The snag of a brush colliding with a tangle is painful on multiple levels—physically, of course, but also emotionally, as you can often hear the breakage it causes. Anyone with hair long enough to brush knows that tangles are an unavoidable consequence of lengthy locks. But while some degree of tangling is to be expected, there may be some behaviors or products that contribute to the frequency and severity of your tangles.
Tangles are typically made up of a combination of "live" hair still attached to your scalp and "dead" hair that has already been shed from your scalp. The approach to tackling tangles is multi-faceted, as you need to remove the shedded hair without causing further damage to the live hair. There are steps you can take to avoid creating tangles, as well as best practices for detangling them once they have formed.
In order to understand the full story behind what contributes to tangles, we turned to two hair experts: trichologist Karen Flowers and dermatologist Iris Rubin, MD. Keep reading for their advice on the best way to prevent and tackle tangles.
Use a Sulfate-Free Shampoo
GisouHoney Infused Hair Wash Shampoo$37.00
One of the factors that impact tangling is hair dryness. "Tanglingis more common in dry and damagedhairbecause the cuticles don’t lie flat, which allows strands to snag against each other and become intertwined," says Rubin. One way to reduce dryness is to use a sulfate-free shampoo, as these cleansers remove dirt without stripping the hair of its natural oils. Using a sulfate-free shampoo can minimize the drying of thehairthat can happen with sulfate-based surfactants, explains Rubin.
Detangle With a Wide-Tooth Comb While Conditioning
Preventingtanglesstarts in the shower, according to Rubin. One of the best practices you can implement to both prevent and treat tangles is to use a wide-tooth comb during your conditioning treatment. "Before rinsing conditioner, use a wide-tooth comb to gently work out any knots," she says. "This helps releasetangleswithout any extra pulling or tugging on thehair."
By combing with the conditioner in, you are increasing the hair's elasticity with the moisture of both the water and product. Increased elasticity minimizes breakage and damage to the hair. This can be especially helpful for those with dry, damaged, or even fine hair that may already have reduced elasticity.
Use a Microfiber Towel
Avoiding friction is the name of the game when it comes to preventing tangles. Traditional towels are some of the worst perpetrators of friction, but any towel can become problematic if used too vigorously. Rubin recommends seeking out a microfiber towel to dry hair gently. "To preventtanglescaused by friction, use a microfiberhairtowel to gently blot excess water out of thehair," she says. She cautions that even with a microfiber towel, it's important to avoid roughly rubbing your hair while drying.
The RëzoTowel ($22) is an ultra-soft microfiber towel turban that makes gently drying hair easy and luxurious. Rëzo Hair Care is designed for curly hair, so it makes sense they use microfiber for their towel, as Rubin explains that naturally curlyhairis also more prone totanglingbecause the strands don’t lie flat, in turn increasing the chances that they will wrap around each other.
Try a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
If you know that you have tangles before washing your hair, Flowers recommends doing a pre-shampoo oil treatment and finger detangling before entering the shower. "Ourhairstrands are impacted throughout the day by our hands, styling utensils, hats, coats, pillows, sweating, or even the wind," she says. "When our curls intertwine for long periods of time or are dry, this can lead totangling.A gentle detangle is always bestbeforehairwashing, to minimize further tightening oftangledstrands." She recommends saturating the hair with coconut oil the night before wash day, as it takes about eight hours for coconut oil to fully penetrate thehairshaft. "Coconut oil softenshair, making it more pliable and easier to removetangles. The oil also strengthens thehairto minimize breakage during this process."
This can be especially helpful for those with curly and textured hair, as Flowers explains that ourhairsheds every day, but with curly and kinky-curly texturedhair, most of the shedhairstays in thehairshaft until wash day."I recommend thathairbe first finger-detangled to remove most of the shedhairprior to saturating thehairwith water," she says."This is really important if you’ve been wearing a protective style for weeks because you can expect a significant amount of shedhairafter the style is taken down.This shedding is normal as it has built up over time."
Protect Your Hair During Sleep
While avoiding friction may seem easy enough, we often forget that the largest culprit for friction is sleep. Both Rubin and Flowers mention friction caused by movement while sleeping can lead to tangling. Rubin shares that keepinghairpulled back while exercising and sleeping can help preventtangling; she likes silk scrunchies for these activities because they don’t damage thehair.
