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Curly Nikki

It’s Not Impossible…Here’s How to Detangle the Worst Knots

By November 4th, 202325 Comments
Detangle the Worst Knots
by Samantha Berley via NaturallyCurly

Sometimes something as simple as skipping a wash can knot up your hair like ropes on a sail. It’s not the greatest situation, especially if you want that healthy sheen. Knots can drag you down, but there are plenty of ways to defeat these hairy foes. With a little patience and a bit of time, detagling those nasty hair knots is as easy as ABC.

Preventing Knots with ABC

  • APPLY conditioner and lots of it to de-knot. There are directions on the back of every conditioner bottle, but the longer your hair, the more you need. Work the conditioner from root to tip, making sure it’s evenly coated. If your hair is particularly curly or coily, try leaving it on for an extra couple of minutes.
  • Detangle BEFORE you get into the shower. This little trick of the trade makes it easier to work through both a shampoo and a conditioner. What’s more, you can find the small knots beforehand so you’ll spend less time de-knotting your hair in the shower by working on any problem spots.
  • COMB thoroughly. Once you’re out of the shower, apply a leave-in conditioner or whatever product you prefer and use a medium or wide tooth comb. Spend time working your way through your hair while it’s still wet, again working on possible problem spots that may appear.

There are plenty of other options to prevent knots. Placing hair in braids or a silk scarf before bed will prevent friction and tangles. You can also use detangling in-shower products and conditioning treatments. If you’re taking all precautions, you should succeed in preventing bad tangles.


That being said, sometimes all the preventative measures in the world won’t stop knots from forming. It’s a sad truth, but in this case there’s no time for tears. Literally, the longer you wait, the worse a knot gets. The sooner you untangle the beast, the better. Here are some steps to help you in the battle against knots.

  1. Find the tangle or tangles. Work your fingers through your hair, pinpointing the problem area.
  2. Hold the knot in question with one hand. You should get a feel for the knot to better de-knot, and if possible, what it looks like. The more you know about how it’s knotted and where, the better chance of success with your hair.
  3. Comb your fingers through the knot as much as possible while holding the knot. If you can loosen hair from it, try to pull it out of the knot without breaking the strands of hair.

Tip: If you cannot loosen the knot whatsoever or the knot is fairly large, wet your hair before proceeding to step 4.

  1. Apply hair conditioner, hand lotion, warm olive oil, or a special detangler product to de-knot. All have been proven to work towards detangling anything from a minor snarl to a massive rats nest.
  2. Finger comb the product through your hair and let the conditioning item sit for a few minutes.
  3. Gently comb your hair with a medium or wide tooth comb. Avoid pulling your hair and roughly working the comb through your hair. This can lead to breakage and more knots in the future.

The Worst Knots

If it seems not even the best TLC is cutting it, you may have to cut that knot out of your life. But don’t de-knot it yourself, especially if it’s is toward the back of your head. Sometimes the knot is so severe that it’s time to take a trip to the hair salon. A stylist should have the professional know-how to cure whatever hair disaster ails you. And if there is no cure, they have the talent to create the perfect, albeit somewhat shorter style just for you.

Do you have any secrets for staying virtually knot-free or getting the knots out of your curls?

CN Says: 

I do a little pre-shower finger detangling using coconut oil before hopping in the shower to do the real work. Once in the shower I wet my hair and then smoosh in ALL the conditioner. All. The. Conditioner. Like half a bottle (just kidding, so serious). I run my head back under the water stream to help activate the slip. I then let it marinate while I shower. Finally, I gently finger detangle under the shower stream with my fingers and follow up with my bass wooden brush for any trouble spots. Your 10 digits, a super slippery conditioner (Aussie moist) and a powerful shower stream is the key to a successful detangling session.

Even More Tips from the CN Team:1. Prep Your Hair: Before you dive into the detangling adventure, make sure your hair is properly prepped. Start by saturating your hair with a good leave-in conditioner or a detangling spray. This step is crucial because it helps soften your strands and makes the knots more manageable.

