July 21, 2010

Detangling Natural Hair the Smart Way


Are you detangling your natural hair the correct way? Is there a right way to plow through the curls-n-kinks without the added aggravation?

A few years ago, an easy answer to this question would have been no. I would have handed in a resigned “No” and continued to yank & squeal my way through yet another detangling session with my thick coarse hair. Last year I came across an article on Ymib which reminded me of my many failed past attempts at sorting through the tangles, and soon realized this could in fact be a major deterrent many newly naturals face early on.

Truthfully, I did not begin properly separating  & detangling  my hair until 2 1/2 years ago after stumbling on a handful of YouTube videos. Prior to YouTube, combing and washing my hair was an arduous process I loathed for many years. It wasn’t until then that I understood a better, less painful way of combing my way while wet – the method my own mother could never adopt- was indeed possible, it only took practice and better tools.

Proper ways to detangle natural hair:

  • If your goal is to detangle your hair prior to shampooing and conditioning, please first consider applying a pre-poo treatment to help the process. Cheap but effective conditioners such as Herbal Essences Hello Hydration or Suave have amazing slip or pure Coconut/Olive oil. The goal is to coat the hair in either the right conditioner or oil blend, but not enough to saturate your strands. If your hair is coarse and more prone to breakage, try leaving the pre-poo in for 5-10 minutes before detangling.
  • If you’re a person who is short on time but still opts for a Deep Conditioning, choose one with adequate slip & one that is cost effective (because you want the option of adding more if necessary without the gilt), or you have the option of mixing a good cheapie conditioner with a slightly more expensive option.  After cleansing with a non-stripping moisturizing shampoo, section hair into quadrants and begin applying conditioner.
  • Having the right tools to make the detangling process easier is key. Working hand in hand with the proper conditioner while using a wide toothed comb is often best. The tips of the comb should NOT have bulbs and in fact should be smooth along with the ridges in order to prevent further tangles. *Also, consider your shower as an added tool! The continuous flow of water can dramatically help loosen and set free stubborn snarls.
  • Don’t be so quick to reach for the Denman Brush while detangling. While it is the preferred tool by many naturals to cut through the knots and tangles, it should be looked at as a finishing tool or an aid to the wide tooth comb. A wide toothed comb is by far the safest most effective tool in releasing knots and smoothing the hair without contributing to added breakage. After hair is sectioned and starting from the ends of the hair, gently comb through – applying more conditioner if necessary. Holding the hair taut an inch and a half or so above where you’re choosing to detangle, speeds the process along as you continue to work your way up, making sure each section is fully smooth and knot free before continuing.

To prevent further knots from forming in between shampooing and conditioning, consider sectioning the hair into twists prior to adding your shampoo, or placing your cleanser in an applicator tip bottle – applying ONLY to the scalp, then continuing to work through the hair using the raking method as opposed to palming and unevenly distributing the shampoo. Working your cleanser into your hair using a circular method is at best ineffective, and produces more work when it comes time to separate and detangle.

One of my Fav YouTubers, CharyJay offers great advice to those currently transitioning:

If you are in the stages of transitioning from relaxed to natural, and are battling the two-textured zone, now is most certainly the time to practice patience. Avoid detangling from your roots down to the tips of your ends, instead gently separate the ends using a wide toothed comb, applying more  conditioner and/or oil and set to work! The added time you set aside now to practice and perfect this routine, is the same time you’ll have saved later when you’ve perfected the art of detangling a head full of natural hair.

7 Responses to “Detangling Natural Hair the Smart Way”

  1. CallaLily

    Very good post! I’m going to forward this to a friend of mine who is transistioning and having trouble detangling. Thanks Chai :-)

  2. Jc

    I liked the video but it does seem odd not to detangle the natural portion of hair. I feel it is like playing with fire because the shed hair is likely to get stuck in this very region and not detangling it will lead it to catch other strands and possibly make knots.

    That said………..I have never transitioned so perhaps the shed hair can just escape with the relaxed tips. I don’t know.

    I am going to try combining oil and conditioner and see if it yields faster detangling.

    • chai

      yeah, I’m a little iffy on that part as well. During my transition I made sure to add just a tad more conditioner once I did get to the roots, but went a bit gentler with the comb. Oddly, the new growth never gave me much trouble, once the relaxed ends were fully detangled,much of everything else kind of fell into place and smoothed out. Come to think of it…there really wasn’t much to detangle, I had a few inches of new growth when I BC’d and it didn’t give me much trouble as long as I kept it in protective styles & conditioned with a creamy condish;-)

  3. Njoyable

    I just started transitioning and I first I must say I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog…I will be back often. Second I agree with Jc on not detangling the roots. I do start at the bottom and slowly work my way up to the root gently, but I would think it is important to detangle the root as well…just be gentle.

    • chai

      I agree with you on the being gentle….in order for hair to fully detangle, you have to get to the nitty gritty, lol. Go slow, maybe even a bit more slower at the roots than with your ends, add a bit more conditioner/oil if necessary and let your patience take the wheel.


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