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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 […]

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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… 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?

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 »
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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… 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… 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!

TINA SMITH

EXAGGERATING

OHR

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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*

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

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… 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.

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.

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.

SJ

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

Amy

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

TINA SMITH

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

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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