There is nothing more annoying than coming across a single strand knot or a horrendous tangled mess, especially when you are trying to style your hair. It’s tempting to yank a comb through it, pull the knot off with your bare hands or cut a huge chunk of hair off. Some tangles are the equivalent of having chewing gum stuck in your hair. As Afro textured hair is usually delicate, dealing with tangled hair in an aggressive manner will lead to finer, frizzy, less manageable hair. So how do we deal with knots and tangles?
Prevention is better than cure
Minimize your overall number of knots buy avoiding their creation in the first place. Constantly having your hands in your hair is an excellent way of creating tangles. I struggle with this problem and often find myself looking for knots throughout the day while playing with my hair. If I find one I start fighting it while I’m sitting at my desk in front of the computer or walking to the store, anywhere! In doing this I find I either make the knot worse or cause damage to the strands by accidentally snapping the knot off. Sometimes I even do it on purpose in frustration.
Practice leaving your hair alone, even if you find a knot during the day. Then you should find you have less knots overall and your hair remains healthy. Deal with knots when you have time, not while you’re going about your busy day. From my experience it will only end in disaster.
Set time aside for detangling
Rather than dealing with tangles as they arise, set aside specific time for detangling. This does not have to be time-consuming and is usually done on wash day. You could detangle partially with coconut oil (or an oil of your choice) beforehand. Just generously coat your hair with the oil and identify and gently remove knots and shed hair. Then finish finger detangling in the shower. You can also detangle with a comb, using a detangling serum, you can even make your own. Finger detangling is usually considered more gentle and better for maintaining the volume of your hair, but using a comb can be quicker and less damaging to certain hair types than others. For my 4b hair, finger detangling works best.
Isolate the knot and untangle it strand by strand
Detangle in sections and deal with one knot or tangle at a time. Gently run your fingers from the root down. Take a tangled section of hair and separate the knotted strands one at a time. Pull each strand upwards and away from the knot. The strand of hair should slide out, but if not don’t force it or you will break it. Leave it and work on another strand of hair, then the knot should gradually unravel. Strands that are forcibly snapped lead to rough ends and more frizz. Check out a demonstration of this method below (detangling starts at 5:28).
Keep scissors with you when styling and detangling
I’ve resorted to snapping single strand knots off, simply because I didn’t have a scissors within reach. This is why it is best to avoid doing your hair when you’re in a hurry. When dealing with single strand knots or fairy knots, it is best to snip them off as you style or detangle your hair. Pulling them off will damage the cuticle and cause it to frizz and split over time. Cutting the knot off is like cutting a piece of paper, the edges will remain neat and smooth as opposed to tearing a piece off. If you handle your hair roughly you will find more knots and split ends and overall, make your hair less manageable. So in the long-term it just isn’t worth risking the health of your hair. When you grab your oil or detangling serum, make sure to also grab a small pair of scissors.
In keeping with the prevention is better than cure theme it is essential that you trim regularly. How regularly is down to you but neglecting split ends will only lead to more tangles, weak ends and ends that easily snag on clothing or get caught in your fingernails. This can all be extremely annoying and disheartening. When my hair has been freshly trimmed these problems occur much less. Some hair stylists suggest hair is trimmed every three months, others say you should trim only when you need to, especially if you have length goals. I try to trim mine every six months but if my hair needed a trim more frequently I would have no problem with that.
Keep hair moisturized
Once your hair dries out it will be much harder to remove tangles and knots, and the process will carry greater risk of breakage. Check out the post: combating dry natural hair. Washing, co-washing or even simply rinsing your hair with water weekly, will keep your hair moisturized and detangled. Be sure to use a natural oil to seal and retain moisture for a few days at a time. Top up on moisture with your favorite leave-in or simply spray your hair with water and reseal when setting your style at night.
How do you deal with knots and tangles? Share your experiences below.