By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Tight coils, little to no curl pattern, and major shrinkage make type 4 natural hair an environment conducive to knots and tangles.  Imagine tossing several tightly coiled wires into a bag haphazardly.  Now imagine removing these wires one by one from the bag. You will get knots and tangles galore, right? A similar event can occur in our natural hair when left loose, wild, and shrunken.

1. The basics to minimizing knots & tangles

Refrain from wearing wash-n-gos once your hair reaches 6-8 inches in length.  Protective style frequently. Detangle thoroughly AND regularly. Keep your hair moisturized.

2. Further prevention – Wash in braids

Washing your hair while it is loose is highly discouraged. (Think back to the bag full of tightly coiled wires.)  Instead, wash your hair in braided sections to minimize tangling. About washing in twists: Twists, unless done small or medium, tend to unravel during a wash. Thus, braids may be a better option for some naturals.

3. Continuing on – Short-term stretched styles

If you want to wear your hair out, stretched styles (i.e., twist outs, braid outs) are by far the best method to minimize knots and tangles.  However, allowing such styles to age beyond their limit leaves room for shrinkage and defeats the purpose.  Keep the style duration to a minimum.  Note: The higher the humidity, the shorter the wear. Also, the longer your hair, the shorter the wear.

4. Speaking of stretching – Use a thick, heavy detangler

During your regular detangling sessions, use a cholesterol-based or other thick, heavy conditioner to ease the process.  The conditioner will add weight to the hair thus stretching the coils temporarily. Alternative: Some naturals prefer detangling on dry, stretched, lubricated hair since wet strands can lead to shrinkage.

5. Do not wet the knot

In the event that you do get a knot, the worst thing you can do is apply water. Why? Because the strands will shrink and the knot will become harder to unravel. Instead, apply an oil or butter and gradually pull out each strand from the knot one by one. Alternative: Some naturals have success applying a conditioner to the knot while others do not. Do what works for you.  Depending on how serious the knot is, a thin tool – such as the end of a rattail comb – may be used to help with unraveling. Refrain from using sharp tools, like needles or safety pins, which may damage the cuticle.

Do you get knots and tangles?  How do you combat them?


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43 Comments on "5 Tips to Combat Knots and Tangles in Type 4 Natural Hair"

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does your hair actually get clean if you wash it in a braid or twist?


I’ll use the braid in 6 sections instead of twists cause i’m seeing tangles in twists. I’m trying to learn how to grow my hair without the need to protective style

Chinasa Okolo

The best thing about washing in braids is that after you’re done and your hair is dry, it is already stretched out!


i wash, condition, detangle, comb my hair (using heat), moisturize, and plait in sections, but by the time i get to the hair salon for braids it’s already a knotted mess.

Ellen Osei

Your method totally worked. I put heavy cholesterol leave conditioner and I was able to comb my hair with a tooth comb and braid it .I didn’t know what to do with natural hair because I just started .Thanks so much for tips . 🙂

Ellen Osei

Your method totally worked. I put heavy cholesterol leave conditioner and Ivwas able to comb my hair with a tooth comb and braid it .I didn’t know what to do with natural hair because I just started .Thanks so much for tips . 🙂


this model hair look like my hair 🙂


[…] Black Girl Long Hair Says: Refrain from wearing wash-n-gos once your hair reaches 6-8 inches in length.  Protective style frequently. Detangle thoroughly AND regularly. Keep your hair moisturized. […]


More white children get autusim than blacks.


This lady in the picture looked like a Barbie when I saw the smaller version of the picture. She’s really pretty. I love her hair as well.


Does anyone know how to reach this woman about an immediate potential modeling project?

Ola Mae

I’ve noticed that wearing my hair in two strand twists reduces the risks of knots. I like wearing my hair out but I keep it to a minimum because of the knotting. Finger detangling and pre-pooing (I use castor oil) before wash day really helps. I prefer washing my hair in twists because while I am shampooing my hair I loosen it to finger detangle then I twist it back up. Also, when I wash my hair in twists I know all of the shampoo is out. That is one of the reasons I don’t wash my hair loose anymore.

Arielle a.k.a. Determinator1
Arielle a.k.a. Determinator1
My (4c) hair is collarbone length, and I have not tried the braid/wash method yet. I am good with my detangling as long as my hair is wet and moisturized. The most difficulty with detangling comes in with the ends, and if it were not for “Profectiv Growth Lotion” I doubt I would have the length I have now (with my natural hair). After washing, I divide my hair into small manageable sections, then apply the “Profectiv” to the ends, and detangle from the ends up, inching my way up the hairshaft until I reach the roots. The ingredients help… Read more »

I find it easiest to detangle my hair dry, under running water or with conditioner. Oil seems to only make my knots worse. It doesn’t really tangle up that bad though, even while I was transitioning, except if I leave oil on it for too long. I have thick, multi textured, low porous hair from 3c. (possibly 3b?) to 4c. Not sure if that makes a difference.


I’ve actually been experimenting with using a little bit of heat once a month to keep my strands tangle free. I wash, deep condition, and blow dry which stretches my strands minimizing tangles. I moisturize at least 4 times a week with a Leave-in conditioner and keep my ends tucked away and protected for the better part of the week.


Washing in braids and redoing styles such as twist-outs help me the most. I still experience a lot of knots but I would experience more if I didn’t follow these techniques.
Tip: I also have started to roller-set/flexirod the ends of my hair when I first set them in twists/braids. The “twirling” of the hair on itself that’s normally suggested at the end of a twist/braid, causes me a lot of knots. The hair curls upon itself and further knots.

Ashley F.

That tip on washing hair in braids instead of twists really helped me this morning with my co-wash!

