How to Detangle Natural Hair

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When I first went natural over 20 years ago, I had no concept of detangling.

I simply did the same thing I did when I had a perm – ripped through my hair with a blow dryer with a comb attachment. And I cranked it up nice and hot.

Aside from the broken hairs all over my bathroom and my hair staying one length forever, I didn’t have a problem with my results at the time. If length retention is your goal, there are much gentler ways of removing tangles from your hair.

Detangling Methods

Wet Detangling

Detangling while your hair is wet and soaked with conditioner or a detangling product can make the process easier, quicker, and gentler on your hair.

The conditioner coats your hair, allowing each strand to glide past each other instead of snagging. It also allows your brush or comb to pull through your hair without damaging or snapping hairs off in the process.

Various levels of wetness work for different people. You may do well detangling in the shower with dripping wet hair, gently blotting your hair after cleansing, or spraying your hair with water from a bottle.

Dry Detangling

Many naturals have good luck with detangling their hair while dry. This is usually a longer, more painstaking process than wet detangling, but it can be especially helpful for women with high shrinkage hair.

If your hair curls up at the sight of water, dry detangling may work well for you, as it will allow your hair to remain stretched throughout your detangling session.

It’s important to coat your hair and hands with oil or butter such as shea or mango in order to reduce friction as your hairs pass over each other and through the teeth of your comb or detangling brush.

Detangling Tools

Your Fingers

Your fingers are your best detangling tools and should be used first, before a comb, brush, or other detangling tools.

With your fingers, you will be able to feel any snags or knots and focus your attention on gently loosening those areas which will reduce damage and breakage.

If your hair is damaged or you want to maximize length retention, it may be worthwhile to try finger detangling alone. If you choose to use combs and brushes, always finger detangle first, and take your time.

Detangling Brushes

After you have gently separated your hair and raked your fingers through, you can use a detangling brush to detangle your hair further.

Detangling brushes are special tools that have wide set teeth that will pull through your hair. This is different than the typical boar bristle brush with its tightly bound bristles, meant to flatten the hair.

Wide-Toothed Comb

Another option to detangle your hair after finger detangling is a wide-toothed comb. Many naturals do well with combing their hair in the shower while their hair is wet and soaked with conditioner.

Many people opt not to use combs or brushes as they are more prone to cause mechanical damage as the tools physically break your strands. Whether or not you use these tools depends on personal preference and how they work on your hair.

As thousands of women have returned to our natural hair, various products have appeared that claim to make detangling easier. Again, whether or not these products will work for you has a lot to do with your own hair. If you do choose to use tools with many closely set teeth or bristles, keep a close eye on your hair for damage or breakage.


Detangling is an important part of your healthy hair regimen. Taking your time to keep your hair free of tangles and knots will allow you to reduce breakage and ultimately retain more length.


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