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Have You Been Detangling Your Hair Wrong This Whole Time? Time to Find Out

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There's nothing worse than waking up to knotted hair after a restful night's sleep. Tangled strands can get the best of anyone, no matter how well you care for your hair. Fortunately, even though detangling your strands can be a hassle, it's not the most difficult thing to do—that is, if you know the right way to do it. Yes, there is a correct way to detangle your strands, and chances are, you haven't been doing it properly. Nor have you likely been taking the necessary precautions to prevent tangled hair from forming in the first place.

We spoke with Living Proof Test Salon stylist Molly Leahy to get some expert insight into how to detangle your hair without causing damage or breakage, and the best way to keep your strands from getting tangled altogether. Keep scrolling to read her sage advice and to see our favorite products to keep your style tangle-free.


About the Expert:

Molly Leahy is a Living Proof Test Salon stylist and The Knot Best of Weddings 2021 winner for hair and makeup.

The Best Ways to Detangle Your Hair

Though there are things you shouldn't be doing when detangling your hair, there isn't one right way to get rid of a knot. Below, Leahy shares some ways you can work out tangles while still caring for your strands.

1. Start at the Ends

When most people brush their hair, they tend to go from the top to the bottom. And if you’re trying to detangle a knot, it’s likely that you follow the same technique. But what you really should do is start from the ends and work your way up. "When you start brushing up high, you are essentially taking all of your tangles and brushing them together into a larger knot which can cause more breakage," Leahy emphasizes.

2. Work in Small Sections

Similarly to the point above, there's no need to brush your entire head of hair if you're only working with a few tangles. Section off your strands where the knots are and gently brush through them. If you're forceful with your brushing, that will only make the problem worse and cause damage. So instead, take your time and be patient. The knot will come out—it just requires a little TLC.

3. Use the Right Brush

Just any ol' brush will not suffice when it comes to detangling your hair. You need one designed to get rid of all the knots in your hair without causing damage. Leahy recommends using a wide-tooth comb or "a detangling brush that is made to be gentle on your hair and will prevent more breakage." Thankfully, there are plenty of brushes and combs out there for you to choose from, but we'll get into that later.

4. Utilize a Detangling Spray

Other than a brush, detangling spray is an essential product to use when dealing with knotted hair, especially if you’re working with dry hair. It's critical you spritz on the detangler before you use a hair brush or comb on your strands, as it will "cut the resistance when combing" to avoid making the situation worse. Any slip you can add to your strands will allow for easy removal of any knots without causing hair breakage.

5. Get in the Shower

Sometimes you need a little extra elbow grease to get a knot out. And by grease, we mean water. If the tangles are really bad, use a wet brush or wide-tooth comb. Leahy notes that these tools will help you gently work out the knot on wet hair. She also stresses the need to utilize a conditioner for some added slip in tangled hair.

6. Leave in Some Conditioner

For those with coarse, curly hair, Leahy says not to wash out all of your conditioner. Leave a little bit in to aid in the detangling process after your shower. Even applying a leave-in conditioner will get the job done.

How to Prevent Your Hair From Getting Tangled in the First Place

There are a few things you can do regularly to keep the tangles at bay. Leahy wants you to keep in mind that "there is no one treatment that will automatically heal your damaged hair, but doing several little things, in combination, over time will help repair current damage and prevent future tangles."

1. Sleep in Protective Hairstyles

Even if you don't move around a lot when you sleep, letting your hair flow freely during your slumber makes it easier for knots to form. You can prevent this by sleeping in protective hairstyles. "This could be something as simple as a braid," Leahy says. "Since your hair is tied together, it won’t get tangled as easily." Added bonus: You’ll wake up to gorgeous locks, rather than damaged hair.

2. Use Styling Products Often

Styling products come in handy more often than you would think. Leahy shares that using products that "make your hair feel smooth or sleek" will create less friction. "Tangles often happen where there is friction in the hair, so any time you cut the friction, it will help reduce the risk of getting more tangles," she explains.

