As a type 4 naturalista, I totally understand the struggle that is single strand knots and matting. My type 4 kinky hair loves to curl and coil into tiny little balls – in fact if left completely unattended, my type 4 hair would probably grow out in locs. That’s why I take detangling seriously. While I love dreadlocks, I’m not keen on locking my hair anytime soon. 

Detangling is a tried and tested method for avoiding knots and matting. For the past three or so years, I’ve detangled my hair when it is dry rather than dripping wet. I felt that when I detangled my dry hair, it was easier to manipulate. It felt gummy and could easily bend out of shape when wet. However, now that my hair is approaching 20 inches, I’ve found it much easier to detangle when it is about 70% dry. Here’s what has worked for me:

Start with stretched hair

I would not encourage you to try and detangle a shrunken ‘fro. You might end up in tears or maybe even with a pair of scissors in your hands. A dry shrunken ‘fro is often really tangled and therefore, bound to leave you frustrated. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, and I’m now writing an article so that you don’t have to suffer the frustration that I did.

After wash day, keep your hair in a stretched style – two-strand twists or three-strand braids are best. You might even try the banding method or African threading. Stretched hair is less prone to breakage and single strand knots, also known as fairy knots.

Always detangle your hair in sections

Detangling your hair in sections will prevent you from going insane. Unless your hair is under 5 in. long, I’d suggest tackling your mane bit by bit. Part your hair into six or so sections and tie it in bands. When detangling, address each section at a time from start to finish. Using sections not only means you give each part the attention it needs, it’s also easier. Sections keep your hair away from your face and allow you to systematically work through your hair from nape to crown and from tip to root.

Use an emollient-based product for added slip

An emollient-based product is one that has a high percentage of oils. Type 4 hair, especially kinky hair, tends to have a lot of friction between the strands. Adding an oil or conditioner will give you slip and reduce matting for less breakage. I always reach for olive oil, because it is a lightweight oil that is easily accessible.

Use your fingers

The array of brushes available for detangling is mind-boggling. Every entrepreneur worth their dime has patented the latest brushing technology that promises to make your knots melt away like butter. However, when it comes to my haircare, I’ve found that brushes cause way too much tension and friction. They have also caused me excessive and unnecessary breakage. That’s why I simply use my fingers for regular detangling. Doing so may be more time-consuming, but in the long-run, I’ve found that I’ve retained a lot more length.

Be Patient 

Detangling is a time-consuming process. Make sure you allocate enough time. It takes me five hours to fully detangle my hair from tip to root, and I do this about once a month. On detangling days, I make sure I have my Netflix on to make an otherwise exhausting process more enjoyable. 

Do you have 4C hair? How do you detangle it and how has your routine changed as it grew longer?