2. Divide and Conquer: Trying to tackle a massive knot all at once can be overwhelming and lead to hair breakage. Instead, divide your hair into smaller sections. This approach makes it easier to focus on one area at a time and prevents further tangling.

3. Finger Detangling: Start the detangling process by using your fingers. Gently work your fingers through the tangled area, starting from the tips and working your way up to the roots. Be patient and gentle to avoid unnecessary hair damage.

4. Detangling Tools: If your fingers alone aren’t doing the trick, it’s time to bring in some detangling tools. A wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush with flexible bristles can work wonders. Always start with the ends and work your way up, using a gentle, downward motion.

5. Apply More Product: If you encounter stubborn knots, don’t hesitate to apply more detangling product. The extra slip will help your comb or brush glide through the tangles more smoothly. You can also add a bit of oil to further reduce friction.

6. Be Patient: Detangling can be time-consuming, especially if your knots are particularly nasty. Remember to be patient with your hair and yourself. Rushing through the process can lead to damage and even more knots in the long run.

7. Snip Away Wisely: In some cases, knots may be too severe or damaged to save. If you find a knot that’s impossible to detangle, don’t be afraid to trim it away. It’s better to have healthy, knot-free hair than to hold onto damaged strands.

8. Work in Small Sections: If your entire head is a knot-filled battlefield, tackle it one section at a time. This approach helps you maintain your sanity and ensures thorough detangling without causing excessive stress on your hair.

9. Gentle Moisture: If your knots are dry and stubborn, try applying a moisturizing mask or deep conditioner. Let it sit for a while to soften the knots and make them easier to work through.

10. Prevention is Key: The best way to deal with tough knots is to prevent them from forming in the first place. Regularly moisturize and condition your hair, sleep on a satin pillowcase or wear a satin bonnet to reduce friction, and avoid excessive manipulation.

This article was originally published in June 2012 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.


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  • Anonymous says:

    this is just what i do. as soon as i get out of the shower i grab my wet brush and comb. then i brush through all f my hair like i would with out the snarles and knots. then i spray it with my UNITE 7 seconds detangler/leave in conditioner. then i take a brush through and seperate the parts of my hair that i can get a brush through with no snarles from the parts thats really bad. next i tie up my hair that has no snarles. then i brush through the really snarly knoted parts. hope that helped. 🙂

  • Kim L. McFadden says:

    There's a lot of blanket advice out there for growing and detangling your hair. Frequently these articles advise using Coconut Oil.
    Warning:for low porosity curlies. Stay away from coconut oil! Because the cuticle structure of your strands are closed so tight in your hair. Coconut oil will not help moisturize your hair. In fact it will lock moisture out and can actually cause breakage when attempting to detangle. The result being that it will make your stands look and feel like straw.

  • Stacy says:

    I run into problems when I wear my hair out. Thanks for the great suggestions.

  • beenawink says:

    I really appreciate this article and the comments. I have found that protective styling greatly reduced knots in my hair. But, as you all know, sometimes knots sneak in anyhow! Thanks to Janell M for sharing how you apply your faith to your hair care. I had gotten away from that.

  • runningnatural says:

    I discovered some time ago that using a SAFETY PIN to get to the center of the knot and gently pull from there allows for me to unravel the knot. This takes time and patience but its soooo worth it. Before I used to cut them out! Now I feel like I'm saving my hair, one knot at a time!

