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Can I tell you a secret? It takes me less time to detan­gle my hair now than it did a year ago. Why is that sur­pris­ing? Well, for starters my hair is sev­er­al inch­es longer than it was a year ago — some­thing that usu­al­ly meant longer detan­gling ses­sions. Now before you get your hopes up think­ing  I’m about to reveal a pro­duct that mag­i­cal­ly made my tan­gles and knots dis­ap­pear be pre­pared for some down to earth advice. It’s not as mag­i­cal as you think. Which is good news because you can change how you approach detan­gle your hair too.

When I real­ized how long my detan­gling ses­sions were tak­ing I start­ed to search for con­di­tion­ers with greater slip, bet­ter ways to sec­tion my hair and just about any­thing that I could do to lessen the time it took to get through my hair. I then real­ized that a major rea­son for my long detan­gling time was that I was detan­gling sec­tions that had already been done. Let me explain.

As many nat­u­rals know it is impor­tant to use a wide tooth comb when comb­ing through our hair. I would use my wide tooth comb but I would also want to be sure that I removed tan­gles I missed so I would comb through sec­tions mul­ti­ple times and then comb through the hair with a small­er toothed comb (not fine toothed) to give it a thor­ough comb through. What I thought was thor­ough, how­ev­er, turned out to be unnec­es­sary and, most impor­tant­ly, time con­sum­ing.  I felt that my hair wasn’t tru­ly detan­gled unless I felt that I removed all of the tan­gles and knots but after months of a sim­pler approach to detan­gling my coily hair I have found that this is sim­ply not true.

My Detan­gling Method

To detan­gle my hair I use two “must have” tools. First, I use a slip­pery con­di­tion­er on light­ly damp­ened hair. At the moment I’m rather fond of Tresemme’s Curl Hydra­tion con­di­tion­er.  My oth­er tool is a seam­less wide toothed comb. I use the Her­cules Sage­mann comb that only has 8 teeth, so the spac­ing is rather wide.  After a sec­tion of my damp­ened hair is coat­ed with con­di­tion­er (I usu­al­ly divide my hair into eight sec­tions) I work the comb through each sec­tion. When I’m done, I’m done. I don’t get a small­er toothed comb to check for knots I’ve missed or inspect the hair in the mir­ror. After doing this for months my hair hasn’t tan­gled any more than usu­al and I haven’t suf­fered any break­age. The best part: I can com­plete detan­gling my hair in about 35 min­utes. My hair is waist length when stretched so this is pret­ty awe­some. Pre­vi­ous­ly it would take me that time to detan­gle half of my hair!

Are there times when you need to do a more thor­ough detan­gling? Yes. If you are remov­ing a long term pro­tec­tive style or if you are plan­ning to straight­en your hair detan­gling thor­ough­ly is impor­tant.. For day to day styling with your nat­u­ral hair, how­ev­er, you can save your­self some time. One thing that helps me to keep detan­gling in per­spec­tive that no mat­ter if I remove every knot, shed hair or split end my hair will curl up and form a new tan­gle before I can say “curly, coily, kinky”.  I’ve sur­ren­dered to this fact about my hair and it has helped me to enjoy it rather than stress over it. Hope this helps.

Have you been able to short­en your detan­gling ses­sions as even as your hair grows longer?

Gen

Island girl raised in the most roy­al of NYC’s bor­oughs. Proud nerd, social sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor and recov­er­ing awk­ward black girl. When not lis­ten­ing to NPR, try­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly, or detan­gling my fro, I’m search­ing for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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72 Comments on "True Life: I Don’t Fully Detangle… and My Hair is Waist Length"

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Pseudonym

I acci­den­tal­ly found that stretch­ing my hair into a bun the day or two before I wash (I’m a wash n go girl) helps detan­gling go by so quick­ly! (Shout out to the Den­man brush for help­ing to make all of that pos­si­ble.)

