Many naturalistas start off their hair journeys by cutting off their relaxed strands. As they rock their TWAs
with pride, many begin to crave length shortly after and there is
absolutely nothing wrong with that. Natural hair bloggers, the web over,
are proving coily hair can grow just as long as any other hair texture.
One of my biggest secrets to my long, Type 4 hair is simply focusing on the basics: moisturizing, sealing,
and protective styling. However, I know that for many Type 4 naturals,
this process involves an understated fourth aspect: detangling.
Detangling is the process of gently separating the strands to remove any
knots and shed hair. Since our strands tend to form very intricate
tangles and knots, this process for many naturals is easier said than
done. However, in order to retain length, it is important that we learn
to embrace and manage them. Here are six essential detangling tips that I have picked up along my four-year journey:
Start with stretched hair
Whatever you do, do not try to detangle a shrunken fro. You might end
up in tears or maybe even with a pair of scissors. A dry shrunken fro
is a detangling disaster. If you have worn your hair in a stretched
style, it’s best that you detangle your hair in that state before
saturating it with water. Stretched hair is easier to handle because our
coils and curls are slightly looser at this point. You can stretch your
hair using two strand twists or plaits. You might even try the banding method or African threading technique. Remember, stretched hair is less prone to breakage and single strand knots (ssk) or fairy knots.
Section your hair into 6-8 parts
This is an important follow-up to part one. If you’ve worn your hair
in a stretched out style, simply unbraid and detangle each section
before moving on to the next. If you’ve been rocking a stretched out
fro, you probably want to gently use your fingers to section your hair
into 6-8 parts. Braid up each section and hold it back with hair tie or a
few bobby pins. When you are done, take down one braid, and completely
detangle it before moving on. This not only ensures that each section is
completely detangled, but also preserves your sanity.
Apply an emollient-based product
Now, there’s lots of sway among naturalistas on this particular
aspect of detangling. Some naturalistas rave about detangling products
that add slip to their hair and melt away knots. These detangling
products vary in composition, but most are water based. Other
naturalistas say that a light oil will do the trick. I have found that
whether water or oil based, adding product to my hair greatly aids my
detangling process. I simply apply olive oil along the length of my
slightly damp hair and proceed to detangle it. I leave the olive oil on
overnight to serve as my pre-poo. I wouldn’t advocate for dry detangling, as the friction between my hair and my fingers causes unnecessary damage and breakage.
Use your fingers first
There is a vast array of combs and detangling brushes available
releasing knots. I have opted to use my trusty ol’ fingers. Brushes
cause too much friction and prominent seams in combs can cause excessive
damage. My fingers are more than enough when it comes to regular
detangling. Detangling using my fingers takes longer than raking a comb
through my hair, but it helps me to retain length. If I must use combs
on my hair, I only do so monthly or quarterly.
Start from ends
This is absolutely crucial. The ends of our hair are the most
delicate and prone to damage because they are the oldest. It is critical
that you nurture your ends if you are serious about length retention.
Remember, the oldest parts of our hair have suffered lots of mechanical
damage already from simple wear and tear, so treat them like silk. Do
not forget to moisturize and seal regularly with a moisturizer and oil
or butter of your choice.
Detangling is a time-consuming affair. Make sure you allocate
adequate time. It takes me two hours to fully detangle my waist length
hair from tip to root. I fully detangle my hair once a fortnight,
depending on my protective styling routine. On detangling days, I make
sure I have my stash of movies on hold – this makes an otherwise
exhausting process, more enjoyable.