  • Janell M. says:

    When I encounter knots, I generously apply organic extra virgin coconut oil to the area, allow it to sit for a minute or so, the I say a prayer for patience and ask for the knot to be detangled. When I encounter single strand knots, I apply the same oil, pray and then gently use a dental pic to release the knot. It works like a charm! Since practicing these techniques, I have lost very little hair whereas I used to find myself cutting knots out all of the time and being unable to retain a significant amount of length. My hair is now healthier, more even and about an inch away from bra strap length when straightened. I love the proverb that says, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path." I find this to be fitting for all aspects of my life including my healthy hair journey. I've been given patience and direction through this entire process and I know that to only be through Divine guidance. try it for yourself! You won;t be disappointed! 🙂

  • JoJoFree says:

    Sorry for my bad spelling! My detangling sessions are a breeze because of henna!

  • JoJoFree says:

    Eventhogh I get SSKs periodically and try to keep my hair conditioned, my set angling sessions are a breeze because of henna! Henna has kept my hair strong and tangle free.

  • freddy says:

    i admit i get really lazy with de tangling, simply i just get annoyed with my hair, and when i de tangle then i loose all my clumps. then i just get a massive fizz ball. i do try to finger comb in the shower though, this helps with the worst of the knots. when i do i use a wide tooth comb. i normally wear my hair out in WnG's, cause also i get lazy "doing" my hair. so i try to do as little to it as i can. i wouldnt mind to try a whole month of protective styling though. i tried this for 3 or 4 days, then got annoyed at how long it took. so back to normal.

  • Annabel says:

    I rarely get SSK or tangles. I detangle once per week and try to leave my hair alone and not manipulate it too much. This has helped me. Detangling generally takes me 3 – 5 minutes 1 x per week. Additionally, deep treatments make detangling sessions easier.

  • LBell says:

    Shelli beat me to it: I was going to say, "Never underestimate the value of a small pointy object."

    I rarely get knots that require the safety pin though. Most times I'm able to work them out with just a little tender patience. Oddly, I find adding product hinders rather than helps.

    Note that I'm not talking about SSKs. Those come with the territory (of longer kinky-coily hair) and I refuse to get hung up over them.

  • Anonymous says:

    If I have had my hair in a natural style for over a week, I will apply an overnight oil masque & a shower cap, then wash my hair in the morning. I only comb my hair in the shower with a STRONG spray of water, tip to root. I do not comb outside of the shower at all, I finger-style.

  • DeAndra says:

    Beautiful girl, beautiful hair! 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Perhaps maybe I am doing it all wrong. I pre poo, i detangle and I wear Protected styles and my 'kitchen' is ridden with fairy knots/SSKs and it just tangles. I am not quite as diligent as I could be with cvering my head every night. Even though i have a satin pillow case I feel like my hair ends up on the sheets.
    Perhaps I am not using the right products (I feel my inner PJ awaking) Maybe i need more silicone based products for more slip so i don't get knots.

    I considered a S&D but i'm afraid of uneveness, have you ladies experienced any uneveness with S&D's??


  • Anonymous says:

    Still transitioning but what works for me is SILICONE products…with silicone laden products I get no knots in my 9 months post relaxer hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    I get knots in the summer because my hair dries out so quickly because of the Las Vegas heat so I have to moisturize everyday. I also work at my college at their preschool at Unlv, the little girls tell me I like your hair especially when I wear my hair out and down. A little girl today tried to tie pieces of my hair together I told her stop I don't like that, this is what we tell the children to say to other children who are bothering them. That is why I really do not wear my hair down at work… straight or curly. I know I am going to have knots,but I will be gental first start with finger detangling on damp hair then adding large amounts of conditioner and using a wide tooth comb and a denmen brush after to make sure the hair is smooth and there is no more knots.

    Megan Montgomery

  • hairscapades says:

    I agree with all three bullets and practice, except #3 I do with my fingers, most often. This past wash day though, I returned to the wide tooth comb to comb through my leave-in before styling a WnG. I felt like I prefer the finger detangle as my curls were more clumped and I could have been more gentle with the ends.

