“What am I supposed to do with this hot, tangled mess?” Best Practices for Detangling

Come on…don’t tell me you’ve never had this moment before.

Having long, kinky hair is a blessing and a challenge at times. With longer hair comes more styling options, but also longer detangling time. Leaving the hair loose in an afro or old twistout for too long is a recipe for disaster. The strands of hair and shed hair start to tangle into each other, forming knots. Long gone are the days when getting your short hair to bounce back with water and leave-in conditioner was all you needed. Sectioning, patience and TLC are the best ways to deal with hair that is having a hard time. My average pre-shampoo detangling time is about 30 min. In the shower time is about 30 minutes and out of the shower time (detangling) is about 30 minutes. Here are some detangling practices that I find most helpful.

1. Pre-poo
It is so necessary to use an emollient oil or conditioner to smooth and soften the hair prior to shampooing. Take the hair section by section (I do at least 1 or 2 square inches at a time) and GENTLY work and comb the product through the hair and loosen tangles and knots. I used to use olive oil (or whatever was available) to pre-poo, but I find that conditioner works better because I’m adding moisture at the same time. It’s also helpful to add oil (just pick one…) to your conditioner for extra “slip” to combat resistance and breakage when loosening tangles.


2. Finger detangle
Your fingers can feel for knots and maneuver to loosen them better than a comb. Be sure to use your fingers first to detangle before applying a wide-tooth comb to prevent breakage.

3. Wide-tooth Comb
I’m not sure of the name for this comb, but I love to use the “feather” comb with the larger teeth on one side, smaller teeth on the other and 3-tooth pick on the end. If my hair is really jacked up, I’ll start with the pick end first on a small section to loosen hair, then work on it with the large-tooth side, and then further smooth out that section with the smaller tooth side. This method has really cut down my detangling time.

4. Two-strand twist detangle
So, once you smooth out a section of hair, it is helpful to put it in a two-strand twist to keep it out of the way, and to keep the hair stretched. It is also helpful to wash your hair with the two-strand twist installed and cleanse the hair section by section to reducing tangling.


5. After shampoo sectioning
Once the hair is washed, I personally find it necessary to repeat this process of sectioning and twisting on wet hair with a good leave-in conditioner or milk and oil. I leave the twist in to keep the hair stretched until I am ready to style because my hair immediately shrinks down into a small (tangled) afro after washing. And, if I let that happen, what was the point in all the detangling I did before?

Share your detangling tips (or woes) with us!

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