5 Real-Life Solutions to Detangle Your Matted Hair
Solutions for even the most snarly hair.
Simply put, knots are the pits...and we aren’t referring to the ones you can massage out. Girls with curls, coils, and kinks can relate to battling stressful tangles that have you thisclose to reaching for a pair of scissors. Listen, we’re no strangers to the infamous detangling cocktail of conditioner, patience, and sectioning, but how can you really, truly, deeply avoid mats, knots, and tangles in the first place? We hit up some hair experts for some sage advice perfect for any hair texture.
Avoid Tangle Traps
Tangles are typically caused by large amounts of hair that have become twisted or matted together, usually due to its curl pattern, health condition of the hair, or infrequent detangling practices paired with air-drying. “All hair textures are prone to tangles, but textured hair types are more at risk,” shares freelance hairstylist Patrick Kyle, whose clients include Anika Noni Rose, Shannon Elizabeth, and Rachel Brosnahan. “However, over-processed and dry hair are at extreme risk [since it’s so delicate.]” For the rest of us, most knots and tangles are usually caused by not properly brushing your hair.
Start from the Bottom
Drake had a point when he crooned, “started from the bottom now we here.” Unfortunately, when it comes to our hair, many of us do the exact opposite. “The biggest mistake people make is starting the combing process from the roots—this moves the knot towards the end of your hair, and it will only gather more hair and a bigger knot,” explains Rodney Cutler, co-owner of Licari Cutler Salon, whose clients include Emma Watson, Jamie King, and Naomi Watts.
One of his secret weapons is Redken All Soft Supple Touch Spray to create a “barrier” on the hair. “If you shampoo and condition properly, you don’t need a lot, but you want to ensure that the product sits on the hair shaft—maximum five to six pumps is all you need [before brushing],” he explains.
Put PADSR (Prep, Apply, Detail, Smooth, Rinse) into Practice
Another common mistake people make when detangling their hair is rushing the process. Remember, you’re not actually done until you can glide your finger through your hair from root to ends. Celebrity hairstylist and natural hair educator Tasheara Neshell, whose clients include Jennifer Hudson, Viola Davis, and Sevyn Streeter, encourages her clients to use her signature PADSR technique detailed below:
- Prep: On dry hair, begin finger-detangling, starting at the ends and working up the hair towards the scalp. [Editor’s Note: Neshell recommends Beautiful Textures Tangle Taming Leave-In Conditioner.]
- Apply: Saturate hair with water until drenched, then apply a moisturizing shampoo or cleanser to hair until fully covered. For a great cleanser that provides slippage, moisture, and hydration, try Beautiful Textures Tangle Taming Shampoo. Work the product from the ends to root until reaching the scalp.
- Detangle: Use a wide-tooth comb to begin detangling; this technique separates the hair strands from one another. Start by going through your entire head of hair at least once using a wide-tooth comb—again, the goal is to get to the scalp.
- Smooth: Use a Denman-like brush [editor’s note: think a brush with a spine] to smooth out curls and lay down the cuticle layers along the hair strand, the first working from ends up to roots, next roots to ends.
- Rinse: Gently rinse using cool water. Allow water to run down your hair from scalp to ends—the water pressure helps to keep curls separated and elongated, but do not massage curls during this step.
Lend Yourself a Hand
Detangling products and tools work hand in hand—however, depending on your hair type, one may be more or less effective without the other. Methods like finger-detangling can come in handy specifically for fine or fragile hair. Again, sectioning is key; you want to tackle smaller areas to zero in on tough knots. Daily moisturizers, oils, and butters can assist and hydrate the hair as you go.
Kyle is a fan of products that contain Babassu oil, like Nexxus Nourishing Hair Oil. “Your hair will be conditioned, and the elasticity of curls will be restored,” he explains. Equally as important is not over-washing; your natural oils help prevent excessive snarls. “On the days where you don’t wash, gently exfoliate your scalp with your fingertips in the shower to take the natural oil through the ends of your hair. On the days you do need to shampoo your hair, use a conditioning treatment instead.”
When removing braids or extensions, slowing unravel your style using your fingers to shake your hair as you go. Neshell recommends immediately dividing the hair in six sections: nne vertical part down the middle of the head (from the front hairline to the nape) and two sets of horizontal partings (temple to temple and ear to ear) to prevent further tangles.
“Always tackle knots in the hair while it’s dry,” Neshell reminds us. “Work only in the area that is knotted, and apply detangling product. Then remove the knot using fingers and tools until hair is free from tangles. Soaking knotted hair with water may cause severe friction to the cuticle layers of the strand, which can lead to split ends and breakage.”
Kyle’s take? Treat your hair as you would your skin, with kindness and care. “Never pull hard when brushing your hair. It will make knots even harder to get out. If you’ve used elastic ties, gently pull them out.”