How to detangle very tangled black hair ?

black woman with detangled hair

Has detangling your natural hair become a source of anxiety?

The pain of removing knots from afro hair is unfortunately common for most of us.

Not to mention the time this chore can take on a daily basis…

Fortunately, there are tips on how to untangle your hair quickly without suffering the pain! Discover them in this article.


How to detangle natural hair?

These simple steps will help you detangle your afro hair:

  • Separate your hair into strands
  • Wash the strands one by one and do a rough first detangling with a wide-tooth comb
  • Apply your conditioner
  • Cover your hair with a plastic cap for 10 to 20 minutes
  • Detangle your hair with your fingers
  • If necessary, comb or brush your hair to remove any remaining knots

Let’s look at these steps in more detail.

Steps for removing knots in kinky hair

To detangle your hair without breaking it, you need to be patient and handle it gently.

Water, conditioner and your fingers are your best bet for getting rid of tangles without damaging your hair fibres.

Here are the steps to remove knots from nappy hair:

1. Separate your hair into strands

First, you need to separate your hair with your fingers. If you have long hair, separate it into at least 4 strands. If you have short hair, I recommend using a hair clip.

In any case, the main thing is to handle your hair as gently as possible. Detangling hair by strands takes time, but this method greatly reduces the formation of knots.

2. Wash your hair

  • Wash one strand at a time, then secure it with a hairpin.
  • Apply shampoo gently so that it is distributed from the scalp to the ends.
  • Massage the scalp with your fingertips and rinse the hair with water.
  • Tilt your head back to let your hair down and reduce tangles.
  • Choose gentle washing products. A conditioner alone may be sufficient.

You can also use a homemade cleansing formula and use non-aggressive products such as a shampoo that is free of sulfates, parabens and silicones. These ingredients can damage hair and promote split ends and dryness.

If your hair is very tangled when wet, comb it through in the shower with a wide comb to gently remove the knots. Excessive brushing can lead to split ends.

3. Apply conditioner

Apply conditioner strand by strand. It allows the hair to glide over each other and loosen tangles more easily.

You may need to try several before you find the right one for your hair type. A shea or coconut based conditioner is especially good for natural hair.

When using conditioner, focus on the ends, which are the oldest and most damaged parts of the hair.

In addition, you can also use oil baths. If you have afro hair, olive oil is one of your best friends.

4. Cover your hair with a plastic cap

Cover hair soaked in conditioner with a plastic cap and leave it on for 10-20 minutes to allow the hair to absorb the oil.

5. Detangle your hair directly with your fingers

Detangle your hair as much as possible with your fingers, strand by strand.

If you encounter any resistance, don’t force it, as this can lead to breakage.

When your hair starts to dry out, moisten it again with water. The weight of the water pulls the hair down, lengthening the curls and preventing them from re-tangling.

6. Comb or brush your hair to finish

If you haven’t managed to get all the knots out with your fingers, you can use a wide-tooth comb or a wide brush. Gently untangle your hair, starting at the ends and working your way up to the roots.

Once you’ve got the knots out of the way, you can use a heat appliance to set your style. Please see my article on the best straightening brushes for 4c hair for more information on this topic.

Tips for keeping your afro hair free of knots

1. Treat your hair with a deep conditioner

Regular use of a conditioning mask restores the balance of oil naturally present in the hair and makes it softer.

For best results, apply a conditioner directly after detangling. Oil applications are also a great alternative.

2. Protect your hair while you sleep

At night, tie your hair up and wear a satin or silk cap.

These materials greatly reduce friction during the night. Preferably avoid cotton, which can pull your hair or cause it to become dishevelled.

3. Change your hairstyle before your hair gets tangled

Braids, twists and other protective hairstyles reduce damage to hair, but don’t make them routine.

If you keep the same hairstyle for too long, it can lead to persistent tangles.

4. Avoid cotton towels

Use microfibre towels instead. They allow you to dry your hair while leaving a certain amount of water behind.

5. Use oil-based masks regularly

Castor oil, avocado oil and coconut oil are particularly suitable for type 4 hair.

Things to avoid when detangling afro hair

  • Always avoid ever combing your hair from the roots to the ends. This can lead to serious damage to the hair
  • Avoid detangling your hair with a fine-toothed comb, as this can cause breakage and get it stuck in knots!
  • If you are not happy with the texture of your hair after using a product to help detangle, feel free to try others until you find the right formula for you

Your best weapons for untying knots

Your fingers

The best tool for untying natural afro hair is your fingers!

They are softer and therefore minimize the risk of breaking your afro curls. But we are in the 21st century and it would be a shame to be without the many tools that can assist us in this thankless task!

The brush

It is important to use a natural hair brush. Avoid synthetic plastic or nylon bristles. These bristles are stiffer and can damage mixed hair.

While most brushes are great for all hair lengths, the time and effort required to properly detangle long hair can be daunting.

Fortunately, most of today’s detangling brushes have ergonomic handles and pins designed to reduce hair loss and provide a smoother detangling experience.

The comb

If you use a comb to detangle small tangles, choose one with wide teeth. This will reduce the risk of it getting stuck in your hair.

Due to the dense structure of 4c hair, it is important that the teeth of the comb are long enough to reach the roots directly.

