Woman with blonde, matted hair

Usually when we think about matted hair, the first thing that comes to mind is a homeless dog in desperate need of a grooming. Unfortunately, this situation isn’t limited to our canine companions. It’s not even limited to curlies since our straight-haired comrades can easily get matted hair too. While having matted hair can be horrifying, it is possible to detangle matted hair out without reaching for the scissors.

Loosen the Locs

Recently one of my daughters came to me with a ponytail that was evidently hiding a matted mess within. After taking the ponytail holder out, I was horrified at the huge mat buried inside her waves. Cue the lecture on coming to me sooner with problems, yada yada…and then I set out to get that ratty mess out of her hair. Thirty minutes and two very sore arms later, it was out! It took patience and little bit of know-how, but we managed to remove it with no need to trim. That’s not to say she didn’t lose some hair in the process, but there was no chopping involved. Here’s what we did:

  1. Wet the hair very well, or hop into the shower, but skip the shampoo. In our case, since she was already dressed, I drenched her hair with a spray bottle.
  2. While the hair is still wet, apply generous amounts of a good detangler (something that should be a staple item in any curly girl’s bathroom”> to the matted hair and the chunks of hair around it.
  3. Brace yourself and dive into it with a wide-toothed comb. Make sure you hold onto your hair near the root for the chunk you’re working on, or it will hurt VERY badly. The goal at this step is not to get the mat out completely (purely wishful thinking”> but to loosen the surrounding hairs, sort of isolating the mat as best you can.
  4. Apply even more detangler to the mat and surrounding hairs, and massage it into the mat.
  5. Working with the comb and your fingers, separate more of the hairs around the mat. If needed, you can hit it with a detangling brush to encourage that stubborn knot to loosen. In my daughter’s case, I found that the detangling brush really helped. Mind you, I usually do not brush wet hair — but I also wouldn’t usually have a daughter with matted hair. Desperate times…
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as needed until the mat comes loose. Alternate using the comb, your fingers and a detangling brush if you’re using one. Again, it took us a good half hour to get through her large knot. I remember having to rest my arms halfway through, because holding your arms up starts hurting after about 15 minutes.

Have you run into this problem before? How do you detangle matted hair?

Tasha Swearingen


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