Silk pillowcases are a popular choice for minimizing sleep friction, and they have proven results. If you're not ready to make the (sometimes significant) investment in a silk pillowcase or are looking for a silk sleep alternative for travel, check out the Silk Hair Wrap ($50) from Damn Gina. This silk-lined turban lets you tuck your strands safely inside to protect them from the material of your pillow.
Get Regular Trims
If you're looking to grow out your hair, you may be hesitant to get frequent trims as it seems counterproductive. But your split ends could cause damage and breakage that ultimately hinders growth. Split ends are annoying, but they can also contribute to tangling. Flowers explains that it's important to get trims regularly, at least two to three times a year or as needed to remove split ends."Split ends cause both shed and neighboringhairstrands to attach to the ends (which are weakened) and createtangles.Getting your ends trimmed regularly will help alleviate this issue," she says.
Avoid Products That Cause Buildup on Hair
Buildup can cause all sorts of problems for the hair, but it can also cause tangles. You have likely tried products that made your hair feel sticky or tacky and it's obvious to see where those contribute to tangling. One less obvious perpetrator is silicones, as these tend to build up slowly on the hair and actually make it feel smoother to the touch. But over time, this buildup can create tangle-causing friction in the hair as well.
Rubin recommends using a conditioner that will not contribute to buildup on the hair. "A high-quality conditioner is a must, and if you comb yourhairbefore rinsing and gently blot thehairdry this will help reducetanglessignificantly," she says. "SEEN’s conditioners contain an ingredient called hemisqualane, which is a natural alternative to silicone that’s derived from plant sugar. It smoothes thehaircuticles to help preventtangles, and makes for easier combing and brushing."
Deep Condition Regularly
Hydration is essential to keeping hair elastic and less likely to break, as dry hair is more prone to friction and tangling. As such, regular deep conditioning treatments can improve both the health and appearance of your hair. Flowers recommend super hydrating conditioners that will help give thehair“slip” when detangling. "One such example is the Curl House's Follicle Stimulating Growth Conditioner ($28), which contains botanicals, humectants, and oils thatmaximize moisture and provide excellent slip for both conditioning and detangling," she says.
How to Detangle Extremely Matted Hair at Home
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Kavitha S, Natarajan K, Thilagavathi G, Srinivas C. Effect of oil application, age, diet, and pigmentation on the tensile strength and breaking point of hair.Int J Trichology. 2016;8(4):155-159.
Hair tangling happens when the tresses do not have enough moisture locked in, and are excessively dry. You need to wash and condition your hair more frequently, and also oil it from time to time to get rid of the problem. Use cold water only.How do I stop my hair from tangling so easily? ›
- Brush before you wash. ...
- Always condition after shampooing. ...
- Dry gently. ...
- Seal your ends. ...
- Put hair up before exercising. ...
- Use wind protection. ...
- Care for your hair even while you're sleeping.
- Amika The Wizard Detangling Primer. $25 at Amazon. ...
- Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-In Conditioner. ...
- Ceremonia Guava Rescue Spray. ...
- IGK Good Behavior 4-in-1 Prep Spray. ...
- LolaVie Glossing Detangler. ...
- Rahua Hydration Detangler + UV Barrier. ...
- Rizos Curls Refresh and Detangle Spray. ...
- Creme of Nature Knot Away Leave-In Detangler.
The main reason for knotted hair is typically dryness. Matted tresses occur when the hair doesn't have enough moisture. Your hair will need washing and conditioning more frequently to deal with this. Using a detangling product is a great way to support your hair care regime.What prevents matting and tangling hair? ›
Brush your hair consistently
If your hair is prone to tangling, it's probably not a good idea to let it down all day (especially in the wind) without brushing it. Brush your hair two to three times a day using a soft bristle brush, especially before a shower and before sleeping.
