*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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100 Comments on "5 Ways to Eliminate Fairy Knots"

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I wish I would have known to do this when I became natural. I have 4c hair and I learned that the knots come from using lotion texture products to wet hair everyday. Here is how I combated the problem completely. I cut off the knots first. I use Shea moisture shampoo which doesn’t have any of the harmful chemicals like parabins, sulfates etc. I also use Shea moisture hair masque to deep condition. I sit under dryer with plastic cap 45 minutes. My 4c hair is so soft and tangle free now! I let my hair dry I apply… Read more »
Oh dear, I always though those were forming due to unhealthy hair parts, and gladly combed them out, ´cause they break off when you do that. Guess this is really bad? I had no idea I was forming more split ends like this. I naturally often get split ends, but this has to do with that a) my hair grows very quickly, and I find it expensive to keep going to the hairdresser, so I let it grow at least 6 months and then I cut off a lot. b) Before I died it blue, I straighten it, so that… Read more »
Michelle Mearidy

I have thick coarse hair that knots quickly also, and I have it!!!


OK… don’t shoot me! I’m doing something that all the literature says KNOT to do. While my hair is “dry”:…. I gently roll the knot between two fingers and gently begin to loosen the knot into separate strands of hair until the knot is detangled. Once all the knots are detangled I put loads of olive on the tip of my hair….then I jump into the shower and co-wash! The key to this method … do not pull on your hair. I roughly can detangle almost all of my knots.


[…] my strands are fine, I tend to find that my hair breaks easily and I also sometimes find a lot of single strand knots and split ends. For this reason, I like to spray a mixture of light, medium and heavier weight oils […]


Speaking from experience? Lol.


Lately my hair ends are dry and rough. I’ve clipped them, done moisture and protein treatments, to no avail. After a 3″ cut, a week later, they’re dry and rough again. I’ve given up my beloved Denman brush because I thought that could be the cause. I’m now spraying my ends w/aphogee green tea. I wear mostly twist or braid outs. I’m getting braids next week. But I’m not sure what to do next. I’d appreciate any ideas.


This happened to me. it was actually the protein treatments that were doing it. I had to eliminate all products with protein from my regimen but my hair is doing great now.

Be Safe

Warning: Please don’t use a needle to undo a single strand knot. That’s dangerous and stupid


I think you left out the best prevention method which is regular trims. Any time I find myself starting to get too many fairy knots, I know it’s time for a trim and once I get it, the knots stop forming.


I feel as if every single strand of my hair has a single strand knot. Nothing works to prevent them either. Protective styles require me to manipulate my hair too much which adds knots. My hair is so fine and EXTREMELY curly coily that single strand knots are a given. I’ve been thinking about locing my hair bc of all the difficulty….

I big chopped in June of last year and never got these annoying knots even though I wore my afro much of the summer. When the weather got cold, I’ve been getting them constantly even though I usually wear wigs with my hair braided or twisted underneath. Whenever I set my twists on flexirods it seems my ends get really ugly. I would think that would stretch them but it doesn’t. I hope I don’t get them through the summer. I want to wear my hair out. Not much point in having my hair natural if I can’t wear it… Read more »
Hope W.

So… Haven’t read all the older comments, but I too get fairy knots. My hair is natural, but I keep it straightened with a flat iron, so it’s not always curling to create these knots. I don’t know where they come from! I don’t want to go through all my stands to cut each knot. Please help!


I can’t stand single strand knot.this is the main obstacle preventing me from growing longer hair. My ends knot up no matter if my hair is dry or wet. Its the worst thing I’ve ever experienced as a natural.I try to use lots of conditioner on my ends,especially a botanical conditioner, it seems to be the only thing that can somewhat tame them. These knots are such a nuisance.

Sharon E. Young

my hair is the same


Interesting. I’m beginning to notice thats twists cause them a lot for me and when my hair is not stretched out. Also, I tend to be able to unknot them when I wet my hair and gently smooth my hair strands with a hair butter, the knots kind of…slip away sometimes lol.