*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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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.


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


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.


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.

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 scold­ing, because I… Read more »

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.


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.


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


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?


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.


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.

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 min­utes… Read more »
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 mois­tur­ized, and per­form a thor­ough self-trim… Read more »

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.


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.


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

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 »
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 a sin­gle… Read more »

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!


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!!


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.


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.


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.

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. I… Read more »

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 ^_^

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 »

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


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.

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 a sin­gle… Read more »

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.)


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.

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 »

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?


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


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!


* 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.


what’s the pur­pose of heat train­ing the hair?


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