Latoya

I’m waist length (and grow­ing!) and I only comb/detangle my hair once a year. I keep my hair in box braids (using my own hair) all year round and only take out and re-do one braid at a time every oth­er mon­th. I had no choice but to detan­gle less often since I have very thick 4a/b hair that loves to tan­gle and shrink. As long as you keep your ends mois­tur­ized and stretched, you’re fine.

Nakao

Yes, the Instyler work on African Amer­i­can hair. I myself am black and had my quise­tons about the instyler. My rand­ma gave me one as a gift and I used it and it was amaz­ing. Per­fect and sim­ple, being black you think beause your hair is so coarse and thick that it should be placed on the high heat lev­el, but infact leb­vel one or two is per­fect­ly fine. The instyler is per­fect for african-amer­i­can hair

Isolina

The best assis­tance for detan­gling my hair is a HUGE glob of con­di­tion­er while I’m in the show­er. But when I don’t have time to wash my hair and wait for it to dry. I detan­gle with Nutress Hair Wrap Guard Foam Wrap. It’s weird that the pro­duct is meant for short hair wraps, but I absolute­ly love how it con­di­tions my hair enough to detan­gle with­out get­ting it soak­ing wet.

Natalia

my hair is tan­gled as soon as 3–4 days after i detan­gle and wash. is that the norm? should hair be tan­gled so soon?

Zaza

I don’t real­ly detan­gle my hair either and I have 4b. I nev­er wear an out­style for more than 2 days and always keep my hair in 4 sec­tions. I find get­ting in the show­er and wash­ing my hair detan­gles it and then I just pass the comb through it for about 5 mins in total after all the con­di­tion­er is in and that’s it real­ly!

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[…] Black Girl Long Hair – True Life: I Don’t Ful­ly Detangle…and My Hair is Waist Leng… […]

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[…] real­ly loved this arti­cle by Geniece. It rein­forces the point that some of us do have kinky curly hair that will not real­ly […]

hair removal for men at home

Awe­some things here. I am very hap­py to peer your post.
Thanks a lot and I am tak­ing a look ahead to con­tact you.
Will you please drop me a e-mail?

sheshe

Beau­ti­ful­ly Made

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[…] real­ly loved this arti­cle by Geniece. It rein­forces the point that some of us do have kinky curly hair that will not real­ly […]

TWA4now

What so the HARP method and what is APL?

Leochick93
I noticed that in sum­mers, when I am able to wash/ shake/ fin­ger rack my hair and go, my hair reten­tion was high­er. For the first three years my hair would grow. It wasn’t until I became OCD, about two years ago, about detan­gling that I have a lot of pulling out/ break­age. I know it is grow­ing but it is get­ting a lit­tle thin through­out towards the ends and i havent noticed increased length. this sort of con­firms my mis­takes and lets pres­sure off of me.  Ps: I mixed apple cider vine­gar with half a bot­tle of African Braid spray… Read more »
tia

can some1 tell me the youtube name of this lady?

Mani

Sun­show­er143

La Trenda

How do y’all han­dle sin­gle strand knots? Can they be worked out or do you just cut them?

If they can be worked out, how do you do it?

M2

Ssks should be cut, which leaves my type 4 hair with no two strands the same length. deep sigh. So as of late I have been mix­ing cheap con­di­tion­er with water and acv to take down my twists to detan­gle, then wash­ing in sec­tions, then quick nor­mal con­di­tion­er. Like it so far. I’m going to start detan­gling less like the arti­cle said n c how that helps.

Hyspin

How I major­ly reduce the accu­mu­la­tion of sin­gle strand knots (ssk) is incor­po­rat­ing oil rin­se at the end of my wash­ing ses­sions. also ACV rin­se can also help reduc­ing get­ting new SSK. And keep the hair stretched near the ends also may help too. But I notice the most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence after oil rins­es and ACV rins­es. But you will still need to trim the exist­ing knots, keep­ing them in will only increase tan­gles.

Hope this helps.

Michelle

You could also sat­u­rate your hair with a super slip­pery con­di­tion­er to detan­gle. That is a real­ly great method in my opin­ion. I detan­gle with condish or on stretched hair. I usu­al­ly don’t do both in the same wash day. It just depends on how I’ve been wear­ing my hair at that time.

