalist.

Have you tried finger detangling?


Dawn Michelle is a writer, professional dancer, choreographer, jewelry designer, and pure lover of life and the planet. She has been a part of the entertainment industry for years, and worked in one of the largest beauty retailers as a consultant. Dawn Michelle writes a lifestyle blog called Minimalist Beauty that incorporates organic beauty and cosmetics, eco-friendly fashion and extremely chic style, simple living, and pursuing creativity. She also has an Etsy shop called Azuha which has handmade fiber jewelry, earrings, natural cosmetics and more.


  • Hilary B. says:

    I finger detangle but I'm not comb free. On was day, after finger-detangling a section of hair I go over it with my seamless shower comb. This way, I lose less hair and get hair that's fully detangled.

  • Unknown says:

    I have been comb free about 2 months, and I love it. My hair feel so much better now that i dont comb it with a comb, people are always tellin my that my hair style are pretty, but when i tell them it was all done with out a comb or brush their facial expressing is priceless!

  • Charlotte says:

    I started exploring this because for my hair combing is pointless and time consuming. The only part that has knots is the back and I can move them out manually. In the meantime my hair gets frizzy and being so super long it lacks volume, so I decided to go comb free, but I use oil, it works well for me. My hair is pretty thin and long, not big and thick. My kids also have no patience for combing, lol.

  • Anonymous says:

    Peace : I had locs for 12 yrs, cut them off and tried not combing my hair for 6 months, that worked for a while, but i like using a wide tooth comb, my hair really responds well when i use a comb. So I go back and forth

  • king says:

    4b hair….15 mths transitioning)
    finger detangling is my hair's BFF!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    i tried to finger comb/detangle for a good while and it was a HOT mess. I ended up with tons of SSKs from shed hair that i could never get ALL of, and just random knots that seemed impossible to get out without cutting them! plus, my hair was SUPER shrunken when dried, immediately retangled, and my hair and edges wouldnt control themselves for ANYTHING. i think im better off with a comb or brush if nothing else, just to get those problem-causing shed hairs OUT of my birds nest.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well.. I'm a 4b. I would never finger detangle anywhere except for when doing twists and box plaits.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have 4b hair that shrinks like crazy. I would love to see a youtube video of someone with tight/kinky hair doing this method. Please post the link if you have seen one.

  • mangomadness says:

    I love finger-detangling! I've been doing it since October 2010. A detangling session takes 45 mins-1 hour. I like to listen to music or a movie while detangling.

    Before shampooing, I finger-detangle on dry, sectioned (12 parts), conditioner-coated hair. Then I twist each section, let it sit (~10 minutes) under a plastic cap, rinse the conditioner, shampoo my scalp (via an applicator bottle), rinse, apply moisturizer(s), style (braids, bantu knots,etc) and seal my ends.

    With this method, I have far less breakage (and better length retention) than when I used the "wide-toothed comb + modified Denman on soaking wet, conditioner-coated hair" detangling method. I'm so glad I figured this out.

  • Samantha says:

    I actually like finger detangling, but sometimes I just don't have the time and I grab a wide tooth comb, but I never get my hair fully detangled with a wide toothed comb because I'm always kinds scared of getting it to my root areas so I tend to detangle that area with my fingers. I do try to get my hair in sections and get my fingers through them before combing with a wide toothed comb and nowadays, I detangle my hair with my fingers till I can slide them through then I comb it out with a wide toothed comb (always a wide toothed comb) and sometimes to ensure the ends are tangle free, I hold my hair and use my Denman brush only on the ends, but not like letting the whole denman brush through it, just the top-ish area of the bristles.

  • PuddinCake says:

    I haven't combed my hair all of 2012 and loving it. Waaayyy less split ends, breakage, snaps, pops, ouches, etc. Its so much easier since I've been using Terressentials Hair Wash. Even my daughter begs me not to use a comb while detangling her hair in the shower, she loves finger detangling, and so do I! Curly hair will tangle and get shed hair caught up in it, that's its nature. Will finger detangling perfectly release all the shed hair, probably not, but at least extra hair isnt being unneccesarily yanked from the scalp with a comb or brush. Lub lub lub it! 😉

  • jmarie63 says:

    i want to incorporate this detangling technique…will start working on it and find the right conditioners to help facilitate the process

  • Anonymous says:

    As always, this article and the comments have been very informative. I started finger detangling on dry hair a few months ago but I still reach for the comb at some point and it takes me forever. I will try it on wet hair as suggested by a few. Thanks for all of the tips!

