Arguably one of the most important aspects of having curly hair, the process of detangling can make all the difference in how you are retaining length. There are as many different ways to get those curls under control as there are types of curls, so there’s a method for everyone!
Rather than fight with your hair and cause unnecessary breakage, take a moment to assess your hair and determine the best way to approach detangling curly hair.
The amount of time between your detangling sessions truly depends on you and your hair. Some curlies can go two to three weeks or longer between detangling sessions. Other curlies find that they need to detangle several times during the week. If you’re wearing your hair out, it might be more prone to tangles and you may want to increase your frequency.
Curly hair strands can attract lint or other materials through daily activities. Curls can also curl up on themselves, whether it’s an intact strand or a shed hair. Detangling helps to remove these two problem sources and helps to return your hair to a ready-to-style, tangle free state.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. You should be listening for your hair to let you know when it’s in need of some TLC. Here are some general detangling tips for each hair type:
- Type 2 (Wavy): Every few days, wash days, or as often as your hair demands.
- Type 3 (Curly): Weekly, wash days, or as often as your hair demands.
- Type 4 (Kinky): Every other week, wash days, or as often as your hair demands.
Wet vs. Damp vs. Dry
There are so many ways you can approach detangling curly hair. Depending on who you talk to, some naturals swear by wet detangling, while others can’t get the job done if their hair is wet.
Again, like frequency, the technique you use to get through your curls should be based on you and your hair. If one method doesn’t work for you, just try the next one.
Wet detangling calls for your hair to be completely saturated with water and/or your favorite conditioner product. Damp detangling just requires a small amount of moisture being introduced to your hair. Dry detangling is best done by adding oils to dry hair. No matter which way you decide, keep track of how it turns out so adjustments can be made if you decide to go that same route again in the future.
- Wet: This approach to detangling your hair works well with all hair types and textures. Using a good conditioner with lots of slip and the power of the water stream helps knots to be easily worked out.
- Damp: Lightly spritzing the hair with water acts to soften the hair and aid in the detangling process. Follow that spritzing with your favorite buttery moisturizer or a leave-in conditioner for extra slip.
- Dry: This method works great if you’ve worn your hair loose for longer periods of time. Saturating your hair with oil makes knots seem to melt away, just remember to work in small sections.
Technique & Tools
Another major topic always up for discussion when it comes to detangling is what tools are the best to use. As with the methods mentioned above, it really depends on you and your hair. There are all kinds of detangling combs and brushes on the market for curlies. Shower combs, Denman brushes, the Tangle Teezer, the Ouidad Double Detangler…all of these are tools that people have used to tackle their knots, but you still have to be cautious when using anything to detangle your hair. Take note of how the tool actually works through the tangle, making sure it’s not breaking the hair, eating up the ends or pulling the hair from the root.
You also have some of the best instruments for detangling your hair in your 10 fingers, so don’t forget to use those too! Finger detangling may take a bit more time if you have a lot of hair, but if you’re trying to avoid watching your hair go down the drain, you may want to opt for this method.
Shedding vs. Breakage
The last stage of the hair growth cycle, telogen, is when your hair “sheds” and you’ll lose an average of 50-100 hairs a day. This is normal and shouldn’t cause concern, unless you’re noticing an abnormal amount of hair coming out.
Breakage on the other hand can be caused by over manipulation, mechanical damage from tools, lack of moisture, etc. In the event that you’re noticing excessive breakage and you’re using a tool to detangle, try giving it a rest for a little while and opt for finger detangling instead.
Getting a good trim will give you a clean slate and you can track how your hair progresses without using any tools.
No matter how often you detangle, whether you do it wet or dry, or which tools you choose to use, there are a few best practices as it pertains to detangling.
DO find a method that works for you. You’re not stuck to just one method. Sometimes you may want to mix and match as I often do! Try dry detangling first to get any big tangles, then add conditioner and continue the process to get the remaining knots and shed hair.
DO take your time and be thorough. The last thing you want to do is “think” you’ve detangled sufficiently only to find a nice piece of matted hair buried amidst your curls.
DO section your hair prior to detangling, and use as many sections as you need. This may be of more importance as your hair grows, but the longer your hair is, the easier it is to knot. Handling your hair in smaller sections (4-8 or more) makes it easier to manage and to keep the hair tangle free once it’s been detangled.
Looking to detangle your kid's hair? Yea, we know it can be tricky, but we've got the know how!
Don’t let detangling curly hair be the bane of your existence! Sure it may take some time, but once you get the hang of it, you can cut your detangling time down in no time.
Take the time to learn what works best for your hair, develop your own techniques, and pamper your tresses! Happy styling, curlies!