Apply petroleum jelly to your strands
Petroleum jelly like Vaseline is ideal to hydrate and nourish the ends of your hair, preventing split ends and tangles.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can keep your hair healthy and protect the hair cuticle. It also detangles your hair if you mix it in equal parts of water and rinse your hair with the solution after shampooing. Massage it into your scalp for 10 minutes before finally rinsing it off with water.Is it better to get tangles out of wet or dry hair? ›
Dry Detangling Tips
Working through larger knots when curls are dry is safer because when hair is wet, hair swells and the cuticle becomes more fragile, much easier to break. Hair is more likely to have their bonds intact when it's dry, but it can take time and patience to ensure you detangle gently and safely.
How Much Should You Wash? For the average person, every other day, or every 2 to 3 days, without washing is generally fine. “There is no blanket recommendation. If hair is visibly oily, scalp is itching, or there's flaking due to dirt,” those are signs it's time to shampoo, Goh says.How do you get a rat's nest out of your hair? ›
Coat your hair in conditioner and comb your hair starting from the bottom. Again, ensure that your entire head is covered to make getting the knots out easier. Take your time and make sure to comb all of the knots out. You can section up your hair to be sure that all the knots are gone.
If your hair cuticles are damaged, they're more likely to snag. Split ends and dry cuticles depleted of their natural oils can cause increased tangling and lead to breakage. Frequent trims can help prevent tangling.Why does my hair get so tangled when I shampoo it? ›
Shampoo and Conditioner
Using too much product, particularly shampoo, can strip the hair of its natural oils and scalp build up, causing dryness and therefore tangles.
- Hop in the shower and saturate your hair with water. ...
- Apply a slippery conditioner, detangling spray, or leave-in conditioner to your hair. ...
- Allow the product to sit on your hair for 5 to 10 minutes. ...
- Use your fingers to loosen up the knots. ...
- Comb or brush your hair out.
In addition to using a hair mask to help nourish dry strands and soften knots, you might want to consider taking things a step further and applying a warm hair care oil—such as coconut oil or avocado oil—to your strands, wrapping your hair in plastic wrap, and covering with a hot towel.What hair oil helps with tangles? ›
There are so many reasons to use coconut oil on your hair - from calming your frizz to detangling knots (and it also makes a great pre-shampoo treatment).What is a home remedy for severely tangled hair? ›
Honey and Olive Oil
Honey has a slippery consistency and the tendency to coat and smooth your strands, making it a fabulous detangler. To try this remedy, mix 2 tablespoons of honey with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Then apply it to your wet hair and use a wide-toothed comb to remove knots and tangles.
Mix one part baking soda with three parts conditioner. Make sure the mixture is well blended. Divide your hair into sections so that you can apply the mixture to all the parts of your hair and scalp. Once you've applied it, massage it into your scalp for a few minutes and then let it be for half an hour.What is a natural detangler? ›
Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, and 1/4 cup of warm water in a small spray bottle. Shake the bottle to ensure that ingredients are well-mixed. Spray all over hair and massage in. After running your fingers through your hair, comb out any remaining knots.Does leave in conditioner help with tangles? ›
Leave-in conditioner makes the hair easier to style and improves manageability by smoothing the hair shaft and preventing tangles. The natural oils reduce friction between the hair strands, making it easier to brush and comb the hair.Why is my hair suddenly dry and knotty? ›
Why is my hair so dry and brittle? Straw-like hair is often the result of common hair care oversights, such as these: using drying and styling tools (dryers, curling irons, electric rollers, flat irons) at too high a heat setting. using heat-based drying and styling tools too frequently.
"Tangling is more common in dry and damaged hair because the cuticles don't lie flat, which allows strands to snag against each other and become intertwined," says Rubin. One way to reduce dryness is to use a sulfate-free shampoo, as these cleansers remove dirt without stripping the hair of its natural oils.Why is my hair matting up? ›
How does hair become matted? Hair becomes matted when it is not getting combed as needed to permit natural shedding. Loose hair can knot several times around strands, creating tangles that cause the hair to matte.Why is my hair so dry and frizzy all of a sudden? ›
Why is my hair frizzy all of a sudden? If your hair is suddenly frizzy, it could have to do with your environment—for example, you may not have known you were dealing with dehydrated hair until you entered a humid climate. It could also have to do with a heat styling product you used, a recent dye job, or bleaching.