  • cygnet says:

    I wasn't going to comment on this thread, but I was looking at the first link given by Candace4life. Now when I look at Youtube vids, sometimes one will lead to another, and so on, etc., until I find something of interest that has nothing to do with what I was originally watching.

    Thus, I found "The Bourgeoisie Show". The second episode is all about natural hair. The show is from an African POV, and watching it was an interesting experience for me. If you choose to go looking for it—forgive me, please, for not copying the link—be warned: the words "natural" and "nappy" are used interchangeably and, from the contextual POV of the show host and her guests, mean the same thing, that is, highly-textured hair. They appear to mean no offense at all, so please do not get up in arms with them so that you miss taking in the show itself.

    So I suppose I should now say a few words about combing/not combing. Okay :-). The last time I used a comb for combing was nearly a month ago. I've been trying to learn how to finger comb/detangle my hair for some while, and it has been a mixed success. When I did it in the shower as part of my cleansing routine, I lost hair hand over fist, and I concluded that I was better off using a comb. Then, the second time that I applied Naptural85's Greek yogurt treatment, I think I happened to be undoing some sort of twisting that I'd done—flat, maybe—and I found myself detangling my hair by hand, about halfway through, without even realizing before that moment that this was in fact what I was doing. I had enough build-up of product on my hair that I didn't feel the need to add more. I lost significantly less hair that night than I had in awhile, so I have continued dry detangling ever since, using just the product that is built up in my hair. So far it's working very well for me, far better than the shower episodes. That, I don't plan to EVER do again! Of the two individual twist styles I've done in the last three weeks, I used the comb only for making parts after I got not quite halfway through the first one. But this last one I just did just a couple nights ago was done entirely by hand from start to finish, even the parts! I'm so happy with myself about that!

    So it appears I've now established myself a routine of combless detangling, and I'm excited and intensely curious to see how my hair responds over time to this. The thing I know I'll never be able to do, at least for now, is detangle to the point of being able to draw a comb through, because my hair is fine, brittle, and very curly, and I will doubtless catch something in the teeth of the comb that will subsequently snap and break if I'm not careful. But I also know that a thorough-enough detangling with just my fingers will be enough to prevent my hair from locking at the scalp, as so often we assume it will do if we don't comb it. So I'm content for now to leave the comb where it is. Yeah, I know where it is. It's on top of the TV I almost never watch that's doing alternate duty as a shelf for putting hair stuff :-).

  • Gabby says:

    I would love to hear about/see someone with kinkier hair finger detangle without it taking 3-4 hours. I don't have that kind of time and it already takes me 45 min- 1 hour to detangle. I see the bsnefits but I just can't give up 3-4 hours to detangle and my hair isn't even styled after that. So if anyone knows of a youtuber who has kinky hair and finger detangles, send me the link please. Thanks.

  • Erica S says:

    I've tried the no-comb method and I LOVE it! I think it's easier and less damaging to my hair. I'm also noticing I'm not losing as much hair. For those that are willing to give it a try, I would suggest also considering washing (or cowashing if that's your thing) while your hair is in sections. I do 4 sections and I wash or cowash each section and pin it back up. This has almost eliminated my detangling process, which has also made finger detangling before I DC MUCH easier.

    One thing I would say is that if you're into twistouts or bantu knots, then I would say a wide-tooth comb would be better than finger-combing. It just provides better definition in the twistouts.

  • Garner says:

    I enjoy finger detangling, combing, and smoothing as well. I have used all types of combs and differing sizes of Denman brushes with good results but still had some shredding of ends. I never thought I would be able to do this without my hair looking a mess…lol, however I was wrong. Using your fingers and smoothing definitely decreases damage and defines the curls. Love your Blog, Dawn!!! 🙂

    Those you tube video's helped me as well. Jess (Mahoganycurls) has a good one also.