3. Wear Your Hair in Sleeker Styles

Similarly to the point above, wearing your hair in sleeker hairstyles like low buns and ponytails will help minimize friction that causes frizzy and knotted hair. "When you take the time to smooth out your hair, you can reduce the friction and the tangles," says Leahy.

4. Add a Restorative Hair Mask to Your Hair Care Routine

Many of these treatments are quick fixes, though if you're looking for something more long-term to keep the hair knots out, Leahy recommends using a restorative hair mask once a week. Doing so will provide hydrating and moisturizing ingredients directly into the cuticle, so your strands have the nourishment they need to remain strong and healthy. It helps to keep in mind that when your hair is healthy, tangles are less common.

5. Get Regular Hair Trims

You may already be aware that getting your hair trimmed on a regular basis promotes optimal hair care. But what you may not know is that snipping those split ends works wonders to keep your hair tangle-free. "Even if you want to maintain a long style, it is essential to get regular trims every eight to 12 weeks to keep your hair as healthy as possible," Leahy stresses. "The longer you keep your split ends, the higher they will split up your hair shaft creating more friction and tangles."

Our Favorite Products to Keep Your Hair Tangle-Free

We couldn't let you leave without sharing some of our favorite hair products for detangling your hair. These products work for every hair type, whether you have natural hair or fine hair.

1. Best Silk Pillowcase: KITSCH Satin Pillowcase

KITSCH Satin Pillowcase
Courtesy of KITSCH

Purchasing the KITSCH Satin Pillowcase is one of the best things you can do to prevent waking up to tangled hair. Since the silky texture of the pillowcase won't tug or pull at your strands while you sleep, your hair can more easily stay tangle-free until the morning.

2. Best Detangling Brush: BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Vegan Boar Bristle Brush

BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Vegan Boar Bristle Brush
Courtesy of BRIOGEO HAIR CARE

BRIOGEO HAIR CARE's Vegan Boar Bristle Brush was specifically designed to detangle any knot, no matter the hair type. Whether you have fine, straight hair or coarse coils, the brush's multi-layered bristles can undo the toughest tangles without damaging your strands.

3. Best Wide-Tooth Comb: OUAI Clear Comb

OUAI Clear Comb
Courtesy of OUAI

A paddle brush shouldn't be the only tool you use to get out tangles. Wide-tooth combs are another fantastic option. Our favorite happens to be the OUAI Clear Comb because we can use it in or out of the shower and take it with us anywhere.

4. Best Detangling Spray: LIVING PROOF Restore Perfecting Spray

LIVING PROOF Restore Perfecting Spray
Courtesy of LIVING PROOF

If you're really in a pinch to get rid of a knot, the LIVING PROOF Restore Perfecting Spray will be your saving grace. Spray the product onto clean, damp hair, then comb through the tangle and watch the detangler work its magic. You'll be able to easily glide the comb or brush through your hair without too much tugging.

5. Best Detangling Conditioner: EVA NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Conditioner

EVA NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Conditioner
Courtesy of EVA NYC

Argan oil and baobab seed give this conditioner the power to not only detangle your hair, but strengthen, revitalize, nourish it, and so much more. No matter how knotted your hair is, this 10-in-1 conditioner will get rid of those tangles in no time and leave your strands looking way better than before.

6. Best Detangling Hair Mask: IT'S A 10 HAIRCARE Miracle Hair Mask

IT'S A 10 HAIRCARE Miracle Hair Mask
Courtesy of IT'S A 10 HAIRCARE

The IT'S A 10 HAIRCARE Miracle Hair Mask is quite literally a miracle, especially when it comes to detangling your hair. Apricot kernel oil and sweet almond oil provide deep conditioning to smooth out any tangles and add moisture back into the hair's cuticles. Not to mention, the results are almost instant, so it’s a must-have for those days when your strands need extra attention (and fast!).

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About the author
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Ashley Locke
Ashley is a Long Beach-based freelance writer who loves sharing beauty and skincare hacks with her fellow “lazy girls” out there. When she isn’t writing, you can find her crying while listening to The Maine or watching "The Office".
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Article Last Updated May 28, 2021 12:00 AM