single strand knots
single strand knots

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Natural Hair Care: What Are Single Strand Knots?

(Plus, How to Handle and Prevent Them in Curly Hair)

By Jacqueline Samaroo

Single strand knots often go by a much more endearing name – fairy knots. Make no mistake, however, there is nothing fanciful or amusing about them! On the contrary, they can be quite annoying and can actually cause real damage to your natural hair.

What are single strand knots?

A single strand knot is the result of a single strand of hair knotting around itself. You can feel a single strand knot as a tiny bead or ball when you run your fingers along a strand that has one. These knots can form anywhere along a strand but are commonly found near the end.

Why are single strand knots dangerous?

It’s very tempting to rip our single strand knots when we come across them. However, this causes inevitable damage to our hair. Single strand knots can also

  • Cause the hair shaft to split if they are pulled tightly.
  • Lead to bigger knots as more strands get tangled in them.
  • Make detangling difficult so you end up pulling too much on your hair and damaging it.
  • Result in enough breakage to mimic a more severe kind of hair loss.

How do single strand knots form?

Naturally curly hair, especially tighter textures, has the tendency to wrap around itself. This can cause an individual strand to loop and tie itself into a knot – a true single strand knot.

Other tiny knots also tend to form in curly hair when one strand gets tied by another. There are also cases in which strands you naturally shed get caught up in your curls. These shed hairs can then end up tied to growing strands.

What causes single strand knots?

There are several ways in which single strand knots form and not all of them are preventable.

  • They can form during the usual brushing, combing, and styling of your hair.
  • Scarves, scrunchies, headbands, and hair bonnets rubbing on your strands can cause them, too. Pillowcases and the inner lining of your hats can be culprits, too.
  • Manipulation of extra dry hair can also lead to an increase in the number of your single strand knots.
  • Hair that has breakage and split ends is also more prone to single strand knots than healthy hair.

What should you do about fairy knots?

Single strand knots can be maddening. There isn’t a whole lot you can do, however, about the ones you already have.

Snipping off the knot is usually the way to go. But, you should do so with an abundance of caution. Use sharp hair cutting shears NOT dull, regular household or paper scissors. Dull scissors will create jagged, split ends and all the issues that come along with them, including more fairy knots!

How can you prevent single strand knots?

The following tips will help to reduce the number of single strand knots you experience. They are also good for the general health and upkeep of your curly tresses.

  • Carefully detangle your hair before you shampoo it. Fairy knots are more likely to form knots when it is already tangled around itself then gets wet.
  • Smooth sections of your hair between the palms of your hands when shampooing instead of rubbing your hair around in all directions. This helps to stop tangles from forming.
  • Keep wash and go’s to a minimum. Often wearing your hair loose increases the chances of developing single strand knots.
  • Do regular conditioning and deep conditioning of your hair. This will help to keep it moisturized and supple. Also, consider oil rinsing to hydrate and moisturize your strands.
  • Maintain the protein-moisture balance of your hair. You can read more about it in our article Natural Hair Care: Protein and Hair – 7 Questions Answered.
  • Oil and seal your ends to protect them from spitting and making strands more prone to knotting.
  • Protect your strands while you sleep by wearing a silk or satin scarf or bonnet. You can also ditch your regular cotton pillowcase for a silk or satin one.
  • silk scrunchiesThink silk and satin, too, for your hair accessories, such as scarves, scrunchies, headbands, hair bonnets, and the inner linings of hats.

Slip Silk Skinnie Scrunchies

  • Get regular trimmings to help you manage split ends and the dangers they cause, including pesky fairy knots.

Have you encountered single strand knots? Share your own tips for dealing with them!