But what if you find that it’s not only your ends that get snarled and that the full length of your hair is often entwined? “If it’s really hard to comb in general, it may be damaged or too dry and brittle,” Seigle warns. “So you may need treatments to soften and moisturize it.”
Just remember this as you’re slathering on that hair mask and considering combing it through: “Hair is at its most fragile state when it’s wet,” says Savannah St. Jean, hairstylist and founder of Savannah Rae Beauty. “So by going in with our hair brushes and pulling from root to end, and forcing our hair to detangle in its wet form, we run the risk of extra damage, extra breakage, extra split ends.”
Patience paired with the right tools and products, however, can make your efforts much more tolerable and reduce the risk of doing undo damage to your strands. Keep scrolling for expert tips on how to detangle hair in a way that won’t leave it worse off than when you started.
How to Detangle Hair in 5 Steps
1. Trim your hair at least every two months
“That’s a really important thing for healthy hair because if you have split ends and you don’t cut them, they keep splitting all the way up your hair shaft, which causes dryness and breakage, thinning hair, and [other problems],” says Seigle. The best way to avoid all of the above is by booking hair appointments at regular intervals to snip the ends and nip the issue in the bud.
2. Unravel out tangles with your hands first
Seigle recommends doing this step in the shower. “You should finger comb your hair as you wash it,” she says. “That will help a lot in the end with combing because that will help you identify any big knots and you can kind of separate your hair.”
She also warns against inadvertently tangling your hair while you wash it be being too rough. “It feels good to go crazy and wash your hair and move it all around, but if you have tangly hair, that’s going to make it worse,” she warns. She suggests being gentle and smooth products over it instead.
3. Apply detangling products
St. Jean loves to use the Re.Store treatment from Kevin Murphy for detangling. “It’s both a cleanser and a deep conditioner, but it also heals damage,” she says. “It’s a pretty heavy product so it acts really well in the shower or bath when you’re trying to work through a tangled situation. It will really give you the slip you need to get through something that you don’t know if you’re going to otherwise be able to do outside of the shower.” Note that this is a cleansing conditioner, not a shampoo, so it will not deliver a rich lather or a super deep clean. Alternatively, detangling with your conditioner still in your hair while in the shower can also make the process a lot smoother as well.
Out of the shower, you can also work with a detangling spray on dry or wet hair or a detangling cream on wet hair. Seigle recommends that you opt to tackle tangles in dry hair after coming out of a protective style like braids. “Once you take out a section of braid, comb that one section thoroughly from ends to roots and then twist it up or knot it out so you know that that part is combed through and detangled, and then move onto the next section,” she says.
Shop Now: Kevin Murphy Re.Store, 37
Seigle loves the Mizani Miracle Milk spray for detangling.
Shop now: Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner, $23 to $35
4. Then opt for wide-tooth combs or soft brushes
Both Seigle and St. Jean say using the right tools can make working out knots much easier. Seigle loves the detangling combs from Diane. “It is a very old-school brand that’s been around forever,” says Seigle. “And it’s very hard—you can’t really break it.”
Shop now: Diane shampoo comb, $4
Both Seigle and St. Jean recommend the brand Wet Brush. “Those are really good for detangling without giving as much strain,” says St. Jean. “You want to stay away from really stiff synthetic brushes that don’t have any bend or give to them. Those can wreak havoc on your ends.”
Shop now: Wet Brush, $10
For my money, I love the Kazmaleje Kurlsplus Paddle Comb. It’s a comb-brush hybrid and makes detangling my hair so easy.
Shop now: Kazmaleje Kurlsplus Paddle Comb, $22
5. Section your hair and work from ends to roots
This is the most important thing to remember when you start detangling. “A lot of times people will get out of the shower and their hair is a completely tangled mess and they just start from the root [and go] all the way down,” says Seigle. “You’re definitely putting a lot of strain on those really fragile ends, especially if you’ve got really long hair. So you need to be more gentle on the ends—the hair at your root [is newer and] has more strength.”
Instead, “start at your nape and then work your way all the way up to your crown,” says St. Jean. “Do it slowly, take your time, and do it in stages.” Wash and repeat these pro tips whenever you find your tangles could use some TLC.
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