*This post was originally published on November 2, 2011 but has been updated with new images and information. Check it out.

By Jc of The Natural Haven

Single strand knots (SSKS) or fairy knots are fairly common among naturals especially as hair starts to get longer (usually 6 inches or more). There are two important questions that arise when it comes to managing knots:

What do you do when you find knots?

There are three options

1. Leave them alone
2. Undo them
3.  Cut them

Of these three methods, the one that I would not recommend is leaving them alone. Knots have the ability to create more problems if left alone. Knots create an obstruction around which tangles form. During combing,  hair is also likely to snap above the knot creating rough edges and potential split ends.

If you can unravel a knot, it is perfectly fine to do so, some people have success with the careful use of a needle or by slowly pulling out any hair trapped within a knot. The down side to this is that if you have to poke at the knot several times with a needle  instead of having a clear pathway to unravel, you may end up with damage to the strand.

Trimming directly above the knot is the easiest option and as knots tend to fray the edges of the hair strand as they form, it is also the most effective method of preventing further damage to the hair strand.

How do you prevent knots?

Knots form mainly in free hair which is being manipulated (i.e detangled, combed, brushed or styled). To prevent knots forming there are several strategies to consider.

1. Wash in Sections

Once your hair starts to approach 5-6 inches in length, consider sectioning your hair and washing it in loose braids or twists. This reduces tangling and the likelihood of loops forming in the hair to create knots.

2. Use gentle cleansers that don’t strip natural oils

Of course the intention of washing is to remove excess dirt and oil from the hair. But you don’t want a cleanser that strips the strand entirely, leaving it with a ‘squeaky’ feeling. That feeling means that there are no natural oils on the strand, and the cuticle is raised. The raised cuticles will tangle with each other during the wash process.

3. Increase Protective Styling

As free hair has a greater tendency to form knots, protective style involving twisting or braiding which protect the hair ends are better. This does not mean that you cannot enjoy your free hair but it does mean that if your aim is to grow your hair longer, balance out the time you spend with your hair out with the time you spend with it protected. When your hair is out, choose stretched styles which may also help reduce knot formation.

4. Stretch your Ends

When ends curl up they provide the perfect opportunity for knotting. So, if you’re wearing twists or an ‘out’ style (twist out, bantu knot out, etc), be sure to seal then stretch your ends at night. An easy way to do this is putting in large bantu knots. Just section your hair, apply a dab of shea butter (or your sealing product of choice) to your ends and then roll the sections into large bantu knots. Make sure th entire section — all the way to the ends — gets rolled into the knot. You can also try setting your ends on rollers. When you wake up the next day your ends will be fully stretched, providing no opportunity for knots to form.

5. Special note: Oil rinsing

In natural forums oil rinsing (i.e soaking hair in oil before washing) is credited with knot prevention. I do not have a solid scientific theory or explanation for this, I would think perhaps the oil adds extra slip during the wash which may help the hair strands slide past each other instead of tangling and forming knots.  I do generally like oil rinsing for other reasons, but as this is a commonly discussed knot prevention technique,  I thought I would include it in this article even though there is no direct evidence of its working.

Ladies, how do you deal with fairy knots?

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99 Comments on "5 Ways to Eliminate Fairy Knots"

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Mai

My fairy knots were the direct result of scab hair, so when I cut my hair and got rid of my scab hair, mine became almost non-existent. Of course, not every natural believes in scab hair, so my fairy knots are a mystery, lol.

MrsCottonCurls

I’ve never heard of scab hair…what’s that?

Delightbunnie

Thank you for posting this! I had a huge problems with knots lately (well before I trimmed my hair).

I will try out these tips.

Ami

why not just pull it out? its one hair right?

Jo Somebody

I too pull the hair out, but only when I can’t find my scissors. I pull from the root and slide out all the hair that’s tangled in the knotted hair first. I don’t think I’m damaging adjacent hairs, not sure why they’d be affected.

The Natural Haven

Ahh – you get a wrist slap for that ami. You should not snap knots (or your hair in general). Using a scissor gives you a clean cut edge which does not tend to fray or split. Snapping the knot gives you a fibrillated end which is a nice way to start split ends.

cygnet
Pull off one knot, damage one hair. Pull off 10 knots, damage 10 hairs. Pull off 1000 . . . get it :-)? When you break them off like that, you’re doing the same thing that your comb would do if the knot got caught in it. Or the same thing that knot can potentially cause to happen to adjacent hairs if those hairs get caught on it. That’s why you’re supposed to snip them off. If you’re not going to do that, it’s probably better if you just leave them there, or so I think. Do understand, I’m not… Read more »
Amayou

When I finally found out what they are, I decide to Seach and destroy and cut mine out right above the knot. I am now also doing oil rinses when I take down my 2 strand twists.