Michelle
If it is a true knot that can’t be undone, I just cut it. I fig­ure it’s bet­ter to lose a cen­time­ter of hair than to break my hair high­er up the shaft. I just try to avoid get­ting knots by wear­ing my hair stretched out. If my hair shrinks, I stretch it again. I also find that real­ly mois­tur­ized hair or ends that are *light­ly* oiled will slide past each oth­er rather than knot togeth­er. Last­ly, I’ve real­ized that most knots are cre­at­ed by my han­dling of my hair. My hair isn’t tying itself up like a shoelace. Knots… Read more »
Jacky

Thanks

SoJo

Tak­ing short cuts when detan­gling may be the rea­son that the author is still at waist length. This is not any shade because I think that her jour­ney is awe­some but she has been at waist length for at least a year now. May­be this advice is good for those who want to main­tain or lose some of their length but for those aspir­ing to be longer than waist length in the short­est time her method may not be the best.

Em

LOL @ “Tak­ing short cuts when detan­gling may be the rea­son that the author is still at waist length.” Did you read that before you typed it? Yeah, poor thing with her waist length hair. I guess you are at floor length with your thor­ough­ly detan­gled hair, step­ping all over it. Hell, I wouldn’t mind being “stuck” at waist length.

Your com­ment gave me a good laugh today. Thank you. I need­ed it.

bsbfankaren

So.…in your esti­ma­tion, how long should her hair be at this point? LOL! Come on. Waist length is longer than most will achieve, either because of poor hair care of because of a loss of patience. As long as her hair is healthy, then it seems to me she’s doing a good job.

Chan

This was extreme­ly help­ful! My ulti­mate goal is waist length. I am cur­rent­ly slight­ly past BSL and I am feel­ing the detan­gle pres­sure.. It’s tak­ing longer and I always feel I have to get every­thing out or when its time to style I will have a hard time part­ing. I just ordered my first Sage­mann comb(the rake) I need to go back and get that small­er one! Will remem­ber this.

Michelle

U can also use apple cider vine­gar. That stuff is amaz­ing! As soon as u spray ur hair (mix w/ water if the smell is unbear­able) & ur tan­gles instant­ly melt way! It also leaves ur hair shiny, curls very defined, & super clean.

mangomadness

My detan­gling ses­sions haven’t short­ened as my hair has grown longer BUT the increase in time has been neg­li­gi­ble due to bet­ter detan­gling tech­niques.

I fin­ger-detan­gle before sham­poo­ing on stretched (braid-out), sec­tioned (12), damp­ened (home­made herbal detanger) and oiled (coconut oil) hair. After detan­gling each sec­tion, I put it in a twist. 

My hair is kinky, super dense, and bra-strap length.

Amber
I believe that my hair is mid stom­ach length 4 inch­es away from waist. I have to use a comb for my hair. I have a big wide tooth pur­ple comb with long thick teeth. I noticed when using coconut oil, it does a great job with fin­ger detan­gle. I use the comb for my roots because that’s where my hair is the most tan­gled. I also use it with my ends. So it’s a com­bi­na­tion of both using a fin­ger detan­gle method and comb. I agree with every­one and it makes me feel bet­ter not wor­ry about tan­gles because… Read more »
Jesse
I real­ly appre­ci­ate this arti­cle. What has helped me detan­gled my thick APL 4c hair is to use sil­i­cones!! I was using all nat­u­ral prod­ucts because I just assumed that is what nat­u­rals are sup­posed to do, right? I was look­ing for a new con­di­tion­er and found Aussie Moist. My entire hair game changed for the bet­ter. My hair can actu­al­ly retain mois­ture and I expe­ri­ence vir­tu­al­ly no break­age when I comb my (con­di­tion­er-sat­u­rat­ed) hair because of the awe­some slip.  I’ve learned that nat­u­ral hair doesn’t have to be THAT hard. We just make it hard by giv­ing our­selves extreme rules… Read more »
LaManouchka
Hi Geniece, your arti­cle is very inter­est­ing regard­ing the way we imag­ine detan­gling. When you real­ize that this process is aimed to avoid the hair to end up dam­aged, you quick­ly under­stand that less is defi­nate­ly more. Too much comb­ing can cause the exact oppo­site ! Not to men­tion that being able to detan­gling con­sis­tent­ly your hair every week for hours is not going to last years… one day even­tu­al­ly, you just give up, even if you are the most pas­sion­nate per­son in the world about hair.  Our hair­care process should fit our life, not the oppo­site around. (Sor­ry for the… Read more »
Mina

