It takes a specific mindset and a regimen with the right tools to overcome the funk of detangling. Just like good hygiene, detangling is one of those things you must commit to for achieving a smooth and manageable set of hair. Plus you need the right tools! I've seen an un-managed tangle knot, even on a Wash & Go, become so tight that it tangled into an unruly state where the person had to consider growing a loc, forced by default to incorporate a style like "The Weeknd."
Detangling is essential to the outcome of any style and for properly managing the hair. Just like "hitting the spots" with a rag won't cut it for bathing, you're not just going to pick up anything and go right through some hair when detangling. However, there are some wonderful tools you can use for detangling natural hair from the root to the tip. As a stylist, these are the 4 tools I recommend everyone have in their detangling tool kit.
#1: Conditioners & leave-ins
Always condition and apply a leave-in before any instrument is used to detangle to prime your hair and prepare it to be moved. Conditioners have a low pH, and lower pH builds the cuticles and provides slip. Also, conditioners provide much needed hydration in addition to achieving elasticity for manageability. Conditioning is so important because even strong hair will snap when it's dehydrated. Hydration creates flexibility and elasticity, which is the ability to stretch without breaking.
For example, a child can fall down some steps and hop right back up in many cases without being too hurt, because the child's body and bones are resilient and flexible. However, let an older adult miss those same steps, and they could be in a full body cast.
#2: Friction-free brush
I feel like I'm giving away a trade secret with this one! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the Wet Brush! I lose my mind if it's not in my case.
A lot of naturals will come into my salon and panic because of detangling issues, but this Wet Brush does the trick. Other brushes work ok if your hair is wet, but this brush is designed for wet hair. The spacing of the bristles are absolutely perfect – they're not too close to pull the hair, but close enough to get smoothing. The bristles are friction free and have little balls that are mini detanglers on the end as well. They're really gentle and smoothing, giving zero friction on the hair.
A rake comb and the Denman brush don't even make my list. They became cool to say in the natural hair community – but in my opinion the Friction Free Wet Brush is the top detangling tool that trumps them all. My shed test is my wet brush, which allows me to clearly see the shedding and be able to address certain issues with the client.
There's not a head of hair I do from 1A-4C , relaxed to natural, that I don't use my Wet Brush on. I love it!
#3: Sectioning clips
A very important step in the detangling process is sorting. If you have hair like a big fro or jumbo curls, you have to clip some of that up to organize a path to detangle. It's just like a room that needs to be thoroughly cleaned. You have to section off the areas you're cleaning and attack them in sections. Clips keep you on task and help organize the hair, which adds to a better detangling experience. Clips will also help you keep a clear distinction between the sections you've detangled and the ones haven't so you don't wind up doing twice the work.
If you run into an issue where you are experiencing "fairy knots" (also known as single strand knots) or split ends, a great tool to pull out is the shears. With the shears you can do a light dusting (the most minimal of a trim) just to get rid of the little ends of the hair. Those split ends are like the bad apples in the bunch at school your parents told you not to hang around. The warning was "if you hang around them, you can become just like them." Split ends are these bad apples. Split ends lead to more split ends, and go straight up the strands because you didn't nip them in the bud from the jump. This makes the hair knot up, causing it to break. Check out this full tutorial on how to dust your own hair at home.
Just like showering and bathing, detangling is a step you can't skip. If you do, it will put your hair in a state of funk that will only compound and cost you in the end.
Depending on your hair type, detangling can be more challenging. On a scale of 1-10, coarse hair is a 20 in detangle challenge. But all hair of all textures, and the healthiest of hair, requires detangling. It will never end, you always have to detangle. Just like showering and bathing, detangling is a step you can't skip. If you do, it will put your hair in a state of funk that will only compound and cost you in the end.
What's been your worst detangling nightmare, and what tools did you use to tame it?
Comment below with your detangling experiences and best practices.