Is there any greater pain than the snag of a knot on your hairbrush? Between the physical pain it causes to your scalp and the emotional pain of hearing your hair rip, tangles make for major stress. There are many different ways to try tackling knots and , but the right way may depend on your hair type.
Meet the Expert
Tangles big and small can be caused by a number of factors. First, physical manipulation—like brushing, styling, and even sleeping on it—could cause knots and matted areas. Second, the products you use and the residue they leave in hair can make it sticky or tacky (causing touseled messes). Finally, you may just have hair that is naturally more likely to tangle due to its texture or thickness.
No matter the cause it's important to understand what the best way to attempt to detangle it is based on your hair type. We turned to three hair experts for their advice on detangling each hair type. Keep reading to understand the best way to detangle your hair according to your hair type.
How to Detangle Your Hair Type
No matter what hair type you have, it's important to make sure you are using the right tools and products. "This really does make ALL of the difference for a seamless, pain-free detangle and hair’s health," says Hawkins.
Jones agrees and adds that there is some general advice that applies to detangling all hair types. "As a professional hairstylist, I have all different types of textured hair in my chair (from 1a to 4c)," says Jones. "My clients range to those with super fine, fragile hair, to the complete opposite with clients that have an overload of thick coarse and curly hair. However when it comes to detangling hair, I pretty much treat the wide hair-span types the same: very gentle and taking my time."
If you have fine hair, you likely don't want to risk breakage or fallout from brushing. Those with fine hair often struggle to achieve fuller-looking styles, so it is important to maintain the health and integrity of the existing hair. "You want to avoid adding any additional tension and/or stretch to fine hair," says Hawkins.
He explains that stretching fine hair leads to breakage and damage. When attempting to detangle fine hair, Hawkins recommends using a lightweight detangling spray and a wide tooth detangler comb, like the Ultra Smooth Coconut Detangler Comb. The wide teeth make combing through fine texture easy and without strain or tension to the hair, says Hawkins, "I would follow up with the Ultra Smooth Coconut Detangling Brush."
By adding a detangling spray, you can help to dampen hair if it has already dried, something Heard recommends. "I always detangle damp to wet hair, that's when your hair has the most elasticity and is less likely to break," explains Heard. She also cautions that you should also comb/brush ends to root - especially with fine hair.
With any hair texture, you should always start from the bottom of your hair and work your way up, slowly, gently, and evenly, says Hawkins, and this especially true for long hair. "If you start at the scalp to detangle, you’re only creating more work, headache, and tension on your hair and essentially making the hair tangle up more," explains Hawkins.
"Take your time and do not pull down on hair," Jones adds. "Remember the longest part of your hair is the oldest, be gentle."
If hair is really, really long, Hawkins recommends a detangling comb with wide teeth and a long handle for control to start before brushing. Heard recommends detangling all hair types when damp or wet, so you may want to keep a misting bottle of water on hand as long hair is likely to dry as you are working through it. Jones says that after detangling wet hair, she always mists the locks with cold water. "This helps close hair’s cuticle and maximize the hair conditioning benefits," explains Jones.
When it comes to thick, course, or curly hair, Heard's advice is the same: "Moisture, moisture, moisture." She explains that you'll want to make sure you have plenty of moisture in your hair from both water and conditioning products.
Heard describes her detangling strategy for curls specifically as "saturate and separate." She says to separate the curls using fingers first. Then, she recommends using the Intangible Inches Dual Bristle Brush from ends to root, brushing through one to two inch sections of hair at a time. Unlike with other hair types, curly hair needs to be detangled wet. It's not possible to brush curls out without causing damage, so most curly stylists recommend reserving detangling for wash day.
Hawkins offered similar advice, suggesting that you take smaller sections/quadrants of hair, mist the section that needs detangling with a detangling spray, and then start with a detangling or wide tooth comb before moving to a brush. Wide tooth combs are good for thick hair because they can penetrate through thick hair and not tear it, explains Hawkins. The Denman D3 Original Styler 7 Row Brush is very popular in the curly and course hair communities for its ability to detangle without snagging and even assist with styling.
When detangling color-treated or damaged hair, it's important to remember how fragile the hair is. You want to avoid adding any additional tension or damage to these hair types. Stretching fragile hair leads to breakage and damage. Heard recommends approaching this hair similarly to coarse or curly hair—damp and deeply-conditioned. "I use Intangible Inches Essential Leave-in Strengthener. Be very generous when applying (you will want to rinse when done), let it sit for a minute and use your fingers (not a brush) and slowly pull strands apart end to root," explains Heard.
For detangling the hair, Hawkins uses Cricket’s Ultra Smooth Coconut Detangling Brush. "The bristles are perfect for scalp massage too, which I often do when conditioning hair. Using the brush with the conditioner helps you not only “pre-detangle” hair, but it eases tension to the scalp and relaxes my clients. The added bonus, by using this type of a detangling brush with conditioner is you are providing each strand a very thorough conditioning, which also makes detangling hair easier," explains Hawkins.
The Final Takeaway
There are many nuances to detangling hair depending on your hair type, but there are 3 pieces of advice that are true for all hair types: start detangling from the bottom to the root, detangle damp and conditioned hair, and consider starting with a wide tooth comb before using a brush. No matter what tools you use or what type of hair you have, take your time to avoid causing unnecessary damage.