LOVE this arti­cle! Nat­u­ral hair doesn’t not have to be a big deal; keep­ing it sim­ple is best.

Vanessa

I have 4c hair. In fact, she would be a 5c if there was some­thing like that. I’m yet to see a pic of hair as kinky as mine. I only wear stretched out styles (buns, chunky corn­rows pin and tucks, that sort of thing) which I love. No “out” styles for me (no loss, cos I real­ly don’t like them that much). And i wash and dry her in my super-stretchy braid­ed twists. And as my hair gets longer, it’s actu­al­ly eas­ier to detan­gle. I’m at APL and detan­gling is less than 5 min­utes!

xyzebra

Are you refer­ring to your own hair as “she”…strange, I thought this was only done in the wig world. (some­thing new erry­day)

Vanessa

Lol.
Yup, my hair’s a she. Her name is Queen Lola.
I have a habit of nam­ing every­thing. And I mean EVERYTHING. Crazy o_O

wds

it would be great if you could do an arti­cle on this site detail­ing what you use. I have very kinky hair that tan­gles very eas­i­ly but it seems that many of the type 4s giv­ing advice on this site are 4a. Their advice is help­ful but I would love to see a suc­cess­ful (and easy) 4c method.

Vanessa
May­be I’ll sub­mit an arti­cle if it’s allowed. But the secret is, pre­vent­ing the tan­gling in the first place. I love pin n tucks, tucked in buns, braids, ban­tu knots, corn­rows, etc. I nev­er ever wear “out” styles like fros, twist outs, knot outs, braid outs, puffs, etc because I’ll have to use scis­sors to get the tan­gles out. And ensure you remove all shed hair. And since the hair is well mois­tur­ized (split ends wors­en tan­gling) and nev­er tan­gled, I only comb to remove those shed hairs. I wash and con­di­tion in twist­ed braids. I think that my twist­ed… Read more »
La Trenda

Vanes­sa
What is a braid­ed twist?
3 sep­a­rate twists braid­ed togeth­er?

I think that I need to not try any out styles either. The last time I did, my hair mat­ted like a neglect­ed long-haired dog.

Thanks

Vanessa

Yeah, 3 twists braid­ed togeth­er. Stretch­es her out like no oth­er. I haven’t left it in as a style though *think­ing*

Knotty Natural

You should prob­a­bly click on the Style Icons link and click 4c…there are TONS of wom­en with beau­ti­ful 4c hair and details reg­i­mens!

TINA SMITH

EXAGGERATING

Vanessa

If you wish to believe I’m exag­ger­at­ing sweet­ie that’s your busi­ness. After I’m done with my wash­ing and con­di­tion­ing on the four braid­ed twists, I run a wide toothed comb through each sec­tion and rebraid. In 5 MINUTES. If it’s impos­si­ble for you, it’s not for me, since I nev­er let my hair get tan­gled in the first place.

Vanessa

If you wish to believe I’m exag­ger­at­ing sweet­ie that’s your busi­ness. After in done with my wash­ing and con­di­tion­ing on the four braid­ed twists, I run a wide toothed comb through each sec­tion and rebraid. In 5 MINUTES. If it’s impos­si­ble for you, it’s not for me, since I nev­er let my hair get tan­gled in the first place.

