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How Do You Fix Tangled Hair?

It has a lot to do with the hair care products you use.
October 27, 2023

If you’ve ever been so frustrated by tangled hair that you were tempted to simply cut out the knots you’re not alone. Knotty hair is so irritating that it could push you to take drastic action, but unless you’re ready for an impromptu short haircut, put the scissors down. You can easily rescue your hair and detangle your tresses without resorting to a DIY haircut you didn’t intend on getting. 


Tackle tangled hair with the help of creamy hair detanglers and good hair habits that make it easy to detangle knots without ripping out hair. Read on to learn how to detangle hair and prevent extreme knots from forming in the first place.


What Causes Extremely Tangled Hair?

Tangled hair occurs when strands begin to wrap and twist together creating knots and clumps of hair that seem impossible to remove. There are many causes of tangled hair and it has a lot to do with hair habits and your hair type. Below, read a few causes of extremely tangled hair that seem to never unravel.


1. Normal Shedding

Hair is constantly growing and shedding in very small increments so it could be hard to notice any change until you visibly see new length or feel hairless patches on your head. It’s incredibly common for people to shed around 50 to 100 strands of hair per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). All this hair has to go somewhere and chances are it’s tangling with your hair — that’s still attached to your head — and wrapping together to form knots. 


2. Hair Type

Your hair type is responsible for many aspects of hair care — from the type of shampoo you use, to how you dry hair. So it’s no shock that hair type is also affecting your knot-free hair desires, resulting in extremely tangled tresses. All hair types — from straight hair to coily hair — can get tangles and knots. However, curly and coily hair types are more prone to being tangled, per the AAD, since the curvy, spiral and zig-zag shape of the hair makes it easy to combine and knot.


3. Hair Length and Texture

Another cause of tangled hair pertaining to specific hair types is the thickness and length of tresses. Long hair is going to have tangles (especially if it’s never combed or brushed) because the lengthier the strands, the more chances hair has to intertwine and get knotty. Hair’s thickness can also be attributed to tangled hair, the AAD confirms. Thicker hair tangles more easily than fine hair since the former has more texture that becomes easily knotted and is hard to detangle without a lot of effort. If you have fine hair, you may have noticed tangles in your hair but usually, a quick pass of a brush or comb will loosen those knots. 


4. Bad Hair Habits

Actions like drying hair too harshly with a rough towel, continuously tying hair in styles without brushing it first and never wrapping tresses at night can cause extremely tangled hair.  When drying your hair, opt for a microfiber towel that’ll get water out of hair without friction that can lead to tangling and frizzy hair. Additionally, aim to keep your hair regularly combed and brushed to prevent hair from weaving together and forming knots or tightly wrapped strands, especially when trying new hairstyles. Finally, before you head to sleep for the night, wrap your hair with a material like silk or satin that glides more easily against the hair, and without damage. 


Is It Better to Detangle Your Hair Wet or Dry?

For the most part, you should detangle your hair when it is partially wet — not drenched — but this will still vary based on your hair type. Straight and wavy hair is at its most fragile state when soaked, per the Cleveland Clinic, so you’ll want to first try detangling your straight or wavy hair dry or with the help of a lightweight detangling spray. 


On the other side of the hair spectrum, curly and coily hair is best detangled and brushed when wet, confirms the AAD. Curly and coily hair types are best brushed while wet to limit forceful pulling that could rip hair or cause more tangles. The key for detangling all hair types is to use a hair brush or comb that’s safe for wet strands and to make sure you’re gentle when ridding hair of knots. 


How to Detangle Knotty Hair

Now that you have an idea of what causes tangled hair, keep reading to learn how to get rid of knots with the right process and hair products. Here, discover a step-by-step guide on how to detangle knotty hair with advice for different hair types.


How to Detangle Straight or Wavy Knotty Hair

Step 1. Spritz on Detangler

Slightly dampen straight or wavy hair with a styling product like L’Oréal Paris Everpure Sulfate-Free 21-in-1 Color Caring Spray Leave In to add hydration and loosen tangled hair. This multi-use product provides all hair types with 21 different benefits including detangling, adding moisture, protecting from hot tools and more. Use this spray on clean hair for the best results. If you have very long, thick hair consider sectioning your hair in parts for an easier detangling section.


Step 2. Grab a Wide-Tooth Comb 

Using a wide-tooth comb, gently begin to undo your tangled strands starting from the ends to the roots. A wide-tooth comb eliminates knots by working through hair without excessive pulling and minimizing breakage, per the Cleveland Clinic.