Remember that one of the main rules for detangling type 4 hair is to do it while it is still wet.

Should I detangle my curly hair when it is dry or wet ?

When hair is moistened with conditioner, it becomes more slippery and is more amenable to detangling. However, the hair fibres become more fragile, so it is important to be gentle.

Wet detangling is simply covering the hair with conditioner and then detangling it naturally with your fingers, brush or comb.

The main reason to opt for wet detangling is that it is simpler, less painful and the hair does not usually break when a brush or wide-tooth comb is run through it.

Conditioner is useful in reducing the damage done to the hair during brushing. This is because conditioner softens the hair and reduces friction between the hair and the brushing tool.

This type of detangling is recommended for people with natural hair and short hair. It is ideal if you want to save time.

Blowdrying on dry or wet hair?

It is generally advisable to blow-dry hair because wet hair is more fragile. For afro hair, however, it is best to blow-dry with slightly damp hair.

If you have trouble blow-drying properly with wet hair, try drying it a little more. Hair that is too wet has less hold of the shape given by the brush.

Does detangling damage black hair?

Detangling in itself is not harmful to hair. However, like all hair care products, frequent detangling can damage the hair fibres.

Here are the possible consequences of frequent detangling:

Hygral fatigue

Every time you dampen your hair, the hair fibre cuticles expand. When they dry, they tighten and return to their normal shape. This is normal for all hair types.

Problems arise when the hair is too frequently moistened and dried out. This can weaken the hair to the point of premature breakage.

This does not mean that you should avoid humidity in any case! It’s just that sometimes a quick splash of water or light lotions and creams are all that’s needed, rather than a full wash.

Cuticle and tip wear

Frequent detangling can lead to wear and tear on the hair’s cuticles, especially at the ends.

So, detangling for several hours with coconut oil actually does more harm than good to your hair.

If you do it with reasonable frequency, your hair shouldn’t suffer, it’s the repeated handling that can be harmful.

If your hair has trouble retaining moisture, it may be due to too regular detangling or brushing.


Keep in mind that hair breakage is inevitable. Hair is born, lives, and dies just like everything else. And even if your hair breaks every day, that doesn’t mean you have to detangle it every day!

Daily detangling and brushing will eventually cause even more breakage. They become responsible for less moisture and therefore faster cuticle wear.

Hair loss

Even if your hair is not breaking at an alarming rate, you may be shedding healthy hair with each detangling and brushing.

Hair that is naturally ready to leave the scalp has a white bulb at the end.

If you find hair with a brown or black bulb in your brush or between your fingers, it has been pulled out prematurely!

Brushing and detangling at a reasonable frequency reduces the likelihood of premature hair removal.

When it comes to detangling, the best is the enemy of the good

Keep in mind that hair never fully detangles.

Even if your hair isn’t fully detangled after two hours, it’s okay!

We’ll never get all the knots out, it’s a mission impossible, especially for long hair. This is even more true if you have fine natural hair that requires special care and styling tools. For more information on this subject, please see my article on what is the best brush for fine damaged hair?

So save yourself some time and effort by admitting that 80% detangled hair is already quite an achievement.

How do you detangle baby’s afro hair?

This is obviously a good thing if your baby has a lot of hair. If his hair is 4c, however, it needs special care.

Here are the steps to detangle baby’s afro hair:

Wash her hair once a week

Afro hair generally has a drier scalp and needs regular moisture to keep it strong.

If you wash your child’s hair every day, you risk stripping away the oils naturally present in her hair and leaving it brittle and dry.

Try washing her hair once a week to start with and increase the frequency to twice a week if you notice it becoming greasy more quickly.

Avoid chemicals and use natural moisturising lotions instead

After washing her hair, you can add moisture to your baby’s hair.

Although there are many products available for babies, I would advise you not to use them while your child is still young.

At this age, it is still best to use suitable oils such as coconut, avocado or almond oil.

Put a little in your palm and run it through your child’s hair with your fingers.

Your fingers to remove knots from baby’s natural hair

If your child has type 4 hair, chances are you’ve already struggled to detangle his or her beautiful curls.

While it’s entirely possible to use a wide-tooth comb, using your fingers is still the best way to keep curls natural and intact.

Avoid certain materials

Due to the structure of 4c hair, any contact with fabrics such as cotton can make the hair brittle and dry.

Therefore, it is advisable to use silk or satin caps, scarves or pillowcases. These textures are softer and help keep moisture in the hair.

Keep your baby’s hair natural

In the press or on the internet, we see far more often children with perfectly straight hair, and this can be frustrating.

Even as an adult with afro hair, it can sometimes be difficult to find women with similar hair.

It is important to accept your child’s hair as it is. This will help you understand it better and make it easier to learn to care for it!

Don’t be afraid to experiment to have fun and find natural styles and treatments that work best for your baby’s hair type.

Detangle 4c hair quickly in a few steps

To detangle very nappy afro hair, you can start by separating your hair into strands and then combing them with a wide-tooth comb. Next, apply conditioner and cover your hair with a plastic cap. Then detangle with your fingers and a comb if necessary.

To prevent tangles from forming in mixed-race hair, you can also adopt the few habits described above. Using a conditioner, protecting your hair overnight and regular care with oils will go a long way in combating tangles in natural hair.

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