T. Fluff

I have to google oil rinsing but it sounds expensive and oily. lol.

Jc

Oil rinsing is basically soaking your hair in liquid oil of your choice before you wash. Olive oil is quite popular since per litre it is quite cheap compared to other oils.

hyspin

I do my oil rinse after the conditioning (not before washing) and before apple cider rinse which also helps with preventing fairy knots.

hyspin

Sorry correction: after shampooing but before conditioning.

Jo Somebody

Do you mean afetr shampooing and before rinse-out conditioner or before a leave-in in place of a rinse-out condish?
Ta.

hyspin

The first one after, shampoo and before the rinse-out conditioner.

But I found that I could keep the single strand knots at bay almost as long as the oil rinse with ACV rinse after the rinse-out conditioner before the leave-in conditioner or styling product.

hyspin

Do note though most recommend it after shampooing and after conditioning. I think I might try that arrangement to see if there is improve results.

eboni
Ever since I started consistently protective styling (twists) for the past 4 months, I’ve noticed a significant decrease in the amount of knots and tangles in my hair. woo!! Overall my hair cair regimine is going sooo smoother, than it did within the whole first year, lol. I noticed that I’ve started cowashing my hair in large sections – not so much to avoid knots, but to get an even distribution of the product throughout my hair….and also because it cuts my time in shower. Rather than spending 30 minutes – 1 hour in the shower, I spend maybe 20… Read more »
Zenith
I have been natural since 1999. It has been an enjoyable ongoing learning process, to say the least. What I have learned to do to get my overall healthiest hair sans SSK: I believe in that old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so . . . I shampoo and deep condition once a week, Henna with a blend of ayurvedic powders once a month, wear bun/twist out styles, cover at night with a loc soc or satin scarf, sleep on a satin pillow case, use conditioner for one cowash during the week, keep ends… Read more »
Keisha

I get them really bad, especially since my hair is past the 12 inch mark. I’ve had to cut inches off due to split ends as a result. These are great suggestions in terms of how to deal with them. I usually cut them, but the oil rinse is definitely worth a try. When cutting, it’s also good to mention the quality of the scissors used. Ones not designed for hair cutting can also damage the strand, so a good pair of sheers is key as well.

Jc

I agree with that, someone emailed a question to me on whether hair scissors are a good investment or not and my answer is yes, buy hair scissors and a good quality sharp pair.

mangomadness

I ignore them–they come with the territory of highly textured hair.

DBryant
I hate the knots! I feel like I am constantly cutting them out of my head. Literally, I sit at my desk and cut them daily. I spend time at night before nightly moisturize and cut them. I am actually distressed about it. I am trying to grow my hair out. I am wearing 2 strand twist as my protective style. I am moisturizing 2x daily morning & night. I am using a leave-in, oil & shea to seal ends. I washed my hair this weekend in twist it seemed like they appeared with vengeance. My daughter told me to… Read more »
ThePeoplesFlowers
I had an insane about of fairy knots in my head. every hour three seem to appear. I couldn’t understand why until pow it hit me. when i use styling creams like miss jessies to lock in curls i had no fairy knots. When i used un-natural products like cheap suave or herbal essence no fairy knots! Your hair is tangling because the conditioner does not create slip or detangles the curls. No amount of combing will stop fairy knots it is the conditioner even though herbal essences is loaded with chems. No more gosh done fairy knots! Not even… Read more »
sparkwisdom

Hi, DBryant,

Have you read Chicoro’s “Grow it!” That book has helped me grow my hair to armpit length in under 3 years! I wear protective styles weekly and only wear my hair out once a week and usually wash that night or the next day. Happy growing!

Zenith

Hi DBryant
Maybe you are manipulating your hair too much? I would suggest changing up and moisturizing the ends at night only and place under a cap to mazimize effect of body heat with moisture on the hair. Minimal manipulation in the morning. Make sure you are trimming a very small amount off the ends every few months and deep condition (perhaps, overnight once a week) if you can.

I agree with your daughter! She sounds very observant and smart.Good lcuk to you!!

Samantha

I have waist length hair. I have had problems with knots the entire time I’ve been natural- and I have tried all this stuff. For the last- 3 years I have decided to leave the knots alone-or else I would be cutting them out every single day (which is what I was doing for awhile). My ends look great otherwise and I don’t have any extra breaking off because of this and also detangleing isn’t a nightmare so I guess this works fine for me.

Zenith

LUCK! not lcuk 🙂

Ms. Cali

I love two strand twists but my hair hates them. Your hair may b the same. Mayb try other protectives styles besides twists. Try buns or flat twists with the ends loose but pinned up. I found that I hardly get n ee nots now.

