The Best Way to Detangle Hair (No Matter Your Hair Type)

Remember when you were a little kid and your mom would sit you down after a bath to comb out your tangled nest of hair? You probably fidgeted and squirmed and only made things worse for both of you.

It’s funny to think about now considering the most recent battle with our brush ended with us crying out for our mom. (OK, we may have just yelled out something that started with the word mother, but still.)

Anyway, torture by way of tangles is an unnecessary and entirely preventable type of pain. With the right tools and a little know-how, you can easily get rid of any knots without having to (ahem) split hairs. We’ll walk you through it all now—according to hair type.

If You Have Fine Hair

If you have thin strands that tend to lose volume by mid-morning, you might be tempted to skip the conditioner altogether sometimes, but everyone—especially those who are prone to tangles—can benefit from using it.

To get added moisture without weighing fine hair down, you have to be more strategic about how much conditioner you use (no more than a nickel-sized blob) and where you apply it (on the lower half of your hair and far away from your scalp). While the conditioner is still in, run a wide-toothed comb or a detangling brush through your strands; both have generously-spaced bristles that will glide through your hair without snagging on anything. (We love The Tangle Teezer because it fits snugly in our palm for better control, which is especially helpful when we’re dealing with slippery hands.)

Once you hop out of the shower, it’s important that you don’t rub a towel all over your head to dry yourself off. Instead, use a microfiber hair towel (a soft old T-shirt works as well) and gently press sections of your hair to squeeze out the excess water.

How to brush fine hair when it's dry hair:

Step 1. If you’re dealing with tangles and don’t have the time to go through the whole rigmarole of getting in the shower, try spritzing a leave-in conditioner or a hydrating oil on the lower two-thirds of your hair.

Step 2. Comb through your hair gently, starting from the bottom and slowly working your way up to finish. Note: Don’t go all the way up to the roots if you’re worried about getting greasy.

Another tip: When you go to bed, pull your hair up into a low, loose bun and secure it with a soft elastic or scrunchie to keep it from tangling while you sleep.

If You Have Thick, Coarse Or Curly Hair

Most of the same rules that apply to thin hair apply here. Always condition, detangle in the shower whenever possible, exercise patience and dry with care. Here’s the key difference: If you have curly or coiled hair, you might find that using your fingers is easier for detangling any knots than using a brush or a comb—especially if you have tighter curls. No matter what you tool you prefer, make sure to work in small sections and go slowly, starting from the bottom and working your way up.

How to brush out a large knot in curly hair

Step 1. If you find yourself faced with a particularly stubborn knot, saturate the offending spot with a leave-in conditioner.

Step 2. Gently pull it apart with your fingers. We’ll say it again: Go slow to avoid tugging at your hair and causing any breakage.

Step 3. Once you’re tangle-free, we definitely recommend sleeping on a silk pillowcase to help cut down on any additional friction while you rest. Bonus: It feels amazing against your skin and minimizes the risk for those annoying creases you sometimes wake up with on your cheek.

If You Have Chemically Processed Hair

Too much bleach? We blame Daenerys Targaryen, who single-handedly made the stock prices for peroxide go up in the last several years. (Kidding—sort of.) And as anyone with overly processed hair knows, it is always one bad brush away from breaking off so your instinct is to keep your hands away at all costs. The cruel irony, of course, is that this just makes your hair more susceptible to tangles.

For detangling fragile or fried strands, start by exercising caution when washing your hair. After wetting it thoroughly, apply shampoo and massage it on your scalp only to avoid roughing up the rest of your hair. Your scalp is where most of the sweat and oils are anyway, so you’ll still get rid of any gunk without causing dryness or knots.

After cleansing your scalp, we’d recommend thoroughly coating your hair in a deep conditioning treatment or mask before taking a comb to it. On that note, you definitely want a wide-toothed comb in this scenario because a brush is more likely to snag at your delicate strands.

Once your hair has dried to a (hopefully) knot-free state, run a hair serum or oil through the lower thirds of your strands. Tangles aside, your ends will drink up any moisture they can get.

And on that final note—and this applies to all fellow tangle sufferers regardless of hair type, so listen up—stay on top of getting trims. Keep your ends healthy and well-maintained and you’ll not only find yourself with fewer tangles, but you’ll experience fewer split ends as well.

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Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
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