For many of us, it might as well be a four letter word. Some of us avoid it until our hair is on the brink of disaster, while others may do some form of it a few times a week or even daily. We all know the dangers of pushing detangling sessions too far back — from breakage and matting to cutting out clumps of knots. But what about detangling too frequently? Is there a such thing as doing too much detangling?
There’s an old adage that says, too much of anything is bad for you. By and large, that tends to be true. Detangling is great for releasing shed hairs, making the removal of buildup easier, and not to mention, it is the cornerstone of every fabulous natural hair style. But when done too often, detangling can lead to the following:
Every time we douse our hair in water, the shaft expands to accommodate the uptake in water. As it dries, the shaft contracts and returns to normal. This is a regular thing for all hair, and does not typically cause damage–except for when done in excess. Constant expansion and contraction (from doing daily wash and go’s or daily soaking wet detangling) can cause damage to the cuticles and cortex of the hair, weakening them to the point of premature breakage. This does not mean that you should avoid moisture at all costs — just pull back to spritzes of water or a refresher, or light moisturizers and creams instead of dunking your hair in water. The best way to tell if you have hygral fatigue is to take a few strands of hair the next time you wet it, and pull them gently. If your hair springs right back to its kinky, coily, or curly self, then you’re good to go. If the hair takes a while to retract back (like an overstretched scrunchie), or just breaks in your hand, you’ve got hygral fatigue.
Another pitfall of excessive manipulation via detangling is wear on the cuticles — especially the ends. Every time we touch our hair, we take a little cuticle with us. So even if you’re doing the most gentle, coconut oil-only, 3 hour painstakingly slow detangling session, you’re still causing your hair damage. When done on a regular basis (not excessive), the results should not significantly impact your hair health and length retention. But if your hands are in your hair detangling constantly, expect every move of a comb, fingers, or denman to chip away at the cuticle of your hair. You may not notice it at first, but gradually the ends will begin to thin out and look wiry.
You may even find that your hair is having difficulty retaining moisture, because excessive detangling/combing has led to chipped cuticles along the shaft, causing moisture to be lost. If it’s not too late, cut back on detangling and combing sessions now. To prevent further damage, begin incorporating protein treatments (like Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask, Hydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioner, or ApHogee Curlific Texture Treatment) into your deep conditioning regimen, and use leave-ins with protein (like It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin, and ApHogee Keratin & Green Tea Restructurizer Spray) to help patch up the cuticle.