OHR

Exag­ger­at­ing what, Tina Smith?
*waves at LBell upthread*

Mar
I have been fin­ger detan­gling for over a year and I love it. I do the bulk of my fin­ger detan­gling while my hair is wet and cov­ered with a con­di­tion­er with lots of slip (tresse­me nat­u­rals, for me) but if I don’t get all the tan­gles out its no big deal. I think that what peo­ple don’t under­stand is that when you’re fin­ger detan­gling it doesn’t start and stop in one ses­sion. I do most in the show­er, but after I’m done I do some light fin­ger detan­gling while apply­ing pro­duct through­out my hair, doing twists or just styling.… Read more »
Cy

I stopped thor­ough­ly detan­gling my hair after an over-zeal­ous detan­gling ses­sion with a Den­man brush took away about three months of growth in one night. It lit­er­al­ly looked like I had cut my hair the ends of my hair (albeit uneven­ly) when it dried. Since March of this year I have been exclu­sive­ly fin­ger detan­gling. Nev­er looked back since, and my hair has gone back to sprout­ing thick and fast.

TINA SMITH

this is not news to me yet this site keeps push­ing it so now you show a long hair girl who says oth­er­wise dumb. make up your mind and stop con­fus­ing peo­ple. glad i know how to think for myself

Soapbox

So what exact­ly is your prob­lem? Almost every sin­gle one of your posts has been ridicu­lous­ly rude. If you find this site so unhelp­ful then why con­tin­ue to vis­it?

perosn

stop react­ing to trolls; are you stu­pid? they post com­ments to get a reac­tion!

Kelcie

I use a big tooth comb while con­di­tion­er is in my hair and comb it through. When it’s time for me to twist my hair indi­vid­u­al­ly, I get my small­er tooth comb and comb through. It is not pos­si­ble to get all the knots out and have per­fect­ly detan­gled hair, but I would rather get close to it. I have 4c hair; the tan­gles are nev­er end­ing!!

Candice

I fin­ger detan­gle when I’m pre-poo­ing with coconut oil. Then I fin­ger detan­gle while wash­ing and con­di­tion­ing my hair in sec­tions. Then I run a wide tooth comb through my hair after I dry my hair with a t-shirt. Takes me 30 min­utes to wash and detan­gle my hair; 50 min­utes if I’m deep con­di­tion­ing and steam­ing as well.

Yas
I find that fail­ure to remove the knots only caus­es new ones. My hair is super coily, so a fail­ure to remove knots when I see them actu­al­ly works again­st me. I try to keep my hair stretched, and that has been helping–not too stretched how­ev­er. Too much stretch­ing cre­ates ten­sion on the hair which can, in turn, cause break­age. I essen­tial­ly twist my hair, because the twists tend to last long. I can’t corn­row and loose braids tend to mat; so twist­ing works real­ly well for me. I also wash in twists. I also use Aunt Jackie’s Instant Detan­gling… Read more »
TWA4now

Great! Please explain in deatil what the HARP method is?

Jamz

Great arti­cle. I too nev­er detan­gled my hair ful­ly.
Just an obser­va­tion, the writer kept say­ing “damped hair”…I assume though she meant to say “damp­ened”
sor­ry, I’m a stick­ler for Eng­lish :)

Black Girl With Long Hair

Oops. Didn’t catch this. Cor­rect­ing it now!

Suzette

Also you do not spec­i­fy the tex­ture of your hair. I’m think­ing a 4C type may have more issues with detan­gling then a 3c or 4a?

Gen

My hair is a 4a/4b mix. More coily than curly.

Suzette

I am not clear on some­thing. Are the con­di­tion­ers you are using leave in con­di­tion­ers or are you using reg­u­lar con­di­tion­er that requires rins­ing? Are you detan­gling pri­or to sham­poo­ing or after or both?

LBell
Hon­est­ly I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to ful­ly detan­gle tight­ly-coiled hair that hasn’t already been stretched out in some way. I’ve learned that MY hair — what today folks like to call 4b — is going to coil up on itself regard­less. That’s why my goal is not so much to detan­gle as it is to remove shed hair. In the process of remov­ing shed hair, which I ONLY do with my fin­gers, I man­age to get out all large tan­gles and most of the small­er ones…and that’s good enough for me. After try­ing many dif­fer­ent con­coc­tions for this process I’ve… Read more »
merry

i was just about the write that i don’t think kinky hair can tru­ly be detan­gled.

as soon as you comb it, it’s back to curling up on itself. 

i too only do fin­ger detan­gling after sham­poo­ing while i twist my hair. i just put the mois­tur­iz­er in an smooth it through sec­tions and my hair unrav­els, then i twist.

haven’t used a comb in more than a year.

