*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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87 Comments on "How to Comb Natural Hair Correctly"

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Beneath the Clutter

Great Post!

My hair is difficult to comb in the shower. What helps me is using oil to remove the shed hair prior to washing and doing a pre-poo the night before. Also, before I detangle with the comb, I make sure to finger comb and separate individual strands at the root as much as possible. The root and first 2-3 inches of hair closet to the scalp always seem more tangled than the ends!

The Natural Haven

Thank you!

I also detangle before washing, my method is exactly like mangomadness described above. We are both comb free though.

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… 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 (TM) 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… 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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