*This arti­cle was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2011. It was re-post­ed as part of our ‘Best of 2011’ Series

By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven

If you are yearn­ing to have a larg­er than life afro or hair that hangs down to your waist, then you must pay atten­tion to both your comb and comb­ing tech­nique. Length reten­tion starts with elim­i­nat­ing hair break­age and comb­ing is the pri­ma­ry rea­son why curly and kinky hair breaks.

Do you have the right skills, tools and tech­niques?

1. Section hair

Nat­u­ral hair, curly or coily tends to have a lot of vol­ume. Make your life easy by cre­at­ing man­age­able sec­tions- 4 to 8 usu­al­ly works but with thick­er or longer hair even more sec­tions may be bet­ter. Very short hair (under 4 inch­es) gen­er­al­ly does not require sec­tions. Use hair bands or clips to keep the hair under con­trol and if you have tight curls or major shrink­age con­sid­er loose­ly braid­ing or twist­ing the sec­tions and wash­ing them in this way.

2. Comb wet or comb dry?

Break­age is like­ly to hap­pen whether hair is combed wet or dry and the method you choose is real­ly a ques­tion of pref­er­ence and ease. Break­age dur­ing wet comb­ing is because although hair is very flex­i­ble, its strength and abil­i­ty to resist the force applied from comb­ing is at its low­est. Con­verse­ly, when hair is dry, it is at its strongest but it lacks flex­i­bil­i­ty and there­fore is like­ly to snap. The ide­al con­di­tion for comb­ing would there­fore be when hair is most­ly dry (about 80%) so that it is strong and pli­able.  How­ev­er, no mat­ter what your pref­er­ence, con­sid­er using some hair con­di­tion­er to increase slip and help reduce dam­age.

3. Finger Combing

Fin­gers are the first and for some the only tool to use. When detan­gling with your fin­gers make sure your nails are smooth and do not snag your hair as you part it. Ide­al­ly try to make use of your fin­ger pads rather than nails to sep­a­rate the strands.

4. Seamless Combs

If you have upgrad­ed to a wide spaced show­er comb well done! The next step up is a seam­less comb which essen­tial­ly has no rough edges. The­se are fair­ly expen­sive in com­par­ison to a reg­u­lar comb but are well worth the invest­ment in the long run.

5. Brushes

If your hair is fine and split end prone, brush­es are best elim­i­nat­ed. How­ev­er, if you have thick­er strands and dense hair, brush­es are a god­send. Brush­ing should come last as the brush bristles are close­ly spaced togeth­er com­pared to oth­er tools (fin­gers and wide spaced combs). The Den­man remains a very pop­u­lar hair brush for nat­u­rals

6. Examine Your Hair

Once you are done comb­ing, exam­ine the hair that you have removed. Pay atten­tion to whether you can see hair bulbs or not. Some peo­ple are strict and want to see that all hair has a bulb. I am more flex­i­ble and would be hap­py with about 60–70%%, accept­ing that my hair is kinky and will always sus­tain some break­age. The one thing that must be cut down on in order to retain length are those tiny lit­tle wisps of hair, those are nev­er good.

Have you tried any of the­se tips and tricks? What tech­niques do you use to cut down on break­age when comb­ing your hair? 

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86 Comments on "How to Comb Natural Hair Correctly"

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Zyaran
Yeah I put some soft and pre­cious detan­gler spray on my hair this works nice­ly. Then just comb the ends out while hold­ing the hair nice and taut. But I don’t comb in my hair every­day or all the time because I’m very ten­der­head­ed, so only when it’s real­ly tan­gled or in need of a trim or wash. I make sure to spray either water/glycerin mix or sta-so-fro in my hair and let it do what she wants. ___________________________________________________ On a side note I saw this cute hair that youtu­ber “Dawnyele” did called Dou­ble Buns & Twists Video. It looks real­ly… Read more »
Krys

I only comb my hair when it’s wet or damp. I can’t imag­ine doing it on dry hair…

I always comb from the end of my hair to the root, once again, I can’t imag­ine doing it the oth­er way.…

LillianMae
This is a great top­ic! It actu­al­ly inspired me for a blog post I’ve been putting off… For me, the right way to comb my hair is from the bot­tom up, in sec­tions, after it’s been deep con­di­tioned. I am still tran­si­tion­ing (15 months in) so at the LoD, my hair is very frag­ile! I am pleased to announce, though, that my hair is still healthy! I attrib­ute that to gen­tly han­dling my hair and only after con­di­tion­er has been applied, with a wide tooth show­er comb (I think it’s the same as the seam­less comb…CVS $1.99). My BFF is… Read more »
CC

As my hair has got­ten longer i’m start­ing to lea towards ditch­ing combs all togeth­er. Any­one who has tried this let me know the results?

fluffy in flight

Haven’t used a comb in years. I have no prob­lems with my hair. I decid­ed to get rid of it because i was los­ing way too much hair, but I fin­ger detan­gle a lot, and since my hands are more sen­si­tive to gnarls, knots and tan­gles, I don’t lose much hair.

