Ugh. I don’t know about you, but if there are two things that sometimes turns my journey of growing out my natural hair into a full-on-knock-out-drag-out struggle, it’s split ends and fairy knots. As far as split ends go, you can check out our articles “THIS Is Why You Have Split Ends and Breakage” and “7 Ways to Deal with Perpetual Split Ends” to get some tips on how to deal with those. But today, I’m going to try and offer up a little insight on how to keep those totally irritating and annoying fairy knots at bay.

That way, as you’re trying to retain length when it comes to your locks, you won’t lose any of it due to the tangling or breakage that fairy knots have the tendency to cause whenever you comb your hair and the teeth get caught on those lil’ suckers or you run you hands through your tresses and somehow they get “stuck”.

What Causes Fairy Knots?

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If there’s a part of you that’s always wondered why people with straighter hair types don’t seem to have nearly as many issues with fairy knots as we do, here’s why. First, curlier texture hair is naturally more prone to tangle up. Secondly, fairy knots happen because whenever we shed hair (which is daily; typically, 50-100 strands a day), our curly strands can lock up around one another, creating tiny knots. This happens even more when the cuticles on the strands of our hair are raised. This is why you should avoid alkaline substances on your hair; they throw off its pH balance and can damage your hair’s cuticles.

What Should Your Plan of Attack to Get Rid of Fairy Knots Be?

As for getting rid of fairy knots—oh, if it were so easy as simply “untying” them. The first thing to keep in mind is when you have curly hair, getting a few knots every know and again is pretty common; especially as your hair grows longer. It honestly only starts to become a real issue once you are getting a lot of them. Many knots typically means that A) your hair is very dry; B) you’ve got a lot of split ends and damage overall and/or C) you are not detangling your hair as often as you probably should (we’ll get more into that in the final point of this article).

But what should you do if you do get a knot? If it is a single strand one, as much as I hate to say it, your best bet is probably going to be to cut it off. Just make sure that you use actual hair shears and not some random scissors that you have lying around. The reason why I say that is because paper-cutting scissors (for example) tend to have a dull blade that can snag your ends, cause more split ends and yep—you guessed it, more fairy knots.

If you happen to have a bigger knot, while it might seem like cutting it off is the only thing that you can do, try applying some oil (like avocado, jojoba or almond) on it to see if it will unravel on its own. Sometimes, even if the knot feels tight, it might loosen up if you use oil and your fingers to gently—emphasis on “gently”—pry it loose. Whatever you do, just make sure that you don’t pull/snap the knot off; that will break your hair strand and could ultimately cause more harm than good.

(By the way, if you like to watch videos on natural hair care, you can check out a cool video on the topic here.)

How Can You Prevent Future Fairy Knots?

Remember how I said that fairy knots are generally the result of some sort of dryness, damage or a lack of detangling? That said, if you want to know how to keep from getting fairy knots, it’s important to deep condition your hair, get regular trims, detangle your hair on your wash days and, if you wear it out regularly, either tie it up or braid it up at night. Matter of fact, when it comes to your nighttime routine, it can never hurt to apply a little light oil onto your ends (that will make it harder for your hair strands to “stick” together). To keep moisture in during the daytime, it’s also a good idea to spritz your hair with a DIY blend (check out our article “DIY Homemade Hair Spritzes” for a few ideas).

Another good tip is to make sure that there is a good balance between moisture and protein in your hair. If your locks are not hydrated with moisture or strengthened with protein, that can also lead to damage that could result in fairy knots. Oh, and make sure to oil rinse your hair at least every other wash day as well. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s when you literally pour a light oil (like grapeseed or coconut) over your hair right after you condition it. It’s an easy way to seal your ends so that they don’t get tangled up as much.

One more thing. Use your fingers to detangle and style your hair as much as possible. While it might be quicker to use a comb or Denman brush, sometimes, it’s the rushing through our tresses that can cause knots in the process.

Believe you me, the longer my hair gets, the more knots come and the more annoyed I tend to get. But all of these tips that I just shared are tried-and-true; they’re ones I know for a fact will reduce the amount of the ones that you get.

For better or for worse, fairy knots are a part of what comes with having curly hair. Just remember that proactive care is definitely what helps to prevent them. Good luck, sis.

Have some tips of your own to share? Put them in the comments below!