TWA4now

Awe­some! I need to try this…I don’t think I’m adding enough con­di­tion­er w/ an oil!

Kami

Instead of detan­gling my ends first, I just start with the roots. I cre­ate 6–8 sec­tions, load my hair up with Gio­van­ni smooth as silk con­di­tion­er, and then sec­tion by sec­tion fin­ger detan­gle by rak­ing my fin­gers through my roots, pulling out shed hairs, and remov­ing any knots I find. Even though it isnt faster (just reached waist length, so it take about 40–50 mins), I’ve noticed less bro­ken hairs doing this method than detan­gling the ends first.

Deeemee

I actu­al­ly start­ed using a method sim­i­lar to that a lit­tle while ago. And I have 4a hair haha. After wash­ing and deep con­di­tion­ing, I comb start­ing from the roots down to almost the ends then fin­ger detan­gle my ends. I only do this once through per sec­tion and I def­i­nite­ly feel the dif­fer­ence. This takes about 25 min­utes.

cb

WOW! you must have type 3 hair.?? My hair would be SO knot­ty and dif­fi­cult if I tried to start at the top

RissaKatharine

Not even. If you try to detan­gle STRAIGHT HAIR from the top, it would be a bitch.

Kami

Haha, want to know some­thing fun­ny, my 4a hair is actu­al­ly fair­ly easy to detan­gle regard­less of what I do. It’s my 3c/3b hair that tends to be hard­er to detan­gle because, unlike my 4a hair, my type 3 hair doesn’t clump. This actu­al­ly caus­es that hair to mess and tan­gle togeth­er a lot faster and eas­ier.

SJ

Amen!!! nev­er real­ly under­stood the obses­sion with per­fect­ly detan­gled hair.

TINA SMITH

all this time i thought i was the only one who felt this way

Amy

I know right! Espe­cial­ly when the hair is going to tan­gle right back lol

Mersh

I’ve cut down my detan­gling by sim­ply mak­ing sure my hair is coat­ed in con­di­tion­er and using my hands. At fist I hate fin­ger detan­gling and felt it caused my hair more harm than good. But using an ade­quate amount of my dc on damp hair it can detan­gle in no time.
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mimikenyan

I com­plete­ly agree with u Mer­sh, using a good con­di­tion­er and your hand will work jst fine. And atm i’m using the tre­sem­me nat­u­rals con­di­tion­er.

Rachel
Yup I’ve found that a wide tooth comb is all that’s need­ed. I don’t under­stand the mul­ti­ple hour detan­gling ses­sions I hear some nat­u­rals com­plain about. All I can think of is what in the world r they doing or how are they wear­ing their hair for it to get that tan­gled and knot­ted? I sec­tion my hair and work con­di­tion­er in on dry sec­tions, I detan­gle with the slip the con­di­tion­er gives me with a wide tooth show­er comb at mul­ti­ple angles then rin­se in sec­tions and re twist. Then I work in my deep con­di­tion­er in sec­tions, rin­se,… Read more »
biancarichards

i have bsl tran­si­tioned hair 4a-3b and i detan­gle in four sec­tions by spritz­ing laven­der water then Kinky Curly Knot today or Karen’s Body Beau­ti­ful leave-in and i’m done in 15min just count­ing on the slip­pi­ness of the leave-in and fin­ger detan­gling. Fin­ger detan­gling with a con­di­tion­ier is much more effi­cient for me than doing it with an oil.

I think that hav­ing more lenght is eas­ier for me to detan­gle, but i must be sure to cor­rect­ly pineap­ple my hair for the night oth­er­wise it’s a knots&shrinkage night­mare

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