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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?

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50 Comments on "3 Methods for Detangling Matted and Tangled Natural Hair"

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Audra Bethune
This was my first experience with hair like this. My little sisters hair was matted and tangled in clumps throughout her entire head. I washed it first and massaged the scalp for 15 minutes, then I conditioned it, we blotted it dry with a towel and then with a vent brush I brushed through it as much as I could. then we sectioned it and put in a leave in conditioner and blow dried it for 10 minutes. I used a vent brush with more bristles and combed it as much as I could one more time. I rinsed it… Read more »
Terava

I have VERY thick and hard-to-handle hair. What i do is leave conditioner on my hair for about 5 minutes before rincing with luke warm water 3 times a week. I wait for it to dry, then add baby oil to my hair and brush with a wide tooth comb. I always brush my hair and plait in two parts before going to bed every night so it wont get tangled while sleep.

Tiffany

My hair is so matted together it is stuck together in a big ball and it hurts this only made it worse what do I do please help me

Marie

I use safllower oil every few days and as a hot oil before I detangle. I have type 4 coarse, shoulder length hair. The oil allows me to finger detangle in under 30 minutes. Also I do a two strand twist before I shampoo and conditioner…this reduces tangling of hair strands.

Myriam Vazquez

I have the same problem. I put it in a bun on top of my hair and it is all stuck together… can’t get it apart..too tangled, what do I do, please help me… my head even hurts as it is pulling it…

April Adams

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

Victoriya Wright

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?

Kammy Robinson

What I do is the last suggestion, however, no heat! Lol. I just allow it tostay for 15 minutes then I comb it out. Works for me

garrett soucy

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!!!!!

Naturalme

Let’s not forget oil and conditioner! Naturally High has a great video on that!

la

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.

Liesl

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

Jones

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.

Jackie

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.”

Liesl

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

Nyke

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.

Sheriseology
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… Read more »
Marie

Coconut oil caused my hair to be more matted…my hair stylist confirmed that it acts as a protein and can cause hair to be matted due to dryness.

Ms.Reyes
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… Read more »
Emmanuela

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.

Ant

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.

CT

How did your ends get to that state? The source of your problem must lie somewhere.

Alyssa

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.

Ayoka

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 šŸ˜€

SRHM

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!

Ms.Reyes

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.

AutumnEme

I’ve always used conditioner either regular or leave in to detangle my hair.
After transitioning though, I’ve pretty much stuck with using ONLY leave-in conditioner to detangle. I use Cantu’s Shea butter leave in cond’ and it seems to work pretty well.

This article makes me want to try using oil, but I’m allergic to coconut. Guess it’ll be olive oil for me. šŸ™

mangomadness

I detangle before shampooing. I lightly spritz my hair with a water/glycerin mix, apply coconut oil and then finger-detangle. This combo has tons of slip on my kinky, coily hair.

c.lewis

I don’t know bout anyone else but if my hair is tangled, when I shampoo or cowash, most of my tangles melt away. I always hear of ppl pre pooing, then detangle, shampoo, detangle, condition, detangle then style. To me that’s too many times for my hands to be in my head. I only detangle when I condition my hair. I’m not I’m not the only that does this?

Perfectlyimperfect#wierd
Perfectlyimperfect#wierd

I know its realyLate fora responce but i used to di the same thing now i do it when i because when ever i do it it feels more oily

Michelle@Radiant Brown Beauty

I use a combination of oil, conditioner and water to finger detangle. While I never leave a protective style in for longer than 2 days (Hair ADD LOL!) I do get tangles. In a spray bottle, I mix some Vatika oil with Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing conditioner and a smidge of water. This combo makes finger detangling virtually effortless

Linda Harding-Bond

I love your site. Can you do an article on keeping locs moisturized without product overload. Thank you

Michelle

I prefer the dry detangling method. Any moisture I put on my hair when it’s matted, and I do mean ANY, will result in shrinkage of the matted mess and the forming of locks or rather one MASSIVE loc on my head.

Mary

This was helpful. I am still trying to figure out what works best for me. I used to do the oil and water method. Now I’m trying the conditioner method. It still takes me around 2 hours to detangle my hair. I am trying to efficiently detangle my hair while keeping the total time low. Any tips?

Vonnie

The detangling method on YT channel Spicyeve saved my life! I detangle on damp hair with a water/conditioner mix.

mangomadness

I love her YouTube channel! She’s so funny!

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DreamGirl

I started doing overnight hot oil treatments before wash day. The next day,I finger comb my hair and then use a wide tooth comb. This method helps me detangle easily and my hair is nice,strong and soft :-D!

BriA

I use all of these methods basically lol……I spritz my hair with water when it’s dry to get it a bit soft, scrub my conditioner on my scalp before putting olive oil down the shaft, then i add more conditioner to the shaft, coat my ends, and twist it up……..my hair is in layers but it stops where your armpit starts lol -if that made sense- so it takes me couple of hours to get through it…..if I concentrate good enough lol

Kwl0711

I use the (mostly) dry detangle method, too. I noticed that in my technique, I go from root to end. It’s what I’m used to doing, but now I see that it helps me keep off the ends until absolutely necessary, and at that point, I’m super gentle with working through the rest of the way. I tried doing it damp and wetter, but it’s harder to detangle. Great article! I’ve got some detangling to do myself in the near future…lol.

Tabatha
I’m in transition and my hair is a little under my ear and I have to say my hair is thick and Kinky, but my mom says I have good grade ( I still don’t know what that means). So I do 2 methods. Before I wash my hair I dry detangle it cause if I already have snarls it will get worst when it gets wet and marathon runs to my scalp. Then when I put theconditioner in my hair I comb through it again before I put a shower cap on and then I rense with cool water,… Read more »
Kendra

I use the water and oil method EVERY night. my hair is fine but dense so I’m always finding fairy knots and tangles. I add aloe vera juice, water and leave in to my spray bottle. I use coconut oil to moisturize and I detangle with a wide tooth rake comb.
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Hey there I am African
Hey there I am African

Great smile girl! šŸ™‚

Jacky

I stretch my hair by putting it in braids for a few hours,then i detangle with a wide tooth comb after doing the LOC(Liquid,Oil,Cream)method of moisturizing natural hair.I have coily hair and this technique works very well for me with very little hair left in the comb(which i assume is shed hair)

shelikes

thank you for this article. and even more, thank you for a title which is not misleading. in my opinion, there is a wealth of information here. i use the water and oil method, along with diet and exercise. i also cut off dry untouchable ends regularly. (my goal is soft hair, not so much long hair) and i really hardly ever have to deal with all day long tangles. 30 minutes tops once a month to get at the hot spot at the back of my head, otherwise no real problems.

kinkycurlyhairchick.com

I apply oyin handmade whipped pudding to my hair, detangle and then apply conditioner and sit underneath the steamer for about 10 minutes. Once that’s done I’m able to detangle with even more ease regardless of how tangled my hair is.

MM

I usually just detangle my hair when conditioning since its almost always braided.

jungfrau1010

The first method is the one I have been using successfully for a few years now. I always begin with hair that has been saturated with coconut oil overnight or at least several hours.

SJ

I use the dry detangle method. Fine porous strands demand nothing less. It’s helped me to retain length overall, so I don’t mind how long it takes.

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