  • tespriggs says:

    I did just finger detangling for about 3 months, and I liked it, I felt like I got better curls, and it was easier. Recently I said let me try to comb it out to make sure I fully detangle, and I was not too much a fan on the comb detangling- my hair didn't act right, but I did feel like it did a better job at detangling my hair. So now I am going to try once a month comb detangling and finger detangle the rest of the time and see how that does.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have BSL 4b hair, and I have been finger combing for a little over a year now. I was scared that it was going to cause my hair to knot up, but it hasn't. Also, like many others have said, I can feel the knots with my fingers and ease my hair out of them, rather than rip through my hair with a comb. This method has reduced my breakage to almost nothing.

  • Candace4life says:

    Hey ladies check out this delicious black male on this video, and it's actually very good. Titled "NATURAL HAIR: IT'S A SPORT" from Sjsafety18 youtuber.

  • Naturally Darlin says:

    I've just begun my comb-free journey 2 weeks ago and have noticed a considerable difference in my hair. My curls finally have the pop that I knew my hair was capable of.

  • Shake says:

    Excellent finger detangling tutorial!!!!

  • Raquell says:

    I've been comb-free from around the same time as well. My scalp and curls seem to be happy 🙂

  • Dawn Michelle @ Minimalist Beauty says:

    This was so much fun reading all of your comments ladies! Finger detangling my hair dry was a marathon. Now that my hair has consistent moisture and I'm finger detangling my hair wet with conditioner it is pretty simple and doesn't take any longer than when I was using a wide tooth comb. The only difference is that I'm not experiencing the intense breakage as before. Wishing all of you a healthy hair journey!

  • Anonymous says:

    Would it be better to figure detangle with shorter or longer hair? I have shorter hair (awkward stage between a twa and a baa). I'm thinking about this because even when my hair is wet or slathered with conditioner, I experience breakage from using a comb or my denman. But a style I like doing frequently is cornrows on the side with a roller set (faux mohawk).

  • Anonymous says:

    Like Asea (Anon 3/7 3:30 pm) I have tight type-4 coils that shrink to between 1/4 and 1/2 of their length. When my hair was TWA-short I never used a comb — I always finger-detangled, mostly co-washed, and wore WNGs exclusively — and my hair did amazingly well. Now that my hair is longer I'm doing a modified version of this same routine. The modifications are:

    – Finger-detangle damp with conditioner, put in 8 sections
    – Rinse the conditioner out
    – Smooth in leave-in, air-dry in 8 large twists

    It's not my goal to get every single shed hair out in the first step; it's enough to get most of them out. Whatever's left manages to come out in the last 2 steps. Because I want to preserve my coils, I don't need to have every individual strand separated. I realize it's counterintuitive but it saves a lot of time and I haven't had to deal with any mats yet. I do this twice a week so maybe that's why.

  • Johanna says:

    I have no idea how people have the patients to do this. I have tried and start doing it but I have so much hair and is so thick I just feel like I would be doing my hair for hours if I did this.

  • Anonymous says:

    I swear by finger detangling! Have been finger detangling for 6 months now- hair is growing in thicker and finally reached waist length stretched- my hair is super coily 4a and I could never grow it past bra-strap length.

  • LM says:

    The thought of maybe getting rid of these fairy knots may be enough to get me to really consider finger detangling. However, it takes me forever to detangle with a wide tooth comb so I am not eager to increase that time. I am a college student who has way too much to do to add an extra 3 or 4 hours to an already 4 hour washing routine. Doesn't sound appealing at all. I do a combination of finger and comb detangling that works fine for me.

  • Anonymous says:

    I tried and it was just a little too painful for me, but then again im not that patient either. A wide tooth double detangling comb works wonders for me with only a few strands of hair loss.

  • Candace4life says:

    FYI: those who are interested in the "As I Am Hair products". I just found out they will be sold at Walgreens as well for some of their products.


    I've tried finger detangling and it wasn't that bad. I just brought a different wide tooth comb and will be trying that out as well on my hair.

    But also check out this gorgeous young girl with all of this hair on youtube named "Razorempress".

  • Anonymous says:


    Ok, that's a bit dramatic, lol, but never combing my hair has improved the overall condition of my coils. I haven't used a comb in almost 6 months… I have 4 type tight tiny coils, and my hair is super duper fine and medium density. Knots and breakage were a constant issue for me. The first time was a disaster. But trial and error delivered! My method:

    1. I 'dry' detangle with lots of oil. My hair is quite porous and so saturating with water or conditioner only adds to the tangles.
    2. SMOOTHING. This is the truth! Constantly smooth your hands down the length of your strands during washing, conditioning, detangling, etc, has helped me so much.
    3. Water pressure – I remember Curly Nikki mentioning this in a past post. When I wash after my oil treatment I may still find a few tangles. I do a lot of smoothing and run each small section directly under the flow and it's amazing how it helps!! Now that my hair is getting longer the weight of the abosrbed water makes this method even more effective.

