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


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?



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.


* indicates required

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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 usually form if I don’t detangle my hair properly (starting from the bottom and slowly working up). Detangling, of course, is much easier to do on hair that is stretch, moisturized, and with sealed ends.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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 ( I don’t find the ingredients terrible and the ACV smell is masked perfectly with the fruity smell of the spray. ) it helps me with finger detangling and does all those thing ACV is reported to do. I will continue to be calm with detangling and hope my hair kicks back into groove.

  6. Pingback: 4 Bad Habits to Eliminate to Maximise Length Retention

  7. Pingback: 4 Bad Habits to Eliminate to Maximise Length Retention - UrbSocietyMagazine

  8. Pingback: How to Detangle Natural Hair Quickly | Think & Grow Chick

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *