3 Methods for Detangling Matted and Tangled Natural Hair

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I am yet to meet a natural who has not left in a protective style or worn a twist out for a little too long. Some of us also know that our hair really does not care for wash and gos but because of time or because you were feeling like it, decided to throw caution to the wind and embrace full on shrinkage. The end result for most of us due to the mix of water (either from washing/moisturizing or indeed if it rains) and the natural shrinkage of curly and kinky curly hair is matting and tangling. Here are three ways to deal with matted and tangled hair.

First though I will say in bold – Do not under any circumstances, soak matted hair in water or shampoo it before detangling it. These two actions will only lead to more tangles.

1. The dry detangling method

This method is ideal for hair that is kinky curly or hair with a high level of shrinkage when wet. By keeping hair mostly dry, it becomes easier to handle as further shrinkage does not occur and the hair remains in its strongest form. The dry detangling method does have to be used alongside finger combing because combs and brushes can be too aggressive on dry hair. This method requires small sections and a lot of patience so if you are not willing to work on your hair for several hours or even a day depending on length, it would be better to pick either of the next two methods.

2. The conditioner soak method

In this method, hair conditioner is used first on dry or damp (not wet) hair and allowed to soak and soften hair. A hair dryer can be used to heat up the conditioner to make it adsorb more to hair. Interestingly, MsLala makes an observation that her conditioner looses its slip if she stays under the dryer for too long, so 30 minutes is the maximum time recommended. The rest of the process is simply creating small sections and working at them with a comb slowly to loosen up the matted hair and tangles.

3. The water and oil method

This method also employs the staple themes of small sections and patience. It, however, uses just a misting of water to give hair some flexibility and a little bit of oil for slip. Another key difference is that the combing is done from root to tip which is against the practised norm of natural hair. She does make a valid point that as the ends are already detangled and combing them further is unnecessary. She also does not try to pull the comb all the way through, but simply gradually works her way up to the ends. This may be an adjustment that some would find beneficial to preserve their hair ends.

Ladies, which of these methods do you use for detangling? And why?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


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43 thoughts on “3 Methods for Detangling Matted and Tangled Natural Hair

  1. Thanks so much for the article. I’ve always done wash and go’s even before I started transitioned as my hair would still curl despite having a perm. But this is the first time my hair has gotten this tangled. I was gonna go to the natural salon and pay just for help. I have 2 sections that are just seriously knotted. But I will give one of these methods a go first and report back with the results.

  2. I just detangled with the water and oil method… I was trying to find a use for some coconut oil I’ve had a while… It tends to make my hair really rough. But I decided to detangle with it before my wash by spraying water on already twisted sections, melting the oil with my fingertips and massaging it in my hair from root to tip. Then I fingercombed thru the twist and then with thru a last time with my pick and my hair is super detangled… I think I like the coconut oil now… Gave my hair great slip!

  3. Thank you for this article just dry detangled my hair and its worked me wonders, my hair has grown its unreal, i also used a bit of baby oil which really made things a lot easier for me…. superb article :D

  4. I’ve had box braids (done with my natural hair) in for about a month. I used jojoba oil, a watery leave-in, and my seamless comb to take down my braids and detangle my hair. Works awesomely.

  5. Nothing helps! My ends are like a cocoon – impenetrable! I have so many knots. I have so much breakage. I’ve been natural for 8-9 years and my hair is still short. I’m thinking of just straightening it (not relaxer/perm) and allowing it to grow like that. I’m so frustrated. If I was rich I would have a personal hair stylist with me everywhere to do my hair to see if it can grow with someone else’s hands in the pot.

    • Do you moisturize and seal every day? If you don’t then you will have more knots. Additionally, wearing your hair in an afro or an afro puff will increase the likelihood of tangles.

  6. I have this page bookmarked in case I need it in the future and I realized I never reported back. It took me a couple of hours and a lot of conditioner but I finally did get out those stubborn knots. No cutting necessary. I have learned my lesson and so I would section and detangle my hair prior to washing it. This helped me keep it tangle free but I am happy to report that I am 100% natural now with a twa and tangles aren’t a big deal for now. When they do pop up I give my hair a quick wash and they are gone. No combing required. I’m gonna definitely miss that when it gets longer lol.

  7. Pingback: Homemade rememedy for detangling and conditioning natural hair | Kendra Jaz

  8. My daughter has so many knots it’s crazy. I did the dry condition method and it worked pretty good, but after I washed it, it went right back to the matted state it was in. I’ve literally cut out knots in her head. She has thick hair but is very tender headed. We are out of the country right now and don’t have access to alot of products for African Americans.

    • If you’re in Europe by any chance and willing to do homemade remedies you can at least find stuff like coconut oil in the Asian market.

      If the city is a little larger and has a market hall there may even be an international section.

      Maybe flag down the next foreigner you see that doesn’t look like an obvious tourist and ask them where the stores are hidden. In my experience for Germany, there always seems to be some form of African store in the mid-sized towns and up. Otherwise, sub for the nearest Asian market to get supplies and go homemade.

  9. I tried evrything, my hair is so heavy of all the knots theres no way to even begin. If i must comb all the knots out i wont have any hair left. The knots made my bum lenght hair shrinked into an afro. Where in cape town store do i found the take down products or which salon can do it here and at what cost? Plz help my hair is my crown and my life

  10. Plz help my once bum lenght hair has turned into a behive afro of knots overnight. If i comb all my hair comes out i will be left with no hair, i have tried evrything as my hair is my crown, how can once indian looking hair turn into an afro overnight. I feel ive been cursed with my hair cos my hair is my life. Where in cape town can i find the take down cream or which salon can i go to here and at what cost? Plz rescue my crown jewel, my hair

    • Your hair should not be your life. And having “afro” hair should not make you feel cursed. What a shame that you think you’re cursed just because you don’t have “indian looking hair.”

    • Your hair is not your crown. it is your prison. shave it all off and try to experience your life as a human being whose value is beyond her hair. Once you’ve accomplished that, grow your hair back.

  11. I feel what she sayin. She not saying what u saying if u stop trying to criticize ull understand. But hey some ppl cant help their selves but to criticize.

  12. Thank you so much. I love natural hair on my little beauty girl, and I thought I was doing something wrong until I watched your video and learned that it takes THAT LONG!!!!!

  13. I’m growing out my relaxed hair and find my roots get matted after leaving them in cornrows under a wig for about 2-3 weeks! I do like the oil/conditioner detangling method! Also ladies please check out my store RebelVanity.com where I sell unique luxury quality clothing. I’d love your feedback. Thanks in advance and much love?

  14. ladies what products do you recommend for short very kinky curled coiled hiar that is naturally dry? trying to keep my daughter natural and happy

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