“We wet the hair, take a lot of conditioner and work it through with the fingers — starting at the temples and going back, and then moving to the nape of the neck and working out. Then we run our hands across the top of the scalp and work the fingers through,” says Bower, who suggests conditioners and detangler sprays from Circle of Friends and the Fuzzy Duck product lines for kids.
“If you allow the conditioner to sit on the hair for several minutes, you have better luck," Bower says. " For severe tangles, work on it over a couple of hours. Don’t try to tackle it all at once.”
Stylists say the most important tactic in damage-free detangling is to start at the bottom, combing one inch of hair at a time and working your way up.
“Comb with one hand and use the other to hold the hair so you’re not tugging on the scalp,” Friedman says. “You don’t want to start at the top of the head and rip through the hair.”
But Friedman suggests taking a proactive approach to prevent snarls before they can start.
“Kids are running and tumbling, so if you have an active child, put their hair up before they go out to play," she says. "And before they go to sleep, put a very loose braid or ponytail in their hair."
If they already have a matted mane, use creative ways to encourage your child to sit still through the rigorous routine.
“It’s all about distraction,” Friedman explains. “Let them watch a video or read a book while you're combing. You don’t want to make a big deal about it. And when they’re in the tub, give them toys to play with, or a cup so they can pour out water. That way they’re not focusing on the whole detangling process.”
Bower shares a tactic that works for her in the salon: “I tell the child, ‘Now I’m going to get some of these tangles out and wash them down the drain. If we can do that, then we don’t have to comb out so many of them when you’re in the chair.’ That helps to give them a positive outlook when they sit in the chair, and they’re pretty receptive.”
Children are also less likely to protest if you make them part of the process.
“You can do that by letting them choose the detangler they want,” Keare says. “If you have a few with different fragrances, you can say, 'Oh, do you want to try the raspberry detangler today or the pineapple detangler?' Then children will feel like they’re involved and it was their choice instead of their parent’s demand.”
No matter what strategy you use, experts say patience is key. “And if all else fails, go to your stylist!” Bower says with a chuckle.
Cricket Big Time Comb
Blended Cutie Tug Me Knot Conditioner
Circle of Friends Abedi's Safari Detangler
Circle of Friends Dragon Dance Conditioner
Curlisto Kids Detangle Rinse
Curlisto Kids Leave-in Conditioner
Fairy Tales Detangling Conditioner
Fuzzy Duck Detangler & Refresher Spray
Fuzzy Duck Kids' Conditioner
Little Sprout Children's Miracle Detangler
Little Sprout Children's Deep Conditioner
So Cozy Fruity Delight Detangler
So Cozy Lucky Lime Pre-Detangling Treatment
So Cozy Sweet Strawberry Conditioner
Johnson's No More Tangles Spray-on Detangler
Johnson's Buddies No More Tangles Easy-Comb Conditioner
L'Oreal Kids Tangle Tamer
Biosilk No Tangles Tangle Buster
Suave Awesome Apple Detangling Spray
Rainbow Spray Detangler for Kids
California Baby Hair Detangler Spray
Cricket Big Time Comb