Asea
Yes ma’am. My hair is super fine, medi­um den­si­ty and frag­ile and as it’s got­ten longer it needs more TLC. Recent­ly, I’d con­quered my ter­ri­ble fairy knot prob­lem but now now, I was sud­den­ly faced with break­age and split ends like crazy and I start­ed to real­ly get wor­ried! I start­ed fin­ger comb­ing exclu­sive­ly just 2 weeks ago and ITS BEEN A MIRACLE for my hair, already. It does take time in the begin­ning, but as you get more skilled at it, it’s easy. My hair looks, feels, and behaves soooooo much bet­ter! Break­age has decreased tremen­dous­ly, my curls are… Read more »
sheree

heyyyy, very intrigued by the fact that you’ve con­quered the fairy knot…how?

Dolores

I have also given up on combs for the most part. It takes longer, but to me it’s worth it. Recent­ly I have also let go of “thor­ough­ly” detan­gling my hair. My goal is just to remove the shed hairs that come out eas­i­ly and remove major knots/tangles.

ranuka

There’s noth­ing quite like using your fin­gers, my hair gets trapped between the comb and I lose a lot of hair unnec­es­sar­i­ly. Since my fin­gers are more sen­si­tive, i can pick up a knot or tan­gle and believe me using your fin­gers work won­ders because i’m hard­ly los­ing hair, My hair is also a lot thick­er.

mangomadness

I have been fin­ger-detan­gling %100 of the time for a year now. I have expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant­ly less break­age. I also enjoy detan­gling more–especially because I no longer hear “snap, crak­le, pop” dur­ing the process.

The Natural Haven

I have actu­al­ly fin­ger combed exclu­sive­ly for the past two years (except for a two time adven­ture with the hair destroy­er — tan­gle teez­er).

My hair does not deal well with combs or brush­es espe­cial­ly past 9 inch­es. I have to be extra gen­tle with it.

Gem

How exact­ly do you fin­ger detan­gle? I feel like I have to be doing it wrong. I tried it one day and it took 1 hour to get through 1/4 of my hair! Please help.

Candice

Nat­u­ral Chi­ca has a great video on fin­ger detan­gling. It basi­cal­ly con­sists of sec­tion­ing your hair, fin­ger detan­gling with con­di­tion­er and oil, and then wash­ing your hair while in one or two twists. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDIlfCpRyTk

I don’t have a ton of prob­lem with tan­gling so I just fin­ger detan­gle with Shea Mois­ture sham­poo while I’m wash­ing it or with con­di­tion­er if I’m just co-wash­ing.

shoefairy

WHERE CAN I BUY A SEAMLESS COMB???

mangomadness

I’ve heard of peo­ple buy­ing seam­less combs from here: (http://www.hotcombs.net/brands/Magic-Star.html). The Mag­ic Star Jum­bo Rake and Mag­ic mini Super Star Rake Curve are the most pop­u­lar.

tgirl

I have both of the­se combs and they work for me! I have such dense medi­um — fine hair that was get­ting hard­er to untan­gle as it’s passed my shoul­der to bra strap length . For me they were worth every pen­ny! Both are still cheep­er in price than some of the oth­er seam­less combs and brush­es I tried.
Gave both the­se combs away for Christ­mas presents

Annie L.
Hotcombs.net car­ries 4 types of combs/brushes from the same Ger­man man­u­fac­tur­er, they are the Her­cules Sage­mann (HS), Mag­ic Star (MS), Silk­Line (SL) and Tri­umph Mas­ter ™ lines. Only the HS and MS lines are seamless/burr-free and made from 100% rub­ber. The SL and TM lines have seams and are (I think) poly­car­bon­ate. I bought the mini-mag­ic star rake, a wide-toothed comb, and a HS tapered cut­ting comb to cre­ate comb coils.  They’re both firm but flex­i­ble enough for hair and the teeth glide through as smooth as pos­si­ble. I like the extra-wide, round­ed teeth, small size and light weight of the… Read more »
Anon

I have one and it was a major waste of $. The teeth are way too thick and get caught in my hair very eas­i­ly. I’m back to using my Goody’s comb from Tar­get…

The Natural Haven

Or on Ama­zon. You can also find bone combs which tend to be seam­less (not all of them are).

RaeChardonnay

Sally’s should have a decent selec­tion of seam­less combs. I need to pick one up myself!

AB

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they don’t. The online descrip­tion for the few they alleged­ly have are deceiv­ing. I exam­ined them in-store and there are def­i­nite­ly seams on those combs tout­ed as seam­less.

mangomadness

Nice post! I always thought detan­gling should be a main focus for for nat­u­rals because I think it has the poten­tial for dam­ag­ing the hair the most. 

My hair is col­lar­bone length and super coily. I fin­ger-detan­gle stretched, sec­tioned (8 or 10 parts), damp­ened and oiled hair before wash­ing. I also wash in twists. I get very lit­tle break­age and hair­care has nev­er been eas­ier.

Alicia

I did wash my hair in twist but it is hard to get the dirt in between the twist so I stopped doing it. 

Any sug­ges­tions of how I get the dirt out? Please.

mangomadness

Try wash­ing each sec­tion at a time–unravel a twist, sham­poo, rin­se and re-twist.

Lyn

I’ve tried the major­i­ty of the tips. Though, I don’t wash, detan­gle or style my hair in sec­tions. That’s the stubbornness/laziness in me. I’ve noticed that the more my hair grows, the more I need to sec­tion it! Bad!

Good tips!

The Natural Haven

Glad you like! Sec­tion­ing is a knot­ting and tan­gling sav­iour. You are right, the longer your hair grows, the more sec­tions you need :)

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