I used to prefer washing my hair in twists with tight elastic bands on ends to prevent unravelling. My hair is 6 inches now and is getting difficult to unravel a clumped twist from washing. Yes I agree with Neochasez about dirt from washing in braids, but how about making the braids a little looser, tying a rubber band on the ends and using a clarifying shampoo? Thanks BGLH, now that I know using pins to detangle SSKs damages the cuticle I will change my tactics, the tip of a used ball point pen may work as well as the… Read more »
My hair is about 9 inches long and, for some reason, I just find that washing in braids not only doesn’t wash my strands, but also gives my fingers less room to effectively massage my scalp to cleanse it. I’ve washed my hair in twists as well and it’s still less effective for me. However, it’s imperative that I section my hair and cleanse each section (with hair loose) separately. Referring to using a clarifying shampoo, I use a chelating shampoo once a month because I live in an area with hard water and I find that my hair doesn’t… Read more »
Am I the only person who has trouble washing hair in braids? I realize the scalp is the area of focus doing a shampoo session, but my ends collect dust and dirt after a few days of wearing a braid out and I’ve found that I need water pressure to help fully remove debris from my hair. When I’ve washed or co-washed in braids, I found that my hair (and scalp) were never as clean as when I unraveled a twisted section and cleansed my hair out. My hair is prone to major shrinkage and SSKs, but I find that… Read more »

I never wash my hair in plaits or prepoo, my hair is chin length, I tried it but it doesn’t work for me.
I wash my hair loose, DC then detangle and whilst rinsing I finger comb it then I plait into 4-6 sections and then apply my final rinse. This keeps my hair free of knots and tangles. I enjoy my hair and part of that is washing it free as a bird.

Molly B

My wash regimine is similar to Natalie’s, but my hair is a longer (like a lil past collar bone length). Only thing I do different is that I always section/twist before I shampoo and rinse it loose. Then I repeat it for my conditioning/detangling process. Can’t finger comb, though. Never really works out for me.


Yes, I used to have the same problem, that’s why I no longer wear my hair in braids.


I usually use oil to help with my detangling sessions, conditioner is a ‘no-no’ for me as my hair gets longer. And yes I learned the hard way as well not to wet the knot, I cried as it tore away from the rest of the strands while taking my precious wide-toothed comb along for the ride…that was nearly 2 years ago so I detangle with well-oiled hair – NO WATER!!


“Tight coils, little to no curl pattern, and major shrinkage make type 4 natural hair an environment conducive to knots and tangles.”

I have type 4a hair with curls and no tight coils not all type 4’s are the same…to be honest there is a huge difference between type 4a an 4c hair!


I don’t think there’s that big of a difference. I have all of the 4’s in my hair (I think–I don’t know the difference between 4b and 4c hair) and besides the fact that my wash and goes look crazy because my curl pattern is all over the place, my hair acts the same. No matter what subtype your is, all type 4 hair has the same basic needs. Hair type really isn’t as important as it seems.


The difference being 4a’s have curls and MOST 4c’s dont.


(Small) curls and kinks…not too big of a difference. These are diameter changes in millimeters.

The reason why I mentioned this is because I feel that acting like there is a huge difference between 4a amd 4c hair seems to put naturals against each other for whatever reason.


Its not put naturals against one another is just reality, case in point compare the queen of natural hair Nap85 who is 4a to a 4c naturalist and tell me there isnt a difference


There is a difference, but its still variation within a type, so for example naptural 85 and joulezy (a 4c blogger) look very similar. There are some differences, but not so massive, which you seem intent on making out.. It’s not like comparing type 1 to type 4.


I guess I have 4c then, cause mine shrink after I wash it and if I don’t put it into ten-braids quickly it becomes an unmanageable mess. Not only that but I can’t even rock a twist out or braid out for too long, once the wind hits it, my hair coils up into foetal position.

I agree that there are differences in type 4a than type 4c. The difference is the curl size and often the texture of the hair. But this is not a reason for one to believe that one texture is better than the other. I found that understand the hair type I was helped me to (1) understand how to choose products and (2) how to care for may hair. People should love what grows out of their head and not be insecure whether they have a loose or tight curl pattern. But to say that it is all the same… Read more »
Lillian Mae

Does this apply to single strand knots (SSKs)? If this does refer to SSKs, I think I need more tips!


Omg that woman in the picture…. beautiful. Beautiful skin… at first glance I thought she was a doll.


she’s very beautiful isn’t she? it’s not fair. *pout*


Thanks for the tips. I was struggling with this last night. I’m just going to leave my hair in french braids the next few times I wash


Love it! printing this out, I learned some of these the hard way and then other naturals don’t get why I’m doing the opporsite or what ever other hair expert says 🙂

Another good tip for those of you who like oils, about 2 days before I get ready to detangle and wash my hair I slather generous amounts of oil ( coconut works for me) on my hair each to let it get good n greasy. I wear it off my face and neck of course and stretched! Greasy and stretched is the key. I do two strands mostly so to stretch I pin up my twist or bun them. I do this each morning and evening for 2 days straight. This makes most tangles melt out. This works for me… Read more »

I learned the hard way that you should never wet the knot. I ended up cutting lots of hair because I thought it would make the process easier and I couldn’t have been more wrong.


I have a 4a hair and I was my hair in 2 strand twist. Makes my life much easier.


These tips are crucial for length retention!!! Thank you BGLH for all the help!! <3

Amma Mama

This was very helpful! I have 4C hair 🙂
In the past, I have struggled with serious tangles and nots but I am so much better now! Though I am still learning:-)


Great tips, but don’t forget to keep your hair moisturized! Dry hair tangles like it’s no man’s business.