How to Comb Natural Hair Correctly

*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?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


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86 thoughts on “How to Comb Natural Hair Correctly

  1. I have really tightly coiled 4a/b hair and when my hair was shorter, I was able to detangle with just conditioner and a denman. Since I got past APL, detangling has gotten pretty difficult and the only way I can get the shed hair out now is to do it in 2 stages: first, I have to fingercomb from the bottom on up under running water and then I get to add condish & use my magic star rake. I find that I get more knots if I just slap on some conditioner and go straight at it with a comb.

  2. Pingback: un'ruly | combing natural hair

  3. can someone explain the hair bulbs? are they good or bad because from my own understanding, I thought hair bulbs are shown when hair comes directly out of the scalp/is pulled out of the scalp and so I thought they were what you don’t want to see?! hashtagconfused!!

    • Hair bulbs are what you want to see. Breakage on the other hand is where small pieces of hair breaking off. But actually you have different lengths of breakage hair with split ends and that’s what you don’t want. 50-100 will automatically shedd that is normally. But if more is coming out then you should become concern and treat the hair. Hope this helps ?!

  4. 1. Conditioning hair:
    – It’s all about texture. Use a good detangling conditioner/leave-in conditioner. Make sure you hair is moisturized and has a slippery texture before combing (to avoid breakage). This is key.
    – Periodically, use a conditioning treatment to restore moisture, like hot oil (any combo of: coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, avocado oil for an hour, once a month). Coconut and olive oil can be bought from the grocery store. Place oils in a container (like a bowl) and place container in hot water until oils warm. Add a few spoons of tea tree oil to help control dandruff.
    2. Combining:
    -Use a “wide tooth rat tail comb” (short wide teeth, with long handle for leverage), short teeth help release hair, so hair doesn’t get pulled out or broken if stuck in a tangle.
    – section hair, comb bottom to top, 2 inches at a time.
    3. Drying:
    For long hair: Best to do your hair at night, I wrap semi twisted sections of detangled damp hair, sleep on it (with a towel on my pillow), then finish drying in the morning. I use a diffuser on a hand dryer, portable hood dryer, or air dry.
    4. Take your time.
    – It takes me 3 hours each wash to pre-comb, shampoo, condition, detangle (30min), dry and style.

  5. Pingback: How I Comb My TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) | The Kink and I

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