    A few things that I have found work for me to reduce tangles and help removing the knots that I do find during my pre-poo routine are:

    1) I twist or braid my hair after pre-pooing w/Vatika oil alone or, my new fave, Vatika OIl mixed with Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose or GPB conditioner. I keep my hair in the twists while shampooing (I use DevaCare No Poo most often). This combo seems to make my hair like butter and detangling a breeze!!

    2) When I encounter a "matted" knot," I massage the knot with my fingers to loosen it, then, I slide the knot UP to loosen it, rather than DOWN. For me, I find that down seems to tighten most knots, where sliding it up loosens it so that I can gently remove the strands from the central knot.

    3) If I have a knot where I can tell it's not super tight and/or, I've been able to loosen it enough so that I can tell that it's not a hard knot, I use a safety pin to widen the opening so that I can slide the strands out. I do this for single strand knots that haven't completely closed too. This is tricky in that the knot has to be a little loose. If it's tight, I don't bother as I believe that the safety pin will end up poking and damaging the strand, which means that it'll eventually knot again, break or split. So, again, I reserve this for knots that have a little "space" with which to work.

    4) Usually, I am able to remove all bad tangles this way or, at least free all but two hairs. I might have one shed strand knotted towards the very end of a strand securely attached to my scalp. That's when I will break out the scissors to cut off the knot a little above where it is secured.

    Michelle (Radiant Brown Beauty), I think I feel a post coming on too!!! LOL!!


  • Anonymous says:

    To keep most of the knots out of my hair I will wear twist for about 4-5 days & moisturize my hair every 2 days. After I take the twist out I usually do a bun until wash day. This method usually keeps my knots at bay, but not always so I have to make sure that I'm in a good mood for doing hair when removing them.

    Brooke B.

  • Eboni says:

    Keeping my hair separated in twists or braids helps to prevent knots from developing in my hair. But alas SOME do get the sneaky chance to form in my hair, lol. In those cases, I take the knot in one hand, and gently tug each strand from that knot until the knot itself falls out. In the end, the huge knot turns out to be very small.

    Additionally I dust my ends (search & destroy method if you will) which also helps my ends from getting all tangled 🙂

  • Dana says:

    I try to prevent them but yet….they develop; such is life! I do try the methods described in the article and they work about half the time. Unfortunately, I don't have the patience and end up pulling or cutting them out. WRONG! I know, I know.

    This article just reminded me to do better 😉

  • Anonymous says:

    I got a few hardcore knots once! There were about 3 of them and it took me a good 45+ mins to work them out of my hair; conditioner and finger combing. I immediately took to the boards and that's when I first learned about shed hair and how pre-pooing can help get rid of a good amount of it BEFORE washing your hair. It might take a little more time at the front of my weekly wash/condition routine, but its totally worth it!

  • Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty says:

    Fortunately I get knots very rarely but when I do I follow a lot of what you recommend.

    I also think it's a good idea to practice habits that PREVENT knots from occurring in the first place like:

    Never sleeping on loose hair

    Oiling the hair to keep the slip going before it's time to wash

    Keeping the hair moisturized.

    Hey, i think I feel a blog post coming on LOL

  • supermomplace says:

    oh and one other thing… although low manipulation styles are great for retention, but I find that the longer I leave my hair in a style the more knots and tangles I get. even with my tuck n pin I try to take them down o the 4th day run my finger thru it, re-moisturize tuck n pin.

    my daughters are the same way i put their hair in twist but have to either take them down after a week or do a re-twist re-moisturize after 4 or 5 days. one time I pushed for 2 weeks I had to snip almost all her ends 🙁

  • supermomplace says:

    Sometimes I think theres a little girl scout practicing knot tying in my hair.

    maybe I lack patience, I dunno but it seem my knots are always on the cut it out spec. I have not succesfully remove a knot from my hair without cutting. whith that say I stay away from WnG. I found that the closest I get to staying knot free is when my hair is in a tuck an pin styles. if I do wear a TO or BO for church or a special accasion the minute I get home I roll it up tuck n pin. this seems to work for me.

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