Sasha

I definitely agree. My hair doesn’t do well with small two strand twists left in for a minimum of a week. I recently put myself on a length retention challenge and started wearing my hair in two fat cornrow down either side of my head. I just pin the little tails back up in there. My hair responds much better to that style and stays more moisturizers with water spritzing day and night and an oil pat. Hope this helps.

Jc
I agree with everyone here. DBryant your daughter is right, you may be causing knots by constantly handling your hair. I also agree with MsCali that twists sometimes can be a problem. Braids or even free hair may be better for your texture ( the only way to find out is to try and see – you may end up going back to twists but nothing ventured, nothing gained). Another radical thought I have is…do you really need to moisturise twice daily? Each time you spray your hair it probably shrinks up and we all know how shrunken hair behaves.… Read more »
CandyceNoelle

Agreed. My hair loves to be in braids…cornrows to be exact. I moisturize in the morning instead of night bc even with the satin cap and all…it still sucks some of the moisture out overnight. I spray and seal in the morning and then do it again every other day. This also makes take down and detangling easier later on…once again reducing tension and knots ^_^

Nubia
I am a little confused or you wearing twist outs or rocking 2 strand twist?? If it is a twist out the hair is going to get tangle throughout the day creating the knots regardless. I say 1- if you are going to rock twist out daily.. you are going to get knots daily… if that is the case keep ur hands out of ur hair and your face out the mirror.. what you cant feel or see will not bother you. 2-If ur hair are in twist you shouldnt be feeling or seeing anything and that is probably your… Read more »
TINA SMITH

i have a twa and i get knots, my hair isn’t long enough to section so what do i do

Jc

Your options are to manipulate your hair less and if appropriate, you can try stretched out styles. For example is your hair long enough to do some twists – say 10-15 and then unravel those in the morning instead of combing your hair every morning?

I do not think it is possible to eliminate knots entirely, it is possible to reduce them.

ThePeoplesFlowers
I had an insane about of fairy knots in my head. every hour three seem to appear. I couldn’t understand why until pow it hit me. when i use styling creams like miss jessies to lock in curls i had no fairy knots. When i used un-natural products like cheap suave or herbal essence no fairy knots! Your hair is tangling because the conditioner does not create slip or detangles the curls. No amount of combing will stop fairy knots it is the conditioner even though herbal essences is loaded with chems. No more gosh done fairy knots! Not even… Read more »
cassieo

I get less knots with a do a wash-n-go with a thick gel since it freezes the hair in place. I find that interesting since my hair is in a shrunken form, but it works for me. (I have 4a/b hair with S-curls, coils, and no uniform pattern in some places. However in its natural form (wet/dry) you would see no curls (just fro)–you only see them in a wash and go.)

Jc

I am curious as to how long your hair is? Gel usually stops working as a wash and go staple for many people with 4a/b hair once hair gets past 6inches (around one year in)

Thin and Natural

This is an erroneous statement. I have 4a/b hair longer than six inches and I can still get away with a wash and go. The trick is in the product. I use Kinky Curly with Knot Today, and not only do I have less knots, I wear my hair out a lot.

Cassie
I’ve been natural for a little more that a year. I wouldn’t call it my staple because I like big hair. However I want to clarify that my wash n gos aren’t just conditioner. If that was the case I would get knots. I’m using a good amount of eco styler. My curls are frozen in place so the ends don’t knot. I generally wear the style for the week. My hair isn’t hard or dry. I put castor oil under. However you def feel product. The closest thing I can apologize it to is comb twist. But instead I… Read more »
df

i use shea moisture’s curling souffle mixed with deep treatment masque and I can wear a wash n go for 5 days with no problems. It’s a little tougher in the winter but spring, summer no problems. I’ve been natural for a year, my hair ranges from 5 1/2 to 6 inches all around. also 4a/b pen spring curls.

how do you get big hair btw cassie?

Cassie

Haha I meant analogize. Sorry my phone picked a different word.

Cassie

Oh forgot to say my hair is about 6 inches.

The Natural Haven

Thanks for the explanation. I think I understand what you are saying now, I have definitely seen a similar video on youtube where gel is applied in sections to the hair.

Glad it works for you!

Carla

* I keep my hair stretched, especially this time of year when I’m constantly in protective styles.
* Moisturize and seal daily
* Seal my ends with a butter to prevent dryness and knot formation.
* Prepoo with oil and oil rinse
* Washing in sections (especially since my hair is BSL)

When I started doing those things, I notice less fairy knots.

It's me again

100% Agree with everything you said. I substitute the oil rinsing for blow drying my hair 1x month to slowly heat train or heat damage (whichever term you prefer) over time. ALL of this combined has aided in reducing knots and I also finger detangle and snip any knots as I find them.

df

what’s the purpose of heat training the hair?

Chanel

I think that’s just her preference of how she wants her hair.

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