    We all have unique strands and I wish my hair were 'tougher' but it's not. My coils like to do their own thing and not be seperated, brushed, pulled, combed or raked through. I just had to face the facts LOL.

    Good Luck!! 🙂 Asea

  • Anonymous says:

    I've tried finger detangling, and honestly saw NO difference in my hair as compared to combing with a widetooth comb.

    I think the reason why is that I always keep my hair well moisturized and don't over manipulate.
    I am mostly fine 3c with a few 3b and 4a patches (if that matters to anyone weighing in).

    Although, I do feel that my hair needs a comb through from time to time (to look best groomed), I often will fingercomb in the shower during conditioning. Using a comb is definitely faster for me, but finger detangling doesn't require that much more time. Increased shedding, for me, is based primarily (and almost solely) on level of hair moisture.

  • Grown Ass Woman says:

    I've been finger detangling for months and I actually can't go back (lol!). I was in a rush last week and thought I'd use a comb during my conditioning routine and it was a no go! I noticed hair was coming out and it was taking longer than just doing it with my fingers, so I gave up and went back to finger detangling. I do it on wet hair, once a week during my wash and conditioning routine, I tension blow dry on low heat, and then I dont mess with it until the next week. I told my sister the other day that I cant use none of the combs or brushes I have on my hair no more and she couldn't believe it (neither could I), but it has been best for my hair and I am beyond happy that I went this route.

  • Anonymous says:

    You guys are making me jealous! I was "combless" for about 4 weeks while on the Curly Girl method and I hated it because my curls always looked a mess afterward, but now I'm rethinking it. I guess I'll give it another try.

  • Pecancurls says:

    I think I am a 4b. I have been finger detangling since cutting off the last permed ends in sept. I do it with conditioner, leave in. Works great, not many tangles

  • DiscoveringNatural says:

    I have been finger detangling now for a month. I do this with both my daughters. I totally love it. I do it wet with conditioner. I have not tried to do it dry. However, I do a monthly comb session, maybe I should take this out since I don't think it helps much.

  • WMH says:

    I stopped using a comb while detangling my hair more than a year ago now. Best move I've ever made. My hair detangles much easier using my fingers and I can't remember the last time that I saw or felt fairy knots on my end. Also, I find that I detangle much faster with my fingers than I do with the wide tooth comb.

    Routine (every 4-7 days depending on the weather):
    Shampoo scalp, saturate hair with conditoner and separate into 4 sections…then detangle each section thoroughly by separating small pieces of hair and smoothing it out from root to tip. Takes me about 20-25 minutes to do my entire head. For reference, I'm a 4a with near waist length hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have put the comb away also since Jan. 2012. I finger detangle on dry hair with oil before washing hair. I wash hair in about 8 twists. So far I have seen less breakage. I was also afraid my hair would loc from not combing my hair, but this has not happen. It takes longer to do my hair but my goal is to retain length so it is worth it.
    From Unique4me

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm 4b and I have been finger detangling exclusively for 2 years. It takes longer, but for me it is worth it. Finger detangling on dry hair take much longer than on wet hair, but it has its benefits (a fluffy and more stretched look that doesn't tangle back up as easily). Lately, I have been wearing my hair in twists, washing and retwisting weekly but finger detangling every few weeks. I like the look better, I retain more length, and I save some time.

  • Annabel says:

    I haven't fully committed to finger detangling. I wash my hair in sections and gently detangle with a wide tooth comb once a week. For me the issue is time, takes me 20 minutes now and I'm not ready to detangle for 2 hours… your hair is gorgeous by the way!

  • Sherri says:

    Any 4b's try this? I can go w/o combing between shampoos but that's only about 7-10 days.

  • Mauve_Avenger says:

    i might give this a shot. but this means i'm going to have to learn more patience.


  • Emily CottonTop says:

    I am now comb free myself, its been over 4 weeks….I decided to try it on a whim.. and well it works..

  • Anonymous says:

    Been comb free since 2009 and I haven't looked back.

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