Step 3. Spritz and Repeat

When you get to your knots, be gentle and add more detangler to the specific spot if needed.

Repeat the process and little by little, you’ll make progress. If you don’t see an end in sight or you’re dealing with serious matting, seek a professional stylist who can help detangle extreme knots before reaching for scissors. 


How to Detangle Curly or Coily Knotty Hair

Below, find detailed steps on getting rid of knots in curly or coily hair. The steps are very similar to detangling straight hair but with a few additional steps. 


Step 1. Start With Wet Hair

If you’re dealing with extremely tangled curls or coils that require you to drench your strands completely, hop in the shower and make today your wash day. If you don’t need to saturate your strands skip to step three. Use L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Restoring Shampoo to gently cleanse your hair without stripping your mane of the oils it needs to stay hydrated. This shampoo is formulated with a blend of castor oil and hyaluronic acid to add moisture and reduce breakage — which is needed during the detangling process. 


Follow up by applying L’Oréal Paris Dream Lengths 8 Second Wonder Water Lamellar Rinse Out to the ends of your wet hair and letting it sit for a total of eight seconds to work its magic. The result is loosened tangles and hair that feel smoother and look shinier once it’s dry. Complete the detangling routine with L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Length Super Detangler Conditioner to instantly detangle even the knottiest of hair and rescue tresses from damage to preserve length. 


Throughout your in-shower routine, lightly loosen your tangled hair with your fingers to make the brushing part easier.


Step 2. Squeeze Out Excess Moisture

After completing your in-shower hair care routine, dry your hair with a microfiber towel and ring out any water so your hair isn’t sopping wet. 


Step 3. Section Your Hair

The best way to style, detangle and basically do any manipulation with curly or coily hair is to section your mane into multiple parts. This will make it much easier to detangle your curly strands. Use a rat tail comb to create anywhere from four to eight different sections depending on your mane’s thickness and length.


Step 4. Add Another Styling Product

On slightly damp hair (you can use a spray bottle to wet curls), apply a lightweight leave-in conditioner like LOréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Leave-in Conditioner to define curls and loosen any tough tangles hiding within your mane. This creamy leave-in is infused with castor oil to help attract moisture, as well as hyaluronic acid to keep the hydration in. 


Step 5. Brush Hair With a Sturdy Tool 

Get yourself a brush that is specifically designed for detangling hair. These types of brushes will have wide-spaced bristles that allow more hair to pass through to avoid tugging and pulling at knotty hair. Make sure the brush bristles are flexible to keep up with your hair. Comb through your hair from the ends to the roots to avoid ripping out hair or pulling out clumps of hair.


Step 6. Repeat 

Take your time detangling section by section, spritzing more product on knots as needed. Be mindful of how much product you use as you don’t want to oversaturate hair. Just be patient with the detangling process, take breaks if you’re dealing with a serious matting situation, and know when to stop and ask for help. 


3 Hair Tips to Avoid Tangled Hair

Now that you know how to detangle your hair and the causes of knotty strands, adopt a few good hair habits to minimize knotty hair in the first place. In addition to the guide above, consider these three hair tips to help you avoid tangled hair.


1. Comb Conditioner Through Strands

If you’re prone to knotty hair, consider detangling hair in the shower during the conditioning step of your hair routine. After rinsing your hair of shampoo, load your hair with a conditioner that will detangle, like L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Conditioner, Paraben-Free. Once your strands are thoroughly coated with conditioner — especially where your hair tends to get knotty — comb through your hair with a wide-tooth comb. Not only will you get out any lingering knots, but combing your hair will also help evenly distribute the conditioner. 


2. Rock a Braid

Braids can minimize unintentional hair knots. When your hair is plaited, it can’t move around and get tangled as easily. Braids and protective styles offer a cute and functional style for all hair types to keep hair tied up, without putting strain on the head or causing tangles. Fishtail and French braids are popular with straight hairstyles, while box braids and goddess locs are something that natural hair types gravitate towards. 


3. Get Regular Trims

If you notice that your hair only gets knotty at the ends, it’s a sign that you’re in desperate need of a trim. Getting the occasional half an inch or inch of hair snipped off can help prevent knots and keep your hair looking healthy. Additionally, getting regular trims is an easy way to try a new haircut style like the popular wolf cut or mullet shag. 


Next: 10 Ways to Prevent Hair Breakage


Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn; Art Director: Hannah Packer; Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay; Digital Tech: Katy Andrascik; Photo Assistant: Sam Kang; Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson; Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi ; Wardrobe Stylist: Melina Kemph; Wardrobe Assistant: Kayla Martinez; Model: Adrianne Kiara

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