Whether straight, curly, long, or short, everyone’s susceptible to dealing with tangles. While some do experience more severe tangling than others—including matted hair or hair that ends up in stubborn little knots—the basics for how to detangle hair remain the same. With the right products, and a few pro tips, detangling your hair can be done in a matter of a few easy, pain-free steps.
What causes tangled hair?
The biggest culprit of tangled hair is a mane that’s not at its healthiest. When your outer layer of hair—referred to as the cuticle—is damaged, it becomes susceptible to knotting and matting. Healthy hair more easily glides against other healthy hairs, while damaged hairs tend to form knots and tangles when they meet.
Tangles can also be exacerbated when hair rubs together in general, which can happen while you sleep, when you work out (pro tip: wear your hair up in a scrunchie), and from improper blow-drying or brushing. When blow drying, always point the nozzle downward, and when brushing start at the ends and work your way to the roots.
How To Avoid Tangled Hair
While it’s impossible to prevent your hair from ever becoming tangled again, there are a few things you can do to help you avoid major tangles in the future.
First, and we’re sure you’ve heard this one before, maintaining a regular haircut schedule is one of the best ways to get healthy-looking, tangle-free hair. Split ends may seem innocent enough, but they can cause significant tangles if other strands get caught in the split end. Nip split ends before they create snarls in your strands by heading to the hair salon every 10 to 12 weeks.
You’ll also want to protect your tresses while you sleep. Try ditching your regular cotton pillowcases for luxurious silk pillowcases. Cotton is a deceptively rough fabric that can cause breakage as you toss and turn in your sleep. In contrast, your locks will glide over your new satin pillowcase without a snag in sight. You can further protect your strands from becoming a tangled, broken mess by sleeping with your hair in a loose top knot or wrap. Either option will keep your hair in place as you get your eight hours of slumber, and you’ll wake up with tangle-free locks.
Finally, prioritize good hair health, in general. Use nourishing and strengthening products, such as leave-in conditioners, deep conditioners, and detangling sprays, and try not to overdo tools and chemical processing.
How To Detangle Your Hair In Four Easy Steps
Figuring out how to detangle matted hair or even mildly tangled hair can be a bit tricky. And when done improperly, it can even be a bit painful. If you’re dealing with a case of gnarly tangled hair, here’s how to smooth things out—literally!
Step 1: Apply Hair Oil
After wetting your hair, grab a hair oil—such as Shu Uemura Art Of Hair’s Essence Absolue Nourishing Hair Oil—and apply it liberally to affected areas. Massage it into your hair gently to help soften the strands and make it easier to brush through.
Step 2: Use a Wide-Tooth or Detangling Comb
Once you’ve worked your hair oil into your tresses, use either a wide-tooth comb or a detangling comb to begin working through your knots. What’s the difference, you ask? Wide-tooth combs have wide-set teeth, as their name implies. A hair detangler brush or comb has more teeth, which are placed strategically to help make detangling a breeze.
When it comes to detangling hair, we’re all guilty of placing the comb at our roots and yanking it towards our ends in hopes that all of our snarls will magically disappear. Unfortunately, that method doesn’t work, and it wreaks havoc on your precious strands. Instead, section off your hair and begin by detangling at your ends and work your way to your roots. This may take some time, and you may need some more hair oil, but keep at it.
Step 3: Shampoo and Condition
After detangling your hair with oil and a comb, nourish your strands with a strength-building shampoo and conditioner. This will help remove some of the excess hair oil you just used and will also help improve the look and feel of your tresses for less tangles in the future. Remember, healthy hair is less likely to become tangled, so maintain a hair care routine that prioritizes strong, beautiful, nourished strands.
Step 4: Follow Up with Leave-In Conditioner or Hair Detangler
After shampoo and conditioning, set yourself up for tangle-free success by using a leave-in conditioner or detangling spray. Not only will this further nourish your tresses, but the extra slip will help prevent tangles. Use your wide-tooth or detangling comb to work the product through your hair. Again, move from ends to root slowly and gently.
Should I detangle my hair wet or dry?
If you’re not dealing with tangled or matted hair, we recommend detangling hair while it’s wet. Water creates a good amount of slip and lubrication, which can make it easier for the comb to slide through your strands. Still, you need to be very gentle when working through tangles.
Best Hair Detangler Products
Knowing how to detangle hair means using the best detangler products, the right tools, and proper techniques. Keep scrolling to discover some of our must-have formulas for hair detangling.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil
Hair oil is vital when it comes to nixing tangles and mats. This luxurious oil from Shu Uemera not only provides slip to help you work out knots, but moisturizes your tresses while boosting softness and shine.
Mizani 25 Miracle Nourishing Oil
If you’re trying to figure out how to detangle curly hair, look no further than products intended specifically for this hair type. Formulated with jojoba and coconut oils, Mizani’s 25 Miracle Nourishing Oil helps work out existing tangles while moisturizing and protecting your curly strands.
Biolage All-In-One Coconut Infusion Multi-Benefit Spray
A leave-in conditioner is also a must when it comes to detangling hair. Biolage All-In-One Coconut Infusion Multi-Benefit Spray is a multi-tasking formula that provides benefits like detangling, reduced dryness, better manageability, and split end prevention.
Pureology Strength Cure Split End Salve Treatment
If you want to prevent split ends from taking over your mane between salon appointments, try a hair treatment like Pureology Strength Cure Split End Salve Hair Treatment. This strengthening formula helps prevent split ends while providing velvet-like softness and shine.
Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Repairing Nourishing Leave-in Conditioner
While leave-in conditioner is essential for moisturizing and softening dry strands, it can also make detangling so much easier. Use a formula like Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Leave-In-Conditioner, which provides hair with 20 beautifying benefits including detangling, boosting shine, adding moisture, and more.
L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Shampoo
Make sure your hair feels healthy and strong by using a strengthening shampoo, such as L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Shampoo. It's formulated with biotin and B6 to help reduce breakage.
L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Strengthening Conditioner
After shampooing, seal the deal (and the cuticle) by saturating your strands with your favorite creamy conditioner. We recommend L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Strengthening Conditioner to double-down on the strengthening.
Searching for more healthy hair tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.